I need help with selecting the appropriate equipment to filter well water in the US for rural household use.

Current situation:

  • Greensand iron and hydrogen sulfide filter that has failed. Installed about 10 years ago.
  • Local company that installed it claims they don't support it.
  • Water discolors everything orange.
  • There is a slight odor, but I don't know if it's caused by hydrogen sulfide, iron or something else.
  • Septic tank withing 100 feet of well.
  • Cattle are as close as 50 feet of well, but usually are more then 500 feet away.
  • The adjacent property where the cattle graze (15+ acres) is sprayed with something that smells like fertilizer.


  1. At a minimum, filter iron and be safe for drinking.

  2. Solution must be modular to allow for other types of filtration to be added inline.

  3. Cost less than $1,500.00.

  4. Cost less than $250 for yearly maintenance.

  5. Should be obvious when system needs maintenance before filtration failure occurs.

  6. Should be DIY installable.

  7. Should be made by a reputable company that provide good US support after purchase.

  8. Filters should be certified by a reputable third party organization.

I also need:

  • A recommendation for water test kits to determine the type of iron, iron ppm and general water chemistry to ensure safe drinking water.
  • Help in determining the well pump flow rate and water pressure.

I've spoken to a few water filtration companies, both local and far. They all require a salesperson to come out, which is not going to happen now. Additionally, getting them to provide the total cost of the system has proven difficult. They only mention needing two maintenance items for $200 a year only to admit after repeated questioning that the system is going to cost between $4,500 - $5,000 installed.

Can anyone help ?

  • 2
    step one get your water analyzed, once know what the content of your water is you can select your filter and the maintenance required on it. If you are in an area with a lot of wells you should be able to find a local lab to do that for you. – ratchet freak Jul 8 '20 at 8:46
  • Get the water tested as the other comment says. In fact some systems can be a simple carbon filter and a UV filter but it all depends on what the initial state of the water is and, of course, the demand rate you have. – Solar Mike Jul 8 '20 at 9:01
  • 1
    You cannot test the water for "safe to drink" at home - that requires collecting a sample (following procedures carefully to not contaminate it with anything not from the well) and sending it to a laboratory (virtually all states have an official state lab for this service, which is normally/often the lowest cost option) for bacterial contamination testing. The location of the cows and septic is inappropriate, but not a guarantee of contamination if the well bore is properly sealed. You can pay for additional testing as well, and having tried "home test kits" I recommend paying the lab. – Ecnerwal Jul 8 '20 at 11:04
  • Getting the lab test results for minerals (iron, sulfides, other things you don't know about until you test) is a necessary step towards selecting a treatment option, as how you treat these things depends on what level they are at. i.e. low level iron can be solved with a water softener, but higher level iron requires a more dedicated (and expensive) solution. – Ecnerwal Jul 8 '20 at 11:06
  • When you have test results, you're then into the land of "various competing online water treatment companies" which are generally far more affordable than any "local option with a budget for sales people and installation folks they want to force you to use" and we are not supposed to help you choose one, but several of them are USA based and sell US-branded (some actually made, others probably made elsewhere) products, and do have some level of support (check the reviews, but also realize that when they stop selling something they probably don't support it much after that time.) – Ecnerwal Jul 8 '20 at 11:23

Your cost restriction may not be easily met with my recommendation, but it's close. The DIY portion also requires that one be capable of managing PVC plumbing connections, which isn't particularly difficult.

I have a chlorine injection water treatment system that the local plumbing supply house would have installed for US$3000, but sold me the components for about US$1800.

chlorine injection diagram

The above image from Clean Water Store shows the routing of pipes and components necessary to assemble such a system. The diagram is slightly different from my installation, only in that the injection port is between the pressure tank and the settling tank. It's called a contact tank in the image.

The incoming water has chlorine injected from the "Stenner pump" which may be a brand name. Not shown in the image is a flow switch, which engages the pump when water is being used by the house. The injection volume is adjustable. Chlorine and water is in the solution tank.

The combined chlorine and water then "rests" in the contact tank. Some of the iron (most of the iron) will react with the chlorine (rust never sleeps) and settles to the bottom. The remaining iron will still be dissolved in the water.

The chlorine is removed by the carbon filter. One adjusts the chlorine injection so that the water exiting the carbon filter has no chlorine level. Pool test strips are useful for this testing.

Not shown in the diagram but present in my system is the water softener/conditioner, which will additionally remove some iron.

I have a pair of cartridge filters after the softener which are installed as pure white and when replaced every three months are iron-brown.

I can occasionally taste a bit of iron, but rarely is there any hydrogen sulfide smell, unless there's a failure somewhere in the system. It's necessary to check the solution tank periodically and refill it. The injection valve frequently collects iron deposits and has to be replaced. Both expenses fall into your US$250 limitation, although it was necessary to purchase the injection valve "duckbill" online to get a decent price. I believe it was six or seven dollars online compared to nearly thirty at the local supply house. I replace them every four months to avoid the nuisance of waiting for a failure.

  • Without knowing your test results, this is a solution that would address both iron and some level of bacterial contamination, though if you have bacterial contamination you have to be very sure that the system never breaks down (or treat the water you actually drink in an additional way to be certain you are not drinking contaminated water.) There are other methods of getting chlorine into the water, such as dropping it from the top of the well (still in a metered manner depending on water use rate) with a "dry pellet chlorinator." – Ecnerwal Jul 8 '20 at 11:09

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