USGS states that about 15% of the U.S. population relies on domestic (private) wells as their primary source of drinking water. Federal or state laws do not regulate well water quality; it is homeowners’ responsibility to maintain water wells and monitor water quality.
Every well is different, and hence each well has a different set of contaminants in it. So, you need to test what contaminants are present in your water and then develop a plan of action to deal with them.
This article will explain turbidity in well water, how you can remove or reduce its levels in well water and how you can remove turbidity from drinking water using natural coagulants.
The general rule is that water with turbidity reading less than 30 NTU can be treated with filtration without causing too many problems. Water with turbidity above 30 NTU can cause filters to clog and impact the whole filtration process.
The following are some of the common methods used by people worldwide to reduce/remove turbidity from well water.
- Chlorination (if turbidity is caused by microorganisms)
- Reverse Osmosis
- Ozone Treatment
Microfiltration, chlorination, and reverse osmosis are frequently used to remove turbidity from well water. We will now briefly explain how these methods help you remove turbidity from well water. We will also explain some simple options to remove turbidity from water. These simple measures can come in handy when you don’t have access to filtered or bottled water.
Microfiltration or water filtration is a process that removes suspended particles and other contaminants from water. These filters come in various shapes and sizes, ranging from whole house models to one-faucet models only.
These filters use filtration media that needs to be replaced after a fixed period or a number of gallons filtered through them. The filtration capacity varies from one filter to another.
Water filters are best for dealing with turbidity caused by suspended particles and contaminants like sand, dust, and dirt. The filter can also remove other contaminants from your well water depending on its type and the number of cartridges.
Another common reason behind turbidity in well water is bacteria. Well water moves through the soil, dissolving bacteria present on the surface and underneath. However, you need to get your water tested for bacteria and turbidity before treating your well water with chlorine. There are different ways to chlorinate your well water. One method is a shock chlorinator, and the other uses a chlorinator device.
Shock chlorination treats all the water in your well and is best applied when drilling or treating water with a high number of bacteria. It is cheaper but renders the well unusable for a few days.
A chlorinator is a device that automatically adds chlorine to your water when it leaves the water well. You set the chlorine level once, and then the chlorinator works according to the volume of water passing through it. The best place to install a chlorinator is before your water filtration plant.
Reverse Osmosis, commonly known as RO treatment, is a popular method used to treat well and city water. The system’s heart is the RO membrane, which is so small that it hardly lets anything other than water pass through it. Most sediment and other contaminants are removed at pre-RO filters, and the remaining contaminants are captured at the RO stage.
RO filters are more costly than simple filtration plants, and they are mostly used for drinking water purposes, and this is why you would find an RO plant installed under the sink in most homes.
Some Simple Options to Remove Turbidity from Well Water
The turbidity problem is found all over the world, and not everyone has access to water filtration plants. Many people rely on simple methods to filter water to remove suspended particles from water. These methods can come in handy outdoors or when you don’t have access to water filters or bottled water.
Cloth filtration is an ancient water filtration method. It is a simple process in which you pour water over a cloth with a container below it. The multiple layers of the cloth capture the suspended particles from the water, and clean water is poured into the container below. It won’t remove the dissolved particles from the water, but this method has reduced Cholera transmission in Bangladesh by removing the carriers to which the bacteria were attached. Another drawback of this method is slow filtration.
Sand filtration is another method to remove turbidity from water. You will need three containers to make this method work. The turbid water is added to a sand and gravel container with a spigot at the bottom. The mixture of sand and gravel effectively removes suspended particles and some bacteria from the water.
The biggest drawback of this method is its slow speed and the requirement of three containers for filtration to work.
Settling and Decanting
Another way to deal with turbidity due to suspended particles is settling and decanting the water. This is one of the oldest water filtration techniques ever used for treating water. It is a simple process but requires up to 24 hours, depending on the quantity of water and the number of suspended particles in the water.
It works by adding turbid water to a transparent container and then waiting for the particles to settle down at the bottom. Once all the particles sit at the bottom, you can pour the clean water at the top very carefully and slowly without disturbing the sediment at the bottom.
The drawbacks of this method include long filtration time and unreliable results.
How to Remove Turbidity from Drinking Water using Natural Coagulants
You can also remove turbidity from drinking water using natural coagulants. A research paper published on ScienceDirect shows natural coagulants like Moringa Oleifera, Strychnos Potatorum, and Phaseolus Vulgaris can successfully remove turbidity from drinking water better than most of the non-filters method listed above. However, their availability and identification are a big concern while using this. Not everyone can identify these materials.
MoringaOleifera is the most potent natural coagulant of all coagulants mentioned above.
You can use Moringa seeds to remove turbidity from well water. The Moringa tree pod contains a seed that acts like a natural coagulant agent in crushed form. The process is simple. You need to pick and dry the pods, remove the seed and crush the seeds using a mortar and pestle.
Around 2 grams of crushed seeds are added to 20 liters (5.2) gallons of water, and then water is stirred for 5 minutes. It is then allowed to stand for 24 hours and then decanted to another container slowly and carefully.
The benefit of using Moringa is that it is effective, and the drawbacks are that it is labor-intensive and time-consuming. You will need two containers for this method to work.
What is turbidity?
Turbidity is defined as a measure of clarity in the water. Turbid water looks cloudy or opaque when contained in a glass container.
The image below shows what turbid water looks like and how turbidity impacts the outlook of water.
The level of cloudiness or the presence of suspended particles in water is usually measured in NTU. NTU stands for Nephelometric Turbidity Units. You may also see turbidity measured in FTU (Formazin Turbidity Units). Please note that 1 FTU is equal to 1 NTU.
What is the maximum contamination limit (MCL) for turbidity in water?
Environmental Protraction Agency (EPA) sets the MCL for turbidity at 1 FTU or NTU. Anything above this limit should be treated and can be harmful for consumption. We will discuss how to remove turbidity levels in well water later in this article.
How well water becomes turbid?
We all know that well water comes from underground sources. When water moves through underground channels, lakes, streams, or rivers, it attracts a lot of particles. These particles enter the water stream but do not settle down or dissolve due to continuous movement.
The common culprits behind turbidity in well water include:
- Dissolved inorganic and organic elements
- Microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses
What can cause turbidity in water?
- A leaky or malfunctioning septic or sewer system
- Soil erosion
- Algae or weeds
- High iron concentration
- Air bubbles or particles from water treatment plants
- Broken or damaged well cap
- Damaged well casing or damaged well base
What are the health effects of drinking turbid water?
The health effects caused by drinking turbid water depend on the type of contaminant present in the well water. Suspended particles usually don’t harm you because you won’t drink visibly dirty water.
If the water is turbid due to microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites, you may experience the following health problems.
- Stomach disorders
When should I test my well water for turbidity?
You must test your well water every year for turbidity or if you notice that the water coming from the well has become cloudy or opaque.
How to test for turbidity in well water?
The most reliable and accurate way to test turbidity in well water is using a nephelometer, commonly known as a turbidity meter. A turbidity meter utilizes a light and photo detector to measure light scatter and read it out in turbidity units. It can measure turbidity to a high degree of accuracy and produce results accurate up to 1 FTU.
There are various turbidity meters available on the market. The cost varies depending on the accuracy and functionality of the meter. However, all turbidity meters work in the same way. You can either buy a turbidity meter or get the water tested from a certified water testing facility in your area.
Let’s see how you can use a turbidity meter to measure turbidity in your well water.
- Take a sample of water in the provided tube or follow the instructions on the packaging on how to take a water sample.
- Make sure you clean the exterior of the tube as you want to measure the turbidity of the water inside the tube and not the fingerprints on the tube. Don’t touch the glass part of the tube after cleaning the tube.
- Place the sample tube in the machine, close the lid and wait for the turbidity rating to appear on display.
- Once you have the reading with you, only then decide and pick the right way of treating turbidity in your well water.
Now that you know everything about turbidity in well water, it will be easier for you to deal with it. Please note that turbidity is not the only problem you will have to sort out; there are a lot of other contaminants in well water. Hence, it is best to get your water tested for every contaminant and then install a filtration plant based on the test results.