Well Water Smells like Sewage [Causes & Fixes]

The sewage smell in well water is unpleasant and awful. Such awful smells in water make it unusable. The sewage smell in the water must be taken care of immediately. Luckily, removing the sewage smell in water is not very difficult if you know what’s causing it. This article will discuss what causes sewage smell in well water and how you can remove it.

Well Water Smells like Sewage [Causes & Fixes]

Possible Causes behind Well Water Smelling like Sewage

Bacteria in Drain

So you notice a sewage smell only when you open your faucet? If yes, the culprit is bacteria growing in your drains. Food leftovers, oil drops, and organic matter clinging to the sink’s plughole and drains, lead to bacterial growth. Bacteria releases sulfur gas which smells like rotten eggs and sewage.

Water running over bacteria activates the sewage-like smell. You can check this by collecting a glass of water and smelling it somewhere outside. If there is no sewage smell in it, the bacteria in the drain are causing the sewage smell.

A simple drain cleaner with disinfectant is an easy way to get rid of the sewage smell due to this particular reason. You can also pour hot water or white vinegar to remove bacteria from the drains.

Sulfur, Iron, or Bacteria in Well Water

Iron and sulfur enter the water due to underground movement. Bacterial contamination can happen for various reasons like iron combining with bacteria, decomposing organic matter, surface run-off, soil contamination, rainwater contamination, or animal waste contamination.

Defective septic systems or septic systems located closer than 50 feet can also leach bacteria into your well water.

Water Heater Issues

Many private well owners only report sewage or rotten egg smell in hot water. Bacteria can grow inside water heaters if they aren’t used regularly. You won’t drink water from a water heater, so this isn’t a health concern. However, it feels awful to bathe in water with sewage-smelling water.

How to find out what’s causing the Sewage Smell in my Well Water?

First, check your drains and water heater to see bacterial growth. Bacterial growth can take different colors, but it usually has a slimy appearance. Clean everything that looks dirty and ugly. You can use hot water, vinegar, or commercial cleaners to eliminate bacterial growth.

You can also install a new anode rod for well water to eliminate the hot water smell.

Once it is ruled out that the water heater or dirty drains are not causing sewage smell, get your well water tested. You can carry out a DIY test, but it is better to go with a certified lab as its results are more reliable.

Solutions to Fix Well Water Smelling like Sewage

Shock Chlorination

Shock chlorination is the most reliable way to remove bacterial contamination from the well. You can go for DIY chlorination if allowed by the state. However, it is better to get it done by a well contractor. They have the required experience and equipment and will add the exact amount according to bacterial concentration and volume of water in the well.

Shock chlorination is a labor-intensive technique. It requires at least 12-24 hours to work out, so you may want to plan it accordingly.

Click here to read more on how to shock chlorinate a well.


Certain geographical regions have a recurring bacterial contamination problem. You can install a chlorinator if the bacteria come back after contamination.

A chlorinator measures how much water passes through it and injects chlorine accordingly. However, this method adds chlorine smell and taste to water. You’ll have to install a carbon filter to remove chlorine taste and smell from water.

RO filters & UV Purifiers

The CDC recommends using RO filters and UV purifiers to remove microbial contamination from water. Since both are 100% effective in removing bacteria from water, they also remove sewage/rotten egg smell from water.

RO filters and UV purifiers are often used for potable water treatment. These filters don’t use chlorine to treat water, so the water is free from taste and odor.

UF purifiers and RO filters are available in standalone variants or as a part of multi-stage filtration systems. While a UV purifier requires a pre- sediment filter to remove large particles, RO filters usually include a sediment cartridge for fine particle removal.

HQUA-OWS-12 Ultraviolet Water Purifier Sterilizer Filter for Whole House

HQUA’s UV purifier is best for small to medium-sized homes as it can purify water at 12 GPM. You can run 2-3 bathrooms on this flow rate.

The system comes with a powerful 40W UV bulb that lasts for a year. You’ll need to clean the quartz sleeve every 6-12 months to ensure it is not clogged. Overall, the unit is easy to install and doesn’t require complex plumbing connection.

EXPRESS WATER UV Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System

Express Water’s 11-stage water filtration is best for drinking water purposes. The system includes a sediment filter, 2 carbon filters, an RO membrane, a remineralization stage, a UV purifier, and a post-activated carbon filter.

This filter is recommended when you have multiple contaminants in your water. The RO filter is installed under your kitchen sink and comes with a dedicated faucet and a pressurized tank to store water.

Air Injection Filters

Air injection systems remove iron bacteria and hydrogen sulfide. These units oxidize iron and hydrogen sulfide using an air stream. The oxidized contaminants are then captured by a filtration media to be flushed out during backwash.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can an activated carbon filter remove sewage smell from water?

An activated carbon filter can remove the sewage smell slightly but not eliminate it. It will not remove bacteria from your water.

Is the sewage smell in my well water dangerous?

It depends on what’s causing the sewage smell and do you drink smelly water. Smell due to bacteria can cause health problems like diarrhea, nausea, and headache. The sewage smell due to hydrogen sulfide is usually harmless.

Why my well water started smelling bad suddenly?

Natural events like geological changes, earthquakes, floods, and torrential rains may cause well water to change its taste or develop a smell. Moreover, bacterial growth in the water heater can make your hot water smell like sewage suddenly.

What to do if only a few faucets smell?

It could happen due to two reasons. First, there is bacterial growth inside the faucet’s drain. Second, bacterial growth could be inside the fixtures or the pipes supplying water to those specific faucets.

Why does my well water smell musty, moldy, earthy, grassy, or fishy?

These odors can occur in your water due to decaying organic matter in the drain or pollution of well water from surface drainage.

Why does my water smell like petroleum and gasoline?

The common reasons are listed below.

  • Leaking fuel tank or underground fuel storage tank near your well
  • Discharge from industries, agriculture sites, or landfill

Final Words

Most smell-related problems can be easily fixed if you know the source. Sewage smell usually happens due to bacteria, hydrogen sulfide, or water heater problems. The remedies are simple, but it is recommended to install a water filter after getting your water tested.

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