High Sodium Well Water

Asked May 17, 2013, 12:11 PM EDT

Hello there, We have a well on our 5 acres. It is our only source of water. The water has a sodium level of 262.5 mg/L. The maximum recommended is 100 mg/L. Also, the sodium adsorption ratio (units) is 17.5. The recommended maximum is 4. We had our water tested by Colorado Analytical in Brighton. The water is not recommended for drinking or irrigation. It's just a domestic well, so we don't use it to water the whole property. Just the yard around the house, as well as plants and trees. We use pelletized gypsum and fertilizer to help counteract the sodium. We have a few questions, though. 1. Will this water harm birds if we use it for a bird bath? 2. Will it harm chickens or alpacas or other animals to use it for drinking? 3. If it's not considered usable for drinking or irrigation, do we have a case to drill another well, or make this one deeper to find good water? Reverse Osmosis is the only effective way that I know of to remove high levels of sodium. The problem is that for every gallon of drinking water it produces, it sends about 4 gallons to waste. Not being able to drill another well, or drill the present one deeper, would actually cause us to use significantly more water than to just find better water. Any answers to our questions or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your help.

Adams County Colorado

2 Responses

The sodium level in your drinking water, while high, is not above an EPA drinking water limit and is not unusual for your area. The health concern for this level of sodium is mostly for individuals on a defined low sodium diet (hypertension). You can review interpretation of drinking, irrigation and livestock water quality at: http://www.erams.com/erams_beta/wqtool/.
Without knowing what your total dissolved solids (TDS) is, I don't know if you should use RO for treatment. A 4 to 1 ratio of treated water is pretty low. Most RO units can do much better than that.

I would not worry about the sodium harming bird or chickens or livestock unless your TDS is really high. Again, you can evaluate your water quality report at the link provided above.

I would be concerned about the impact of the water on your soil/plant/landscape system. Using gypsum will help counteract the sodium, but should be done along with occasional soil testing to make sure the sodium salts are not building up in the soil. (see: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/crops/00504.html).

I don't know if you could obtain a new permit to drill a deeper well or whether it would be a cost-effective approach or whether you can tap better quality groundwater. It depends upon the geology in your area. The problem you described is very common to Laramie/Foxhills formation, which commonly the aquifer that wells are permitted to tap. Talk to a local well driller about their expericences.

Thanks for your response. Our TDS is 875 mg/L, but that is with no filtration. We have plans to install a water filtration system, which should take care of that problem. I'll look at the links you sent me and let you know if I have any questions. Thanks again.