High levels of iron in well water

Asked January 6, 2016, 10:55 AM EST

I have a well that has 20 ppm iron. I have been told by water treatment companies that such levels are not safe for livestock to drink and will kill even garden plants. I would like confirmation of this from an unbiased professional before spending the $10k for treatment. Most of the research I have found indicate palatability issues leading to animals (horses and cattle in this case) not drinking enough water. But could it actually cause liver damage, for instance?

Will build-up in garden soil eventually cause vegetable plants to not do well?

Montrose County Colorado

1 Response


There is not a published upper limit for livestock and iron (Fe) . However, it can affect taste and may reduce consumption.

The irrigation use guideline for Fe is 5.0 mg/L. Iron is not toxic to plants in aerated soils, but can contribute to soil acidification and reduced plant availability of essential phosphorus and molybdenum. Sprinkler irrigation may cause staining on plants and wetted objects. Note that injury may be observed in sensitive plants at values less than 5.0 ppm. Please visit the following websites for more information on irrigation water quality: https://erams.com/wqit

Also, before making any decisions regarding treatment, have you water tested again by an independent, certified lab: http://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/agriculture/selecting-an-analytical-laboratory-0-520/.

Finally, Fe can often be removed by less expensive methods such as filtration. See: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/h2oqual/watsys/wq1029.pdf especially if the Fe is in the particulate form.