Can I Get Iron Out of My Irrigation Water?

This is a common question that we get a lot.  It seems that a number of people have irrigation systems that use well water to water their grass, shrubs or gardens.  They do this even if they are connected to the city water supply for their homes, because of the large amount of water that is used for irrigating and the costs associated with paying for the city water.

However, the well water often contains significant amounts of iron, and when sprinkler heads spray out the water, the iron which is left behind when the water evaporates, leaves tremendous stains.  It may stain the grass, bushes, plants and all the vegetation.  That’s certainly bad enough, but what is worse to some people is the stains that are left on the home, sidewalks, vehicles and the like.

So, what do you do?  Well, the first thing you have to determine is what exactly is in the water.  Yes, there is iron, but what other contaminants are there that could “compete” with that iron or react with it.  You need to know the pH and other characteristics of that water.  You can’t properly treat water unless you know EXACTLY what is in it, so a good water analysis is imperative.  Next, you need to determine how many gallons of water are used on a the heaviest water usage day.  They you have to figure out what the peak flow rate in gallons per minute (GPM) would be.  This would mean taking into consideration who many heads are on at one time, how many GPM each head uses and how many zones there are.  Only when we are armed with this information, can we determine what the best course of action will be.

To remove iron properly, it must be oxidized and filtered out.  This can only be accomplished with the use of a filter that uses some type of manganese dioxide or catalytic media which reacts with the iron.  Depending upon the water characteristics, an oxidizer may be required, such as oxygen, chlorine, hydrogen peroxide or ozone.

There are chemicals such as Rid-O-Rust that coat surfaces to help prevent stains, but don’t forget that the iron is still in the water and when the water dries the iron will be left behind.  Uses of chemicals like Rid-O-Rust is expensive and delivers less than desirable results.  The best results are always obtained when you oxidize the iron and completely remove it!

Remember, that irrigation systems often use hundreds or thousands of gallons a day.  You can’t expect to take a home system and have it work under those conditions.  Quite frequently, it is best to use a backwashing filter or filters that use Filox, Pyrolox, Adox, Catalox, Birm or Greensand Plus with a low-level chlorine feel ahead of the media. There should be no chlorine in the irrigation water and this type of system can work for years with minimal maintenance.

In my opinion, where thousands of gallons are needed a day, the Greensand Plus system works the best, with a Chlorine feed ahead of this to keep the Greensand Plus in a completely regenerated state.   Catalytic carbon with a hydrogen peroxide feed just ahead of the catalytic carbon tanks is absolutely the best method to acheive 100% eradication, but the cost of hydrogen peroxide can be prohibitive compared to the low cost of chlorine.

Also, a system utilizing air injection may be used but in order for it to be effective, you will need to have multiple tanks so as to not use more than 500-600 gallons of treated water in each tank.


This article has 29 Comments

  1. Wondering if I could get some help. I have a customer with 7ppm of iron and a 7.2 ph. This is an irrigation system. There are 7 zones running 20gpm for 20 minutes. This will run twice a day. My customer does not wanna use chemical injection. Could I use two 13×54 ironbreakers in parallel with katolox light media and have them backwash daily. Thanks you

  2. Not a chance that will work. Each 13″ x 54″ tank will only flow 5.5 GPM Continuously. You will need at least (4) 13 x 54 tanks and I would strongly recommend peroxide injection during the regeneration cycle, in addition.

    We have a filter valve that automatically activates a Stenner E-Con Pump to do that. Talk to our customer service department and they can help you.

  3. I have an irrigation system that pumps from a river. There is a lot of tannin in the water that stains the driveway, and house. I also suck up enough small debris that it clogs my sprinkler heads every so often. What can I use to filter out more of this debris and also get rid of the tannin to prevent the staining?

  4. Is a large indoor salt tank the best and only solution to removing iron fron irrigation water? It seems to go through salt at a pace I can barely keep u with. I have 10 zones.
    Mary K

  5. I have heard from a few arrogation folks here in town that it is cheaper to dig a new well then it is to get the rust out of my well water used for irrigation. is that true?

  6. When you drill a new well, three things can happen:

    1. You get better water;
    2. You get the same water; or
    3. You get worse water.

    Two of those things are not good. The odds are stacked against you.

  7. Hello Mark

    we live in Virginia Beach, Ocean front and looking for a solution to remove the salt from our irrigation well. Any recommendation?
    Mike G

  8. Can you tell me what salt is commonly used in an irrigation rust prevention system with metered injection to downstream water. I was told calcium chloride. Is this correct?

  9. Mark, the concentrated solution is injected into the well water as it leaves the pump in very minute quantities, less than a teaspoon per gallon.

  10. My well water is staining my property. Going crazy. Getting my water tested this week. But i know its iron. HELP

  11. I have an irrigation system that’s clogged up with iron. Anything I can run through it to clear out the iron? No point in going to the expense of treating the water to remove iron because staining is not an issue – drip irrigation or local misting only- but I need occasionally to be able to clear out the iron from the drippers and permeable hoses. I do have a proportional chemical dosing system available if needed.

  12. I live on the west of florida ,my lawn irrigation system is a well .Are there companyes that make a system that I CAN ATTACH TO MY WELL THAT WILL REMOVE IRON THAT STAINS MY HOUSE AND WHITE FENCE .What are there names ??

  13. Hi Mark, How do the Rid-o-rust irrigation/sprinkler systems actually work? I recently purchased a new home in South Florida, the system is tied to well water and there were significant rust stains on the vegatation and walls. As I had the house painted and landscaped I wanted to install something to prevent new staining and my landscaper went ahead an put in a plastic tank with what I think is a essentially the same thing. It’s clear to me from this thread that this is an inferior option, but I’m still curious about how the system works – what chemical it’s using and how it purportedly prevents the rust stains. Thanks

  14. What are we looking at in terms of cost for iron removal with peroxide system for irrigation on 1ac property and 4 Br household use from a well? What is the cost for the peroxide on a monthly basis alone?

    Purchasing a 1ac lot and noticed iron staining on homes in the area. Might get out of the contract due to this.


  15. It depends upon how much iron there is and how much water you use. I could see you spending $75 to $150 a month on peroxide during irrigation season… and a lot less in the off-season.

  16. I have a drilled well that provides water to my home as well as an irrigation system I put in my yard. I also have a swimming pool that holds about 40,200 gallons. The iron in the water stains things in the home, yard ,as well as the pool. Since it takes about 16 hours to fill the pool, I estimate my maximum water flow is about 2500 gallons per hour, that would be when I am filling the pool or running my sprinklers (I have about 36 sprinkler heads that I can run, though on three circuits, I often turn them all on at once,) When I am filing the pool, there is very little back pressure, water flows through a 2 inch pipe. Is there an iron treatment system that would handle this?

  17. I have slight issues that are intermittent. I also have an EZflo injection system. I noticed on your site oyu offered some products that would work with this system could you please advise?


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