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Iron

About Iron in Water

Iron is an elemental metal that occurs naturally in groundwater because water dissolves it out of iron-containing rock and soil. Iron in water can also come from corrosion of iron or steel pipes or well casings.

Iron in Private Wells, New Mexico

Levels of various naturally-occurring and man-made constituents in New Mexico groundwater including iron, might be elevated above the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Safe Drinking Water secondary standards (related to odor, color and taste). Ongoing drought conditions and aquifer mining have raised further concern that increases in constituents may occur in the absence of significant ground water recharge events. To assure that the water is safe for human consumption, well owners should periodically test their wells.

The information available in this section, including the maps, demonstrates iron found in tested private wells in New Mexico based on the data available from various sources.

Iron distribution interpolated groundwater iron concentrations (mcg/L) from private wells data May 1956 - Nov. 2018
Average iron distribution in groundwater by county (mcg/L) from private wells data May 1956 - Nov. 2018
Iron distribution in New Mexico: Percentage of samples exceeding the EPA secondary MCL of 0.3 mg/L May 1956 - Nov. 2018

Iron in Drinking Water and Health

Iron is essential for human health; it is in red blood cells and helps to carry oxygen to cells throughout the body. Most of the iron absorbed by the body comes from food as the chemical form of the iron found in water is not easily absorbed by the body.

The EPA secondary standard for iron concentrations in drinking water is 0.3 milligrams per liter (mg/L). Water with concentrations above this may have undesirable color, taste and odor and may contribute to sedimentation or scale (mineral deposit) build up in plumbing systems. Iron build up in plumbing systems may stain plumbing fixtures, reduce water flow and affect water using appliances. Iron in water can cause the growth of iron bacteria which are not known to cause disease. However, they can create conditions where other disease-causing organisms may grow. This bacterium creates a smelly biofilm that thrives when iron is present. You will need to troubleshoot the source of the iron, which could be from corrosion of the plumbing system or well structure.

Levels of various naturally-occurring and man-made constituents in New Mexico groundwater including iron, might be elevated above the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Safe Drinking Water secondary standards (related to odor, color and taste). Ongoing drought conditions and aquifer mining have raised further concern that increases in constituents may occur in the absence of significant ground water recharge events.

How to reduce excessive iron from drinking water

The most common treatment for iron bacteria is "shock" chlorination of the well and water system. Treatment of water containing iron will vary depending on the chemical form of the iron present, water chemistry, and well type. It is important to test your water before choosing a water treatment system. A licensed well contractor or water quality professional may help with choosing the right treatment system for your water chemistry.

For additional guidance choosing a treatment system certified to remove iron consult with the Water Quality Association or at 630-505-0160 or NSF international (formerly the National Sanitation Foundation) or at 1-800-NSF-MARK (1-800-673-6275).

How to find water quality information for public water systems

If you get your water from a public drinking water system, contact:

  • Your community water system by telephone
  • Look up your community water system online through the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) Drinking Water Watch
  • Call the NMED Drinking Water Bureau, TOLL FREE 1-877-654-8720