Iron in Drinking Water

What is iron?

Iron is a standard metal. It is extracted from ores and has different varieties, rarely found in pure form. Iron is a significant component of our earth’s core. It plays a major role in metallurgy; modern iron materials are steel and cast iron. Iron is one of the ferromagnetic metals – it has magnetic properties that are used in many technologies, such as the electric motor. One attribute is its tendency to corrode. In a damp environment, it begins to oxidise – it rusts.

Vital trace element iron

Iron is a vital microelement for humans because it is primarily responsible for the oxygen transport of haemoglobin – the red blood cells. Its biological importance lies in the fact that it is essential for all living creatures. The daily requirement for men is about 8,7 mg per day; for women, it is higher at approximately 14,8 mg. If these values are permanently undercut, this leads to a diagnosis of iron deficiency. If the iron intake is too high, iron can accumulate in the liver and trigger various diseases, so-called sideroses. An overdose also has a detrimental effect on health. 

How does iron get into the groundwater?

Since iron occurs in the earth’s crust, it dissolves and thus also continuously enters the groundwater. However, the concentrations are far below critical health levels.

How does iron get into tap water?

Iron enters drinking water through pipes containing iron. Although the pipes are usually covered with a protective layer of zinc to counteract corrosion, this can wear off over time. The less these older, water-bearing installations are maintained, the easier for iron to leach out.

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What are the consequences of iron in drinking water?

According to the UK Drinking Water Ordinance, the limit value for the parameter iron in drinking water is 0.2 mg per litre. This low limit is due to the clearly perceptible change in the water rather than a health hazard.

At an iron concentration of more than 0.5mg/L, discolouration (brown colouring), deposits and changes in the taste of the water occur. These characteristics are undesirable from a technical and sensory point of view. However, a health hazard exists above an iron content of 200 mg/L.

The coatings of iron ochre endanger the operational safety and efficiency of the plants; rust discolouration and a metallic taste make use impossible for the water customer. In addition, microorganisms can settle in the system due to iron hydroxide coatings.

Who is responsible?

As a homeowner, you are responsible for the quality of the water after it has left the public water supply and entered your home installation. The values specified in the UK Drinking Water Ordinance are chemical parameters that apply exclusively to the supply pipes of municipal waterworks. In older buildings, galvanised metal pipes or fittings are possible weak points. 

Owners of well systems are themselves responsible for ensuring that their well water complies with the drinking water guidelines, as they are outside the control area of municipal drinking water suppliers. Iron ochre deposits are mainly a problem for pipes, pumps and filters. In the worst case, they can cause well water production to stop.

Iron in drinking water? What can be done?

If you have noticed any odd taste or appearance in your drinking water, it’s best to get a water test to ensure its safety. The process is simple: collecting and sending a sample to an IVARIO laboratory for analysis. Within a short period, you will receive a detailed report on the quality of your water, which will show if it’s safe for consumption.


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