Manganese in Drinking Water

Manganese is naturally found in the environment.

Rust from a dripping water pipe on a houseManganese is a common element found in minerals, rocks, and soil. Manganese is found naturally in groundwater, but levels can be increased by human activities like steel production and mining.

Manganese can turn the water a brown or rust color, cause staining of faucets, sinks, or laundry, and make the water have an off off-taste or odor. The level of manganese in Wisconsin groundwater varies with some wells having no manganese and others having high levels. 

Manganese is an essential element and small amounts of manganese are part of a healthy diet. Manganese is needed to form healthy bones, produce glucose, and heal wounds. Manganese is naturally found in meats, grains, beans, nuts, and tea. Some mineral supplements also contain manganese. 

 

High levels of manganese can affect our health. High levels of manganese may affect the nervous system, kidneys, and reproduction

Studies among people indicate that high levels of manganese can affect the nervous system. Studies in research animals suggest that high levels of manganese may also affect reproduction and impact the kidneys. 

People over the age of 50 and infants less six months are the most sensitive to these effects. In older adults, high levels of manganese may cause a disorder similar to Parkinson’s disease. In infants, exposure to high levels of manganese may affect brain development and impact learning and behavior. Some studies among people indicate that people with certain medical conditions (iron-deficiency anemia, liver disease) may also be more sensitive to the effects of manganese. 

Manganese levels over 300 micrograms per liter (µg/L) pose an immediate health risk for sensitive groups. When manganese levels are above 300 µg/L, people over the age of 50 and infants less than 6 months old should stop using the water for drinking and preparing foods and beverages that use a lot of water.* Manganese at these levels also pose a long-term health risk for everyone. Everyone should avoid long-term use of the water for drinking and preparing foods and beverages that take up or use a lot of water.* 

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has more information on the health effects of manganese. 

Protect yourself and your family from manganese.

High levels of manganese can be found in drinking water from private wells and public water systems. 

Click on the tabs below to learn more about how to protect yourself and your family from manganese in your drinking water.

Private well users

Your private well may be affected by manganese. Follow these steps, P-45103a, if your water is brown or rust color, stains your faucets, sinks, or laundry, and/or has an off-taste or odor: 

  • Test your well. Use a certified lab to determine how much manganese in your water.
  • Use a safe source of water if manganese levels are high. 
    • When manganese levels are above 300 µg/L, sensitive groups should immediately stop using the water for drinking and preparing foods that use a lot of water. Everyone should avoid long-term use of the water for drinking and preparing foods that use a lot of water. 
    • Use bottled water or water from a well without a manganese issue for drinking and preparing foods that take a long of water until you find a long term solution. 
    • Do not boil the water as this does not remove the manganese.
  • Retest your well to confirm results. Collect a second sample (called a “confirmation sample”) to determine if the first result is accurate.
  • Find a long term solution. Options include installing a certified treatment device, drilling a new well, connecting to a public water supply, or establishing a community well. Talk with a licensed well driller or pump inspector and your local DNR representative to figure out the best option.

Public water users

Public water systems in Wisconsin test for manganese every nine years. Your water utility may issue a public notice if the level of manganese in your drinking water is too high, P-45103b. Follow the steps in the public notice to protect yourself and your family from high level of manganese. These actions may include using alternative water sources for sensitive populations or for all family members. 
Manganese can turn the water a brown or rust color, cause staining of faucets, sinks, or laundry, and make the water have an off-taste or odor. The DNR has an aesthetic water quality standard of 50 μg/L to prevent the staining of bathroom fixtures and laundry. Contact your water utility if your water has a brown or rust color, leave black deposits on your faucets, sinks, or laundry, or has off-taste or odor.

 

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Last Revised: February 17, 2021