Discolored or Dirty Water and Taste and Odor Issues

To understand why your water may at times have a noticeable color, tint, odor or unusual taste, read the following explanations from our water experts.

Yellow Water

Tests show increased levels of manganese and iron at certain times in the Green River water supply. Treating these contaminants with chemicals like chlorine and ozone causes these minerals to become visible by giving them a yellow tint. Drinking water rules list these minerals as “secondary” or aesthetic contaminants that can cause unpleasant appearance or taste. However, there are no known health effects at these levels, and it is safe to drink.

Learn more by reading our Water Quality FAQ.

Brown Water

Brown water is often caused by disturbances in a water main. For example, if a water main breaks or a fire hydrant is used in your area, it can stir up sediment that has settled at the bottom of the main. While it may look unsafe, the sediment contains river silt particles, which are harmless. If you experience this problem, avoid using any water for one or two hours. If the water is still unclear after that, please call us at (253) 502-8207.

White or Cloudy Water

White or cloudy water is typically caused by tiny air bubbles trapped in the water. The bubbles can also cause a slightly metallic taste or odor. This is harmless and usually temporary. The taste and odor of water can vary throughout the year because of changing water sources (such as whether it came from a river or a well), seasonal algae in the Green River or fluctuating chlorine concentrations. Those slight variations are normal and harmless and not signs of unhealthy water.

Rust-colored Water

Rust particles in your water, along with spurts of air in your pipes, often occur when we shut down water mains to make repairs. With galvanized steel pipe plumbing systems, which are typically found in older homes, air trapped in the system rapidly expands when a valve is opened. This makes large amounts of rust break loose from the plumbing system, causing orange-brown water to appear when you turn on the tap.

Running the cold water for three minutes should solve the issue and provide clear water. Sometimes this problem goes on for several days before it clears up. We suggest periodically cleaning the aerators on your spigots to remove accumulated rust particles. As a regular precaution, use only clear water from the cold water tap for drinking and cooking.

Sand and Grit

If you have sand-like particles or grit in your home plumbing, it is likely the result of rust particles and minerals dislodging from within galvanized steel pipe. To test the material, try this simple method: take a steel table knife or pocketknife and press the blade down on the grit. If it crushes easily, the material is rust or mineral flakes. If it resists crushing, it is sand.

Whatever the grit is, it can prematurely wear out your faucets. It will also affect the operation of faucet aerators, so it is best to clean them periodically. If your washing machine is filling too slowly, you may have an accumulation of particles. To fix this, replace the screen filters where the hot and cold water hoses enter the back of the machine.

Hard Water

Hardness refers to amount of dissolved minerals in the water, which interferes with the sudsing or foaming agents in your soap. The harder the water, the less sudsing that occurs. The water we provide is considered soft, 1-2 grains per gallon, which means that washing your clothes requires less soap than areas that have hard water.

Blue Stains

Blue stains on fixtures are caused when our water hits copper, which is usually used in newer plumbing systems. Copper dissolves into the water when water sits in the pipes overnight or is unused during the day.

To solve this, run the water for about 60 seconds, or until there is a change in the water temperature or you smell chlorine. Keeping the fixtures dry and drip-free also helps prevent the problem.

Pink Stains

Bright pink stains on fixtures, drainboard surfaces and pet dishes are caused by the interaction of oxygen in the air with dissolved rust from the pipes. Running the water for about 60 seconds, or until there is a change in the water temperature, should help. Keeping the surfaces dry also helps prevent this problem.

Pale pink stains or black-gray stains around bathtubs or showers may be a form of mildew. Again, keeping the fixtures dry will help reduce the problem.

Metallic Taste

Metallic-tasting water is usually associated with either yellow water or air bubbles in the water. Learn more in our Water Quality FAQ.

Chlorine Taste and Odor

We add chlorine to our water supply to kill bacteria and other potentially harmful microbes. Normally, you will not even notice it. However, the taste and odor of chlorine may appear higher during the late spring and summer. This is due to the combination of chlorine and naturally occurring plant materials in the Green River. After September, those levels generally decrease, and the chlorine odor and taste lessen accordingly.

To help minimize taste and odors, try filling a pitcher of water and letting it stand in the refrigerator overnight.

Earthy Taste and Odor

You may occasionally notice an earthy taste or odor in our water, most often in July, August and September. The odor is produced by an increase in algae growth due to warmer weather and more sunlight.

If your cold water has an earthy odor after letting it run for three to five minutes, it is most likely from the water main.

If you experience water quality problems and would like to speak with a water quality specialist, please call (253) 502-8207.

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