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Water awareness

Water awareness

Different types of odours or tastes in water

Petroleum, gasoline, turpentine, fuel or solvent odours:  These odours are rare, but potentially serious. Be advised not to use such water.

Metallic taste: Erosion in pipes may cause trace amounts of minerals such copper, iron, or even lead to appear in water, adversely affecting its smell and taste. If concerned, have the water analysed by a certified lab.

Chlorine, chemical or medicinal taste odours: Adding chlorine to the water or the interaction of chlorine with a build-up of organic matter in the plumbing system may cause the taste or odour to be strong.

This is not usually an immediate health threat but if the taste or odour seems strong, contact the local municipality for advice.

Sulphur or rotten egg odour: Bacteria growing in sink drain or hot water heater may cause odour.

 Naturally occurring hydrogen sulphide in water supply may also cause this odour. To evaluate the cause, put a small amount of water in a narrow glass, step away from the sink, swirl the water around inside the glass, and smell it.

 If the water has no odour, the likely problem is bacteria in the sink drain. If the water does have an odour, it could be from the hot water heater.

There is an element in your hot water heater designed to protect it from corrosion.

Sometimes the element causes sulphide smell as it deteriorates over time. A licensed plumber may be able to evaluate this problem. 

Salty taste: High levels of naturally occurring sodium, magnesium, or potassium may cause a salty taste. If you live in a coastal area, seawater may be seeping into the freshwater supply. This could be a health threat.


If the water used for domestic purposes suddenly changes colour—no matter what colour it becomes—it could indicate a public health concern. 

Do not use the water. It is likely that something disturbed the water flow in the water main, such as a line break or a plumbing problem allowed unsafe water to enter the line.

Milky white or cloudy water: Usually caused by tiny air bubbles.  If your water is white, fill a clear glass with water and set it on the counter.

If the water starts to clear at the bottom of the glass first, the cloudy or white appearance is trapped air. It is not a health threat and should clear in a few minutes.

Green or blue water: Usually caused by corrosion of copper plumbing, certain metals get into drinking water from corrosion, such as copper or lead, may pose a health concern.

Black or dark brown water: Often caused by manganese in the water or pipe sediment. Manganese does not pose a threat to human health. 

This water clears after time. However, if it does not clear after a few minutes of flushing all cold water nozzle and toilets, wait about an hour and try again.

Brown, red, orange or yellow water: Usually caused by iron rust. Galvanised iron, steel, or cast iron pipes in a home or business, or the water main can cause rusty water. 

While unpleasant and potentially damaging to clothes and fixtures, iron in drinking water is not a human health concern.