Strong Chlorine taste or smell – Generally this occurs when the water is treated at the water treatment plant to disinfect it. The addition of chlorine is used to kill off bacteria and other harmful microorganisms.
Metallic taste – Some water systems have a high mineral concentration giving the consumer a salty or soda taste. In the case of Iron and Manganese, a strong metallic taste is readily detected.
Rotten egg odor – This is usually a result of decaying organic deposits underground. As water flows through these areas, hydrogen sulfide gas is picked up, and when this water reaches the surface or comes out of the faucet, the gas is released into the air. Hydrogen sulfide gas produces the rotten egg odor, can be corrosive to plumbing at high concentrations, and can tarnish silver rapidly.
Musty or unnatural smells – These smells are normally a result of organic matter in the water supply. Even very low amounts can introduce unpleasant odors into the water.
Hard water is a very common problem, affecting water in more than 85% of the country. It is a result of the dissolved minerals calcium, magnesium and manganese. With an increase in these minerals, the following are seen:
- Soap scum in sinks and bathtubs
- Bathtub rings
- Spots on dishes or shower doors
- Reduced foaming and cleaning abilities of soaps and detergents
- Dingy and yellowed clothes with soapy residues that require extra rinsing to remove
- Clogged pipes from buildup of minerals
- Increased water heating costs from buildup of minerals, reducing efficiency of water heaters
- Possible skin infections from bacteria trapped in pores underneath soap scum
While these are all unpleasant effects, hard water is not a hazard to human health and can be treated.
Red or Brown Color – A red, brown or rusty color is generally indicative of iron or manganese in your water. Disadvantages to iron in your water include stains in sinks, or discolored laundry.
Yellow Color – This coloration occurs in regions where the water has passed through marshlands and then moved through peat soils. In the United States, these conditions occur in the Southeast, Northwest, New England, and Great Lakes regions. It is more commonly found in surface water supplies and shallow wells. Although the yellow color may be displeasing, it presents no health hazard, as it is only small particles suspended in the water.
Blue or Green Color – A green or blue color is generally a result of copper in your water supply, or copper pipes and corrosive water. The copper can cause staining of your fixtures and your laundry. Copper can become a problem if it is higher than 30 PPM in your water. Effects at this dose are vomiting, diarrhea, and general gastrointestinal distress. If you are using well water as your primary source of water, and copper is a concern in your area, it would be to your advantage to have your water tested for copper.
Cloudy White or Foamy – Cloudy water is usually due to turbidity. Turbidity is caused by finely divided particles in the water. When light hits the water, it is scattered, giving a cloudy look to the water. The particles may be of either organic or inorganic nature. Neither one causes any harmful effects to the body, although they can cause abrasions to pipes, or possible staining of sinks.
Other Contaminants in Water
Most drinking water contamination can be attributed to human activities. Controlling contaminants in our drinking water is a delicate balance between regulating the source, determining safe levels, and choosing the best treatment.
Some typical sources of contaminants in drinking water are:
- Landfills and Dumps
- Sewage, Partially Treated Waste Water, and Sludge
- Industrial Effluents and Waste Disposal
- Leakage from Underground Storage Tanks
- Urban Run-Off
- Animal Production Wastes
- Mines, Tailings, and Spoils
- Agricultural Run-Off from Crops
For additional information about household water visit:
Established in 1881, the American Water Works Association is the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water, the world’s most important resource. With approximately 50,000 members, AWWA provides solutions to improve public health, protect the environment, strengthen the economy and enhance our quality of life.