Getting home on a hot day only to realise that you have brown water from the tap can be quite disappointing. Instantly, several questions will come to mind: Is my plumbing system faulty? Will I be affected by drinking brown water? Since it’s not murky, the water should be safe, right? This post will lead you into finding a solution to the problem at hand and if calling a professional plumber is needed before you can quench your thirst.
First off, considering the rarity of water discolouration in Australia and the high quality of water within the country, you don’t have to worry about dirty tap water all the time. It may be that the tap water is cloudy, yellow or brown. So what causes it? Several factors, such as disturbed sediment, the organic matter within the mains, a rusty, old pipe, among others, may be responsible. In short, brown tap water may result from:
- Reverse flow
- A faulty water meter
- Water or fire hydrant use.
- Maintenance, upgrade or repair of the mains network
- A broken network valve
- Burst water mains or sudden high water demands leading to disturbed sediments.
Below are some of the important things you need to know about dirty drinking water.
1. Brown water from hot tap or cold?
Is the brown water from a hot tap or cold tap? If only the hot tap is releasing the dirty water, then there is a good chance that your hot water system is faulty – and not the whole plumbing system. In most cases, the old unit may have become corroded. In that case, you will need the services of a professional plumber to explain your options about flushing the tank or considering a new hot water system installation.
If you experience brown water coming from the cold tap, then take the following three steps.
2. Is it rusty pipes?
If you run the water at full pressure for a couple of minutes does it clear? If so it’s likely rust from old galvanised wrought iron pipes. Now, we are not recommending gulping down a glass of brown water from your tap. However, if you realise that your tea or coffee is tasting unpleasant unlike before, one of the possible causes is a rusty pipe. Also, you can experience low water pressure, which may result from the concentration of rusty flakes in pipes. Additionally, stained clothes after washing is another sign.
For this situation you would need to replace old pipes or consider installing water filters for taps in the laundry and kitchen.
3. Brown water supply
Is the brown water constant from all taps? Speak to your neighbours. Visit your close neighbours and ask if they are experiencing a similar issue. If they have the same problem then its the an issue with the water supply system. It’s likely due to works being done in the area stirring up sediment which means it’s only temporary.
4. Is brown tap water safe to drink?
Although, most people will be highly concerned about the brown colour of the dirty water, the truth is that it is almost safe to drink as it contains no toxin or poisonous substance. The colour is only visible due to the iron rust. Nevertheless, you are best advised to fix the problem immediately. Contact a professional local plumber for the pipe repair, replacement, or treatment.
5. Reporting water quality issues
If you realise that the brown water won’t stop, then getting in touch with the local authority for help is more advisable. Check out these links when reporting to your local area or find a recent water bill. It will have contact details for reporting issues with your water supply.
- NSW – https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/questions/brown-water-tap
- QLD – https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/water/quality/drinking-water
- VIC – https://www.barwonwater.vic.gov.au/water-and-waste/water-quality
- TAS – https://www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/publichealth/water
- SA – https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/energy-and-environment/water/water-information
- WA – https://healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Drinking-water-in-Western-Australia
- NT – https://nt.gov.au/environment/water/water-resources-of-the-nt/groundwater
Other water discolourations
Milky tap water. This is usually tiny air bubbles in the water and is safe for drinking. It occurs most commonly when air pockets form in pipes after plumbing works.
Blue tap water. Most often a blue-green tap water is present for a short time from taps that haven’t been used for a while. It leaves a metallic taste and is caused by corrosion in copper pipes which is not safe for drinking.
Black specks in tap water. When the various o-rings and gaskets in your plumbing system become perished they can break into small particles and travel through your taps.
At the Best Plumbers Club, we only recommend professional plumbers, who are certified and experienced in the handling of various household plumbing issues, including brown water tap problems.