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Causes of Discolored Water

discolored waterWhat are the causes of discolored water?

Cloudy or milky water: Occasionally tiny air bubbles become suspended in your water.  This may result in a cloudy or milky look. In reality, the bubble are so small that they’re almost invisible to the naked eye, but together resemble watered-down milk. Our water always has dissolved air in it, but it has more during the cold months. When the colder water warms in your water heater or inside the pipes of your home, it can no longer hold all of the dissolved air. Air bubbles then appear. Nothing can remove these bubbles, but they will clear on their own as your water warms up. By letting your water stand for a bit, the bubbles will rise to the surface and the discoloration will disappear.

Short-duration brown or yellow water from the tap: Your home’s internal plumbing may be the problem if your water is only discolored for a minute after you turn the tap on. When the zinc coating on the inside of galvanized iron pipe begins to wear thin, water becomes discolored as it comes in contact with bare iron. The longer the water sits in the pipes, the worse the discoloration will be. This is why you are most likely to notice the problem first thing in the morning or when you have just returned from being out for some period of time. After your tap is turned on, clean water from your water main or heater will replace the discolored water. Consuming this discolored water poses no health hazard.

Constant brown or yellow water from the tap: Sediments and minerals in water mains sometimes get stirred up when fire hydrants are used or when the flow of water in mains changes. These sediments may cause your water to turn brown or yellow. Wait about 30 minutes after you notice the discolored water, and try turning on the cold water in the tub for a few minutes. You’ll probably notice that it clears up right away, since sediments settle quickly back to the bottom of water mains. Discolored water due to sediments pose no known health threat, but if you don’t want to ruin your clothing, you should avoid doing laundry until the water color clears up.

Brown or yellow water from hot tap only: If there is discoloration in your hot water only, it is usually an indication that you have a malfunctioning water heater. Turn off your hot water heater and give it time to cool. When completely cool, drain and flush the heater. If the problem persists when you turn the unit back on, contact a licensed plumber.