Does your tap water...
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Find out what's causing odd tastes and smells in your tap water
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Does your tap water...
Find out what's causing odd tastes and smells in your tap water
If your water smells musty ensure that your internal hot water pipes don't come into contact with cold water pipes and that all plumbing valves, fittings and materials are WRAS approved. Any sections of pipe or taps which are used infrequently should be flushed through to allow fresh water in. This can be done by opening the tap and allowing the water to run for a few minutes.
Musty water that tastes or smells earthy can be caused by the growth of harmless micro-organisms such as bacteria and fungi in domestic pipework. It’s particularly common in sections that have a low usage or are subject to local warming, where hot pipes come into contact with cold pipes. Valves and fittings containing rubber materials are also particularly prone to these growths.
Sometimes, it is caused by very low amounts of naturally occurring substances released by algae growing in raw water reservoirs. These substances are not normally thought to be hazardous to health at the concentrations at which they are found. Our Water Treatment Works are operated to minimise these substances and we carry out daily checks on the smell of the raw and treated water.
We can’t promise that your water will never taste or smell of chlorine and we know some customers are more sensitive to its taste.
To minimise the taste we suggest:
- Fill a glass jug or bottle with tap water
- Cover it
- Leave it in the fridge for an hour or so
- We recommend using chilled water within 24 hours
By law we must disinfect all public water supplies. Most of the time we use chlorine based chemicals to ensure water is safe to drink and contains no organisms which could cause illness. We only add enough chlorine to disinfect, whilst minimising taste and smell.
Chlorine is continuously added at all of our Treatment Works which are monitored 24 hours a day at our central control room.
The level of chlorine in water supplies can vary slightly depending on the distance the water has to travel through our pipes. Customers who live closer to the Treatment Works may notice higher levels of chlorine. At times of high demand, such as first thing in the morning and late afternoon, more people use water meaning the water travels to you more quickly and may contain more chlorine. With time, the concentration of chlorine in the water pipes reduces.
We’ll always investigate such reports quickly to find the exact cause and offer advice on how to resolve it.
If you notice a petrol/diesel taste or smell to your water, please call us on 0345 1 24 24 24.
If you know of any fuel spills in your area you should contact the environmental health team at your local council as soon as possible to try and prevent any further damage. Even if the water hasn’t been affected yet, it can still become contaminated through the plastic pipe in the future.
These one off smells can be caused by a spillage of fuel or heating oil near a plastic supply pipe. Such substances can, over time, pass through the plastic pipes and result in changes to taste or smell. If the land is contaminated (such as from a fuel spill) then any underground plastic water pipes may need to be replaced in a protected material, e.g. plastic coated copper pipe or special plastic barrier pipe.
We will investigate whether your service pipe and our water mains are affected and advise if your service pipe needs replacing in a protected material.
Generally bitter and metallic taste and smells may be resolved by running the tap for several minutes to bring fresh water into the property.
Some people identify the taste of chlorine as metallic, particularly those who smoke. For advice on chlorine taste and smell, click here.
A metallic or bitter taste in water is normally associated with increased concentrations of metals commonly found in domestic plumbing systems, such as copper or zinc. It can often be due to water standing in that pipework for several hours or more and may be subject to local warming from unlagged hot water or central heating pipework.
This can be more noticeable in large buildings or in buildings with long lengths of pipework. Also, if you have a water storage tank, check what material it is made from and what condition it is in. Run your tap to draw fresh water in from the mains supply. You should notice a change in the water temperature when all of the water has been cleared from your system.
Sometimes customers notice a distinctive chemical taste (described as ‘medicinal’, ‘disinfectant’, ‘swimming pool’ or ‘TCP-like’) to their drinking water that’s often most noticeable in boiled drinks such as tea and coffee. Chlorine is removed by boiling so these tastes are not directly due to chlorine.
You can find out what is causing your water to smell or taste like chemicals by checking the following:
Kettles: If you only notice the taste in hot drinks, try boiling water in a clean saucepan. If the taste is no longer present, it’s likely because of the kettle gasket that seals the elements to the side of the kettle. This is often most noticeable with new kettles.
The problem may well go away with time if the kettle is new. Boiling fresh water each time may also help to keep the taste to a minimum. If the problem persists, you might like to contact the manufacturer for their advice.
Washing machines and dishwashers: ‘Chlorine-like’ tastes can sometimes relate to the hose which transfers water from your supply pipe to dishwashers and washing machines. Increases in water pressure can result in the flexi-hose expanding like a balloon – when the pressure is released, the hose collapses and can squirt water back into your supply pipe.
This water can then mix with your incoming water. To stop this, try shutting off the flexi-hose by turning off the valve that supplies your cold water to the appliance when it’s not in use. This advice is also given by many manufacturers.
If the location of the valve makes it difficult to access or operate easily, you could consider asking a plumber to do one or more of the following:
- Move the valve to a more accessible place so that it’s easier to use.
- Move the valve to a position after the draw-off point of the kitchen tap.
- Fit a non-return valve (also known as a check-valve) at the start of the hose.
We’ll send you a check-valve free of charge for you to fit at the connection of the hose and your mains water supply. The check-valve prevents any water that’s been in contact with the flexible hose from coming back in to your water supply. In our experience check-valves resolve many of these type of taste complaints.
Tap washers: Sometimes, the washer inside kitchen taps and stop-taps may be the cause of an unusual taste in your drinking water. This is more likely if it doesn’t conform to British or equivalent European standards. The Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS) can provide advice on correct tap fittings. You can call them on 0333 207 9030.
If there is a second mains fed tap in the house, try using water from this. If no taste is noticeable then the cause is probably the tap washer in the original tap. If no other suitable tap is available, run the tap for a short time before tasting the water. It’s worth noting that internal stop taps are also fitted with WRAS approved washers.
Other hoses and fittings: Many modern kitchen tap fittings use flexible or braided hoses and other rubber-like materials. Some of these fittings can create taste problems. The best way to eliminate these is to ensure that all your drinking water fittings are approved by the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS).
Products that are approved should be clearly labelled.
Please be aware, although it is against the Water Fittings Regulations to install any unapproved product to your drinking water pipe, it is not illegal to sell them and many unapproved plumbing products are freely available.
The chemical taste of your drinking water is likely to be caused by the rubber and plastic materials used in domestic appliances and fittings. These plastic fittings include kettle gaskets/seals, tap washers and hoses fitted to the inlet of washing machines and dishwashers.
The taste doesn’t come from the water pipes but is formed within properties. These plastic and rubber materials contain ‘phenols’ and related substances which can cause unpleasant tastes or odours. Additionally, low levels of chlorine may react with these chemicals to produce other taste-causing substances.
Although these substances can cause unpleasant tastes in hot drinks at very low levels (parts per trillion in some cases), they are not harmful to health at the levels normally detected.
Chemical taste issues can come and go due to one or a combination of the following factors:
- Changes in pressure: The pressure of your water supply is slightly higher at night and when fewer people are using water. This increased pressure can cause a slight expansion in the rubber hoses (like a long thin balloon) attached to washing machines and dishwashers. When a tap in your property is used, the pressure reduces and the expanded rubber pipe collapses and squirts water back into the incoming supply.
- Standing water: Water left in your pipes overnight or when your property is empty is more likely to pick up any taste-causing substances from unapproved materials. Running your tap for a few minutes prior to use will solve this.
- Washer deterioration: Certain types of washers degrade with time. Because the ‘break-up’ of these washers isn’t a continuous process, the taste may come and go.
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