Why might your tap water look dirty?

In most of what we breezily call “the first world”, access to water couldn’t be easier:  you wake up, shuffle to the kitchen to make coffee, hop  in the shower, brush your teeth and turn on the dishwater without a second thought. According to a recent industry estimate, the average Australian family uses over three hundred gallons (!) of water a day at home; roughly three quarter of which happens indoors.  So when you’re confronted with cola-coloured water gushing forth from your tap first thing in the morning, a raised eyebrow and a surprisingly vivid flow of commentary might ensue; but what are the possible causes of  brown water in your home’s water supply?

Basically, there are a host of humdrum  reasons: burst water mains in your municipal system, supply being redirected to meet the demands of your municipal system, heavy  use of water by the fire department, repairs being carried out at any point in the pipeline, too much iron  in the water, or a rusty pipe in your house; what they all share is some form of disturbance of sediment in water pipes that, when released,  can cause light brown to dark brown particles appearing in your water.

What are these dark brown particles?

As iron pipes deteriorate with age, iron and manganese from their walls enter the water supply; this tends to happen more whenever repairs to municipal pipes are under way, because they stir up these particles and send them downstream. Although rusty water isn’t harmful to, say, shower in or brush your teeth with, you wouldn’t want to drink it. Fortunately, there are a clutch of alternatives for those times when your tap water isn’t fit for drinking: one of them is  portable water fountains.

How can I get rid of brown water?

Firstly, ask your neighbors if they too are having a brown water day. If so, here’s what you do:


Either turn on the taps in your home for about twenty minutes to try flushing your water pipes, or hook up a garden hose to your outdoor spigot. Water your plants in your garden for about twenty minutes to flush the system. If the water doesn’t run clear after this, repeat either process.

What if my neighbor’s water is clear and mine isn’t?

If you’re only getting brown water coming from your hot water taps only, it may be due to rust and sediment in your water heater. These usually have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, so if yours falls somewhere in this range, and your hot water comes out brown often, it could be time to replace it.


Boiler manufacturers recommend that you flush your water heater once a year to extend the life of the device by cleaning out sediment and rust. This is prudent because replacing your boiler can be an unexpected big expense and is almost certain to require the services of a professional plumber to install too.


If you’re getting rusty, brown water from your cold-water taps as well, a deteriorating pipe in your home plumbing system is most likely the source of the problem; if you are experiencing only a small amount of rust, you may be able to live with it for a short while, but beware: rust in pipes can cause clogs in your plumbing, creating breeding grounds for bacteria, so do replace or repair a deteriorating pipe as soon as you can.

Damaged or broken pipes should be dealt with immediately

Finding the precise location of the rusted pipe can be a daunting task and repairing or replacing pipes yourself an expensive nightmare, so I strongly recommend that you contact a professional plumber. Through today’s technology, they can perform a video inspection of your entire plumbing system to find and determine the condition of deteriorating and rusted pipes.


If you love in a newer home, your pipes are more likely made from polymer materials, so you needn’t concern yourself with such issues; however, in older homes, cast iron pipes eventually inevitably wear out and need to be fixed or replaced. Yes, it might be a major home improvement project, but one that needs to be addressed before the pipe ruptures and causes extensive damage to your home.



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