Providing Plumbing Solutions Since 1986

Rusty Water

Rusty water coming out of tap.

Is your water discoloured? Perhaps it’s brown, or orange, or looks dirty or rusty?  Is it staining your fixtures? Does it smell?

Water is supposed to run nice and clear. If it’s cloudy or any other colour something is wrong somewhere. The question is where?

It depends on where you live and the source of your water. Is it municipal? Well water? Do you draw from a lake or river? Is your residence seasonal or full-time? The reasons vary for each.

If you are on municipal water, your best resource is the city that maintains it. In Barrie water comes from two different sources, municipal wells and Kempenfelt Bay.

The city treats and tests the water to make sure it’s suitable for drinking. The water is treated differently for each – well water (called groundwater) requires less treatment because it is filtered naturally through layers of rocky sediment. With lake water there is less natural filtration so more needs to be added.

There are several possible causes for discoloured water in a city. If the water has been shut off for some time because of a vacation away from home, road, and water main construction, or plumbing work inside the house, your water may appear discoloured, even dirty brown, when it is started again. It’s best to use the cold-water tap on the laundry tub or bathtub and run it for several minutes until it clears.

If it doesn’t clear, check with your neighbours to see if they are affected or if it’s limited to your home. If the issue is in your own home, it could be due to a water softener that hasn’t been maintained or run in a long time.

If there is a smell too, especially on the hot water line, it is likely coming from a defective anode in the water heater. It applies to both municipal water and well water.

The cold water line can smell too, a rotten egg odor, indicating hydrogen sulfide, from bacteria. This is more common in private well water than municipal water. Some forms of iron will also affect the appearance and smell of well water.

Discoloration can also occur from dirt and issues with the pump system in well water.

If the water source is a lake or river, the intake water line and pump could have dirt from the growth of weeds. Weather and the movement of water will stir up the bottom allowing sediment into the water system at a house or cottage. Boat traffic will stir up the bottom too. In addition, if the end of your water line has a floating marker of some sort, it could attract kids and swimmers who can stir up the bottom.

Once water enters the house or cottage, it will go to all water lines, hot and cold. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a filter system that includes a sediment filter and UV (ultraviolet) light to kill bacteria. The filter system should be installed before the water softener if you are using one. Some systems also have a carbon filter to improve taste and smell. There are whole house filter systems as well as point-of-use models, such as for a single tap.

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