Warning Signs in Your Tap Water

Ever noticed your tap water has an odd odour or funny flavour? Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions covering everything from cloudy to contaminated water.

Q. I’ve noticed the tap water from my kitchen sometimes appears cloudy or looks like it has particles in it. Should I be worried?

A. You’ll be pleased to know that Britain’s tap water ranks among the safest in the world and is tested more than 1.5 million times a year. However, tap water can sometimes vary in colour; odour and taste for a number of reasons so here are some of the occurrences which, while extremely rare, can happen, what they mean and what you can do about it. If you are concerned about your water, you should always contact your water supplier.

My water is cloudy

Sometimes water can look milky or cloudy because of the presence of tiny air bubbles. Occasionally,you may also notice knocking or banging noises coming from the internal plumbing. This is usually because of a burst mains pipe or faulty plumbing fitting. Try running a glass of water and allowing it to stand for a few minutes – the cloudiness should clear from bottom to top. To help fix the problem, try running the cold water tap at the first point of entry into the property (closest to the internal stop tap) on a slow steady flow. While the tap is running, turn the internal stop tap on/off 4-6 times to help release the air from the pipes.

My water smells or tastes of rubber, plastic, antiseptic or TCP

Some plumbing materials that come into contact with the water supply in homes,offices and factories can give water unpleasant tastes and odours. When water stands in contact with plastic or rubber pipes or fittings small amounts of substances may dissolve into the water. Traces of chemicals routinely used in the manufacture of flexible plastic hoses, usually those that supply cold water to dishwashers or washing machines, can interact with chlorine to create an antiseptic or TCP-type taste. When the drinking water tap is turned on a small amount of the water lying in these hoses can be drawn back into the cold supply. This problem usually occurs when the hose is connected directly onto the rising main.

To check whether these hoses are causing a taste close the isolating valve for 24 hours and check the taste again. Then either change the hoses for those approved by WRAS (Water Regulations Advisory Scheme), for example a food quality hose, or change the isolating valve for one fitted with a check valve.

This type of taste can also be caused by a having a garden hose permanently connected to an outside tap. Remove the hose from the tap when not in use and check that a double check valve is fitted and functioning properly between the tap and the hose. A qualified plumber will be able to offer advice on this issue.

As with all fixtures and fittings plumbing materials deteriorate over time. Very old washers can begin to disintegrate or become damaged, for example by a worn tap seating, and can change the taste of your water. The most commonly affected are as are the kitchen tap and the stop tap. Replacing old and worn out washers and or tap seats will help improve the taste.

The consumption of water with this taste, although unpleasant, is not harmful in itself.

If you've tried this but are still concerned, or you'd like more advice you should contact your water supplier.

When to be more worried…

My water is blue/green

Blue water can be a sign of poorly installed toilet cisterns, which allow water from toilet cisterns to siphon back into the internal plumbing. If your water is blue,please don’t drink the water or use it for cooking purp oses – seek advice from your water supplier and visit www.wras.co.uk for information on how to check your toilet cistern.

My water tastes stagnant and like sewage

Usually this taste emanates from a sink or plug hole, indicating a possible blockage or build-up of waste materials. Try filling a glass of water and smelling it in a different room to determine whether the odour is genuinely from the water or not. If you think it’s the water, contact your water supplier immediately. If the odour disappears when you’re away from the sink, try cleaning your sink or plug hole with a normal domestic cleaner. If there has been recent work on your service pipe, or you have had a new connection to your property, it could indicate a problem with this work and you should contact your water supplier immediately.

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