Why Is The Water In My House Brown?

Perhaps you just finished up a nice, long run (go you!) and jogged to the kitchen to grab a glass of water. You turn on the tap to fill your glass, expecting a crystal clear flow of water. To your dismay, the faucet sputters, sending brownish-tinted water into your glass.

Now, you’re asking yourself all sorts of questions. When did this happen? What’s causing it? Is it safe to drink? Before you stress out too much, take a deep breath and read through this article. Luckily, it’s usually not as bad as you think, but stick around to learn more!

Is Brown Water Normal?

Brown water isn’t necessarily typical, but it definitely happens. It’s disconcerting at best, often making homeowners dubious of the safety of using the water. Generally, it’s a reasonably straightforward problem that isn’t unsafe for the home’s occupants. 

While it shouldn’t harm you, it can damage your clothing and fixtures since brown water is often associated with high levels of iron content, which can stain sinks and clothing. 

Is Brown Water Safe To Drink?

For the most part, brown water doesn’t pose a serious health concern. It may contain things like clay, rust, silt, plant material, and dead algae (not harmful blue-green algae), none of which poses a health concern. A study done by a researcher at the University of Winnipeg found these contents in a sample of brown tap water. 

While you shouldn’t notice any adverse health effects if you consume brown tap water, it’ll probably have an unpleasant taste. So, while you shouldn’t get sick from it, it’s best to drink bottled water (or another alternative) until you can resolve the problem. 

It’s important to note that individuals suffering from hemochromatosis (a rare disorder causing excess iron accumulation in body organs) shouldn’t consume the water. In some scenarios, the discoloration can result from iron, which may wreak havoc on their bodies. 

To be on the safe side, stick with an alternate water source, like bottled water. 

Is It OK To Shower In Brown Water?

As long as you don’t drink it, showering in brown water is just fine. Seeing brown water pouring out of your showerhead can be alarming, but it’s usually nothing harmful. Showering in the water shouldn’t be an issue, providing you don’t have any specific sensitivities.  

What Causes Brown Water?

For the most part, brown water happens when minerals, sediment, or rust accumulate in the water main. The accumulation takes time and is often disturbed during main breaks or adjacent construction. These occurrences stir the sediment, dislodging it from its spot and causing the water to turn brown. 

Alternatively, it can happen when there’s a surge in water flow due to increased demand, such as a local fire department accessing a hydrant in an emergency. The same thing happens here – the sediment gets disturbed, causing it to mix in the water and move into your home. 

In some cases, oxidized iron (or rust) can cause discoloration. It can dislodge from the pipes’ interior, usually due to repairing leaky pipes or replacing pipes adjacent to the rusty ones. This is due to the shift or drops in water pressure during the change or replacement. 

Once normal water pressure resumes, the loose, rusty particles get blown into the main water flow, eventually ending up in your house.

How Do I Get Rid Of Brown Water In My House?

Getting rid of brown water in your home is usually a straightforward task. Sometimes, it’s as simple as flushing the taps. However, in other cases, a more significant problem might be at play. Here’s how to troubleshoot the issue:

Flush The Taps

Before you get too carried away, try the simple fix. All you need to do is let the tap run for about 20 minutes. Run cold water the entire time, as this will determine whether it’s actually an ongoing problem or simply a temporary issue. 

If the water clears after 20 minutes, you’re good to go. However, if the brownish tint persists, move to the next steps. 

Invest In A Water Softener

After you flush the taps, you might notice the brownish hue in the water isn’t as concentrated. If that’s the case and there are only tiny specks of brown, you might want to consider investing in a water filtration system or softener. 

These systems actively filter iron particles out of your home’s water supply, effectively ceasing the issue. That said, we recommend consulting a professional before installing the softener, as it might not be just your home experiencing the problem. 

Check With The Neighbors

Once you flush the taps, your next step is to check with your neighbors. Ask your nearby neighbors if they’re experiencing the same issue. If they confirm their water has a brown tinge, it could be an issue with the city water system. 

Call your city or town and ask the utility provider if anyone has reported the problem and if they’re actively working on it. They should be able to inspect and flush the pipes on their end. However, if they don’t find an issue but brown water still flows through your home (or the problem is isolated at your home), skip to the “Check The Hot/Cold Water” step.

Water Table Changes (Well Systems)

Homeowners who live out of town aren’t usually on the city water system, instead operating using a domestic well. Changes in the water table can sometimes affect the well, causing your water to turn brownish or yellow. 

If your area has experienced heavy rains (or snow runoff in the spring), there might be substantial changes in the water table, causing the shift in your water. You might want to consider investing in a filtration system, as your water treatment equipment might not be able to handle the excess iron. 

Check The Hot/Cold Water

The water heater in your home could be the culprit of the issue. To test this theory, check both the hot and cold water. If you only notice the brownish tint with the hot water on, it’s probably your water heater. 

Over time, sediment can build up inside the water heater, where it can fall into the bottom of the tank, muddying the water. Alternatively, the inside of the tank might be rusting, causing discoloration. When this happens, this is usually a solid indicator that your water heater is nearing the end of its life. 

If you think the water heater is the issue, have a qualified plumber come out and examine the unit. The tank might need a thorough cleaning, or it might require a replacement. 

Call A Plumber

If all else fails and you can’t seem to isolate the origin of the problem, it’s time to call the plumber. A leaky or damaged pipe in your home could lead to more significant issues if left unchecked, like a burst pipe (sounds like a nightmare). 

So, call your local plumber for a professional opinion on your plumbing issue. They might advise you to install a water softener or filtration system, or they might find a pipe on the verge of bursting. Whatever the outcome, it’s best to have a professional handle the job.

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