odors and flavors
Bad-smelling or bad-tasting water are indicators of bacteria or other contaminants.
taste and smell problems
Tap water can sometimes taste, smell, or look different than the usual unflavored and transparent liquid you're used to. Not all changes in the taste, smell, and appearance of tap water indicate a health risk. However, there are some cases where you should stop drinking the tap water and have it checked by a professional.
Chemical tastes and smells
Normal tap water is tasteless and odorless. When your water is contaminated, it may have a strong odor or taste of the following chemicals:
• Petroleum or gasoline
• metals (iron, copper)
Tap water that smells or tastes like chlorine is usually not a cause for concern. Tap water is disinfected with chlorine so that we can drink it without hesitation. However, if the smell or taste of chlorine is too strong, the cause should be sought.
Tap water that smells or tastes like petroleum, gasoline or turpentine should never be consumed. Because then it is most likely contaminated.
Tap water that smells or tastes like iron or copper may contain traces of the metals that make up your plumbing. Iron-containing water is initially harmless. However, too much copper can cause severe headaches, nausea, diarrhea, and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin).
Other tastes and smells
If your tap water tastes or smells bad but isn't chemical-like, it could still be contaminated. Taste and odor issues that indicate contamination in the water include:
• Rotten eggs
• Moldy soil
Tap water that smells or tastes like rotten eggs or sulfur occurs when a certain type of bacteria is present in the water or anywhere in your water system. Bacteria can be found in drains, water heaters, wells and inside pipes.
When the water smells like rotten eggs, the culprit is usually the water heater. The heater contains an element that protects it from corrosion, but this element can degrade over time and it smells like rotten eggs.
Tap water can also smell like moldy earth or fish. If this is the case, there are likely solid organic matter in your water system or source that is beginning to rot. Then you should find out where the source of it is: either in the drain or in the water source.
Tap water contaminated with organic substances is ultimately harmless to health. Also, water that tastes too salty is usually not a cause for concern, but indicates high levels of sodium, magnesium, or potassium in the water.
However, if you live near the ocean, salty water could indicate seawater is leaching into your tap water.
The color of the water
Normal tap water is transparent and colorless. If your water suddenly turns a different color, then something is wrong
Contaminated tap water can take on the following colors:
• Green or blue
• Black or dark brown
• Red, orange or yellow
• Milky white or cloudy
Tap water can also turn green or blue. Then copper pipes corrode. As previously mentioned, consuming too much copper in drinking water can lead to copper poisoning.
Black or dark brown tap water is usually caused by manganese in the water or plumbing. Flush all cold water faucets and toilets - then your water should be clear again.
If your water pipes are made of galvanized iron, steel, or cast iron, the iron rust in your pipes can turn the water red, orange, or yellow. The water may have a metallic taste. However, iron does not pose a health risk.
If the tap water appears milky white or cloudy, fill a glass and wait a few minutes. If the water at the bottom of the glass clears first, the cloudiness is caused by trapped air bubbles and you are safe to drink the water.
Possible health effects
Foul-smelling or bad-tasting water often indicates bacteria and other contaminants that can affect health:
• Irritation of mouth and skin
• Liver/kidney damage
• Damage to the nervous system
• Wilson's disease
• Laxative effects