While a relatively common phenomenon, the sight of brown water is no doubt unpleasant; leaving homeowners wondering why it’s happening, what they should do about it, and if brown water is dangerous to drink.
CDL Plumbing are a team of plumbers with over 15 years of experience servicing the Central Coast and Newcastle, and we’re here to put your mind at ease. While brown water isn’t enjoyable, in most cases, there's no reason for alarm. Keep reading below to work out if brown water is a health hazard to your home, what causes water to turn brown and what you can do to prevent it from happening in the future.
The short answer is no: there’s no need to worry unduly that brown water is a health hazard. Brown water from taps is a result of dislodged rust, which isn’t inherently harmful to humans. Rust is simply oxidised iron, a small amount of which is present in safe drinking water as it is. Contaminated water is unpleasant to drink, having a strong metallic taste can dramatically change the flavour of your food and drink. It is also unsuitable for washing in as it will stain your clothing and can be damaging to your fixtures.
While rust isn’t harmful, the fact that there’s possibly a rusted, cracked or leaking pipe in or near your home should be concerning. The presence of cracks in pipes could lead to other contaminants like mould making its way into your water supply, creating a hotbed for bacteria. If not fixed quickly, compromised piping can also let airborne contaminants into the water supply. Essentially, if the problem of brown water coming from faucets in your home isn’t cleared up quickly, more complex health and plumbing problems can ensue.
Brown water from taps is the result of accumulated rust being dislodged by some sort of disturbance, most commonly pipes being replaced, damaged or busting near the mains that supply your home. These movements cause built-up rust along the inside of the pipes to become displaced and make its way into your home water supply. If this has occurred, then it should clear up within a few hours once all the newly released particles have been cleared out of the system completely. If the problem persists, you’ll need to call a plumber to assess the situation as a failure to resolve most likely means the problem is coming from one of your own pipes or hot water heater.
If the problem doesn’t resolve in a couple of hours, there are several things you can do if you notice brown water in hot water or cold water. These are as follows:
1. Leave your cold water running for 20 minutes to see if the brown water clears up of its own accord.
2. Call your local council to see if there has been any work done locally that might've disturbed or damaged the water system. The council can send out an inspector to perform a flush which may clear out your pipes.
3. If you still have brown water from taps in your home after the flush, then it’s likely the fault is somewhere on your property.
4. If you have brown water in hot water only, then likely the problem is coming from your water heater. A build-up of scale, or minerals, is common in water heaters and this can contaminate the water.
It’s worth noting that if your water is supplied by a well and you have experienced heavy rain, the equipment in place to filter the water might be overwhelmed. Fluctuations in the water table can affect the ability of the filtration system to sift out the excess iron particles.
If this is the case, or if the water mostly clears but you’re left with small fragments of rust in the water, you may need to consider a water filtration and/or water softening system to treat the water on your property. These systems work to actively remove iron particles from the water supply and most only require minimal maintenance. Sophisticated filtering systems require a professional water treatment technician to perform regular maintenance, but a basic filtration system is all that you’ll need to eradicate brown water coming from faucets.
As with most things of value, maintenance is key to preventing problems from occurring in the long run. While regular maintenance can’t prevent disturbances that occur off-site, which are obviously out of your control, it will prevent excessive rust and mineral build-up in your pipes and hot water system. Maintenance will also prolong the life of your pipes, but you’ll have to consider replacing selected pipes if the colour of the water doesn’t resolve as this is an indication that your pipes are rusted and need prompt replacement. Rusted pipes are prone to leaks, cracks, and corrosion. Leaks are particularly worrisome as a small leak can quickly turn into a big leak that continues to grow without restraint.
If you’ve done all you can to clear the brown water from taps around your home without success, then it’s time to call in the experts.
CDL Plumbing have over 15 years of experience in general plumbing and installing filtration and water softening systems in properties from Newcastle, to the Central Coast, Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens. We value our local community and we're here to ensure you get the best value for your money. We are well versed in Backflow Prevention and always provide a safe and reliable service whether your situation is an emergency or a preventative measure. Give us a call on 0499 192 821 for a free quote or fill out the contact form online and we’ll be in contact ASAP!