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Why does my water look brown?

Brown drainage

Key facts: 

  • If your water looks brown, this can be caused by corroding water pipes causing rust and minerals to become trapped in the water lines
  • Brown water is not a serious health concern, but it is not recommended that you drink any as it may have an unpleasant taste
  • Brown water should run clear after a few hours, but you may need to contact your water supplier if it continues to run brown after 24 hours

Have you noticed your water looks brown?

Brown water can be caused by the corrosion of water pipes as materials flake away and find their way into water supplies, making the water an orange-brown colour (iron pipes) or even black (lead pipes). Certain elements from sulphur dioxide can cause water to turn brown when combined with hot water.

Has brown water recently come flowing through your taps? It may have been caused by an increase in the quantity of minerals, rust particles or other sediments in the water pipes supplying your home with drinking water. Many people have experienced brown tap water and although this is an inconvenience and can be damaging to clothes and fixtures, it is not a serious health concern. Despite this, we would not recommend drinking any brown water as it could have an unpleasant taste.

What Causes My Water To Look Brown?

Over time, corrosion deposits such as rust and minerals can become trapped in the water lines and make their way into your plumbing system through several ways. This can be the result of:

  • Longstanding water becoming weighed down with oxidised iron particles
  • A surge in water flow through the pipes due to increased demands
  • The fire services using hydrants for emergencies
  • Resuming water flow after repairs or routine flushing
  • An old or damaged service pipe – this connects your domestic pipes to the mains distribution system

Any of the above can disturb the rust particles and other sediments that have settled at the bottom of the water pipes. Despite municipalities doing their best to implement filtrations and carry out rigorous testing, the water can become discoloured by the time it reaches your tap.

The Importance Of Drinking Clean Water

With fresh drinking water being a vital resource, we rely on public water systems to treat and deliver clean water to our homes, schools and businesses. Drinking clean water and staying hydrated helps remove toxins from your body, serves the functionality of several organs and can improve the emotional outlook of individuals.

What Should You Do?

In most instances, the water should begin to run clear after a couple of hours of activity or after you have run the cold faucets for a few liters. Should your water be running brown after 24-hours and if surrounding neighbourhoods are also experiencing brown tap water, it is advisable to contact the local council as the problem is likely to be beyond your domestic pipes.

Your local water supplier is able to inspect your pipes more closely, identify the root cause of the brown water and has authority to use a fire hydrant to flush out any remaining brown water. Secondary contaminants do not pose a health risk but can affect the way your drinking water looks, smells or tastes.

Run the cold and hold water to establish whether the brown water is coming from hot or cold water. If the brown tap water is from hot water, your water heater may need to be flushed out or replaced.