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Rust in drinking water is likely a sign of corroding, rusted pipes, and how you fix the issue will depend on the source of the rust. First, you need to identify if the rusted pipes are in the water mains or if they’re part of your residential plumbing: to do this, run an outside tap. If you see rust coloured water, the problem is likely with the mains, and you’ll need to contact your water supplier to fix the issue at the source.
However, if water from the outside tap runs clear, but there’s rust coloured water from taps inside your house, then the rusty pipes might be in your home plumbing, which will need flushing, treating, repair or replacement by a certified professional. That said, if the rust only appears from a specific hot water tap, but the water runs clear after a short period, contact a certified plumber and request further investigation.
Rust, or iron oxide, is a coating that can form on iron or steel, then flake off in the presence of moisture. As water pipes are often made from these metals, rust can form anywhere in your water supply, with build-up either causing problems such as pipe blockages or disintegrating into your supply — the result being you drinking rusty water with a noticeable metallic taste. Rusty tap water can appear in a yellow, orange, red or even a brown colour, depending on the levels of rust present.
In truth, the presence of rust in water is not a health concern. However, it can create an unwelcome disturbance to your daily routine, as well as cause problems with washing machines and dishwashers, leaving stains.
Yellow: A combination of iron and oxygen in your water may lead to a slight yellow colourisation in water, which is an indication of small amounts of rust.
Orange, red and brown: Larger combinations of iron and oxygen in water can cause water to appear orange, red, brown or a combination of the three. Brown water can also appear when elements from sulphur dioxide and hot water mix together in pipes.
The cause of rust in your drinking water can make its way into your water through several ways. The most common include:
Depending on the type and extent of rust, there are several approaches to removing it from your water and eventually, your pipes. A certified plumber should be able to easily identify the source of your problem or alternatively, you can take the following steps to quickly and easily eliminate the rust in your water.
As the presence of rust is a sign of corroding pipes, which can eventually lead to a leak and high maintenance costs, it is important to first distinguish whether the rust has originated in the water mains or your residential plumbing.
To do this, run an outside tap to fill a clean cup or bucket and look for any signs of rust. If there are rust particles in the water or the water is discoloured, it is likely that the problem has originated from the water mains, which is beyond your residential plumbing. However, if the water is clear, your residential plumbing may need to be flushed, treated, repaired or replaced. Inside your home, if the rust appears when you run hot water taps or clears after a short period, it is advisable to contact a certified plumber or water expert to find out about water filter devices and request further investigation.
It is important to note that water pipes with an excessive amount of rust can choke, resulting in poorer water pressure. Replace your old pipes with new copper or plastic pipes.
A sudden influx of rusty water can suggest a pipe in the water mains requires attention, a disturbance has changed water flow or a fire hydrant is in use. It is likely that you will be required to not use the water until the problem has been cleared. Should the problem persist after 24-hours, contact your water supplier