Why is My Water Brown?

A lot of attention has been paid to the water crisis in Flint, Mich., which has led to a lot of questions about water and if water of any color, besides, colorless, is safe to drink.

Some common complaints about abnormal water include:

  • Cloudy/milky water This is a safe issue—cloudy or milky water is the result of lots of tiny air bubbles suspended in the water. This might happen more often when colder water warms in your water heater. The bubbles will clear on their own as the water warms up, according to the Kentucky American Water website.
  • Spurts of brown/yellow water from tap When you first turn on your faucet, do you see spurts of yellow or brown water for a minute or two, then it’s clear? This could be because of your internal plumbing—the zinc coating on the inside of galvanized pipe is starting to wear thin. So when the water in those pipes come in contact with the bare iron in your pipe, your water will become discolored. It’s worse when water sits in the pipes, such as in the morning. This does not pose a health hazard, but if it bothers you allow the water to flow for a bit until it becomes clear.
  • Constant stream of brown/yellow water from tap Has the nearby fire hydrant been used recently? Sometimes sediments in the water mains get stirred up when a fire hydrant has been in use, or when the flow of water in main pipes is changed. The sediments may cause your water to turn brown or yellow. If you’ve noticed this, wait 30 to 40 minutes, then turn on the cold water in your bath tub for one to two minutes. These do not pose a health threat, but you should avoid washing laundry or other items until the water color clears up.
  • Brown/yellow water from hot tap only If your cold water is clear, but the hot water is streaming brown or yellow, the problem lies in your water heater. It is recommended to turn the water heater off to allow it to cool, then, following your owner’s manual, safely drain and flush the unit. Fill and turn your unit on to see if the problem persists. If the problem persists, call Blind & Sons.

Lead in your water is scary problem to have, especially for pregnant women and young children. It can come from materials and components associated with service lines and home plumbing, such as what you’ve seen with Flint, Mich.

The water in Northern Ohio has been deemed safe and clean for consumption, but if you are ever concerned about what’s in your water, whether it’s discolored or clear, you can always have your water tested. You can find a water testing facility in your area by calling the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800/426-4791.

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