Water Taste and Discolouration Issues

On occasion, issues may arise with the water we supply, including discolouration changes in taste or odour.

If you have an issue with the quality of your water, contact our 24 hour emergency line on 1300 657 000.

Discoloured or Dirty Water

Although discoloured water is usually an aesthetic rather than a health issue, it is recommended customers either boil discoloured water before drinking or drink bottled water until their taps run clear. Discoloured water is fine for washing hands, showering, use in dishwashers, etc. It's best however not to use discoloured water for laundry as it may stain clothes.

The more common causes of discoloured or dirty water are:

Disturbing natural sediment in pipes

Sediment can build up over time in dead-end water pipes. A sudden increase in the rate or change of direction of water flow through the pipes can dislodge the sediment and cause it to change the appearance of tap water.

If you cannot clear the water by turning a tap on full for a few minutes, the problem potentially lies outside your property. Hunter Water may need to flush the pipes in your street.

Galvanised iron pipes

Older homes built in the 1970s or earlier may have galvanised iron pipes in their private plumbing systems. Galvanised iron pipes corrode on the inside, causing a buildup of rust that not only restricts flow, but can also cause changes to the taste and appearance of the water.

Discoloured water from corroded galvanised pipes is most common early in the morning when there has been no water used overnight, or if the house has been left vacant for some time.

If you suspect discoloured water is due to galvanised iron pipes, flush your taps for a couple of minutes. It should come clear.

Another test to check if there is corroded galvanised iron pipe in your plumbing system is to compare water from the front tap near the water meter and from a rear tap at the back of your house or in the backyard. If the water from the front tap is of noticeably better quality than that from a rear tap, this indicates there is corroded galvanised iron pipe in the plumbing system. If the water from a tap is initially discoloured and becomes clear after flushing, all or part of the pipe before this point could be galvanised.

Hunter Water is responsible for maintaining water service up to a customer's water meter. Maintenance of plumbing within the property is the owner's responsibility.

White, cloudy or milky water

Cloudy, white or milky drinking water is usually caused by harmless, tiny air bubbles in the water. Air may be introduced into drinking water in a number of ways including a recent water outage in the area. Hunter Water routinely flushes pipes to release trapped air.

If you notice cloudy or white water, you can do the following:

  • Fill a clean, clear glass with cold water and let it sit on a bench. If the water starts to clear at the bottom of the glass, the colouring has been caused by air bubbles, and it is safe to drink.
  • Check if your tap is fitted with an aerator, designed to introduce air into the water stream to reduce splashing and to provide a uniform flow. This is located at the end where the water comes out.
  • If air is sputtering from taps, flush the tap until trapped air is released. Any remaining cloudiness of the water will settle down over time, possibly taking 12-24 hours.

If the issue is not resolved, contact Hunter Water to flush the pipes in your street.

Water with a blue or green tinge

This is usually caused by corrosion of household copper plumbing and can lead to blue-green staining on sinks and showers and metallic tasting water.

Hunter Water is responsible for maintaining water service up to a customer's water meter. Maintenance of plumbing within the property is the owner's responsibility.

Taste and Odour Issues

Different people have different sensitivities taste and odour changes, and also describe taste and odour differently.

Earthy or musty

Earthy or musty taste and odours can be caused by buildup of sediment and organic matter in the pipes. It may be necessary for Hunter Water to flush the pipes in your street.

Occasionally, naturally organisms from our dams can cause earthy or musty tastes and odours. See the Geosmin and MIB page for more information.

Chlorine taste and odour

Chlorine is used in water treatment to kill germs that may be present in the water supply.

To ensure the water remains safe to drink, a small amount of chlorine is present all the way to your tap, resulting in a slight smell or taste. Chlorine will naturally dissipate from water over time. By keeping a jug of water in the fridge for a few hours, the chlorine taste can generally be removed.

The concentration of chlorine in drinking water supplied by Hunter Water ranges from 0 to about 2 mg/L. This is within the requirements of the National Health and Medical Research Council Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG). Based on health considerations, the guideline for chlorine is that the chlorine residual should be less than 5 mg/L.

Rubber or plastic

Some plumbing materials that come into contact with the water supply in homes, offices and factories can give water unusual tastes and odours. When water sits for a long time in contact with plastic or rubber pipes or fittings, small amounts of substances from the pipes may dissolve into the water.

Rubber and plastic hoses connected to washing machines and dishwashers can give rise to a rubbery, plastic tastes. If you have a washing machine or dishwasher plumbed into pipework under the sink, try closing the valves and flush the tap before checking whether the problem is still there.

If the rubber or plastic taste is coming from internal or back tap only, ie not from the front tap it is likely that the problem is within the property's plumbing.

If the rubber or plastic taste is coming from the front tap near the meter, as well as internal and / or back taps contact Hunter Water.

Chemical or petrol/diesel (hydrocarbon)

This type of taste is often one of the most difficult taste and odour issues to categorise. It is important to contact Hunter Water if you believe there is a problem with the water supplied by Hunter Water, however please consider the following questions prior to calling:

  • Have you had any recent plumbing work carried out at your property, including new taps, a new dishwasher, taps rewashered, etc?

The issue could be caused by plastic or rubber fittings or solvents used by the plumber or installer.

  • Have you noticed any electrical problems, eg: flickering lights, tingling sensation when you touch a tap or pipe?

If so, please contact your electricity supplier (as you may have a dangerous electrical fault). Hunter Water should also be advised as your water meter may have been affected and we may exchange it.

  • Is your service pipe plastic, ie polyethylene (PE) and has petrol, diesel, turpentine or other chemical been spilt on the ground?

PE pipes laid underground can absorb a petroleum-based hydrocarbon product if spilt or sprayed on the ground within the vicinity of the pipes. This will result in increasingly strong petrol or kerosene taste and smell within the internal household water supply. Flush your taps and check if the issue is still there.

  • Is the taste or odour coming from internal or back tap only, ie not from the front tap near the meter?

If so, it is likely that the problem is within the property's plumbing.

Also, ask your neighbours are they experiencing any issues with the water supply.

Do not drink the water or use it for cooking purposes until the problem has been resolved.

Further help or information

If you have an issue with the quality of the water, please contact our 24 hour emergency number 1300 657 000. For general enquiries regarding water quality, please contact Hunter Water on our general enquiries number 1300 657 657 Monday to Friday, 8am - 5pm.