What to do if your tap water is brown

Brown tap water – if you’re used to seeing crystal clear water coming out of your taps and suddenly get a brown/yellow tainted water, it can be quite confusing and worrying. We get asked all the time “is brown tap water still safe for drinking?” and “what are the causes of brown water from the tap?”.

We’re going to run through all the different reasons you might be seeing brown water coming from your taps, what you can do about it and cover safety concerns about brown tap water.

Why is my tap water brown?

There are several reasons tap water can turn brown and each reason will give a slightly different result in the water quality, appearance and safety. Let’s break down the different types of discolourations you might see in your tap water and their associated causes.

Brown flakes in your tap water

If the water coming out of your tap is essentially clear but has brown flakes or specks in it, there’s a good chance that either pipes in your home or leading to your home have corroded slightly and these chips or flecks have made their way into your water supply. There are several reasons this may have happened and can be caused by a surge in the flow of water to your area due to an increase in demand, the fire service using water nearby or Unity Water resuming water flow after repairs.

Rusty coloured water

If all the water coming out of your tap is a rusty colour (this can sometimes even be a yellowish colour or even dark brown/black) this is most likely caused by a surge of water through the mains pipes kicking up sediment and minerals that are heavier than water and rest at the bottom of water pipes. This is usually caused by fire hydrant testing, pipe maintenance, burst mains pipes or sometimes natural causes (large amounts of rain or water introduced into the water mains systems).

What should I do if I see brown water coming out of my tap?

The first thing you need to do is establish if it’s only isolated to your home or if other residents on your street are experiencing the same issue.

Ask your neighbors if they have brown water too

Take a wander over to a neighbour that’s home, knock on their door and ask them if they’re experiencing the same issues. If there’s a few people in your street with the same brown water, that’s a positive sign it’s a mains water issue and most likely caused by maintenance, mains pipe failure or the firies. If this is the case, the discolouration should usually disappear within a few hours. If you have concerns it’s a good idea to call Unity Water and ask if there’s maintenance going on and ensure they’re aware of the issue.

Isolate the taps in your home

If your neighbors aren’t experiencing the ‘brown water coming from the tap’ like you are, there’s a chance that the issue might be isolated to your home or your pipe. The first thing to do is to check all the taps in your home to see which ones have brown water running from them. Depending on what happens will help you to isolate the issue.

All taps running discoloured water: If all taps are running discoloured water, then you can safely assume it’s a pipe that leads into your home from the street mains.

Only certain taps or one tap running discoloured water: If there’s brown water coming out of only one or two taps, this is a sure indication you have possible corrosion in some of the piping in your home.

How to fix brown water coming out of my tap

Nine times out of ten we see that time is the best solution. Give the water in the mains lines a couple of hours to settle down and you will usually see the water run clear again. If you have brown water for more than a few hours or for days on end, this could be a sign you have a bigger problem and it’s a good idea to call a certified plumber like Allclear Gas & Plumbing on 0424 141 174.