We trust our household drinking water to be safe for bathing, consumption, and other purposes, but that doesn’t mean it’s always perfect. Due to quirks in your household plumbing, city water, or other issues, there are a variety of problems you could struggle with in your drinking water.
Fortunately, most of these problems can be solved, or at least mitigated, with a simple change, like installing the right water softener or using a filter. Keep an eye out for these common drinking water problems, and know what steps can correct them.
You can tell when your water is hard based on how it feels and how it tastes—as well as how it affects your skin and hair. If your water is hard, you’ll notice dry skin and hair, and spots on your glass, silverware, and fixtures. You might have trouble getting your clothes freshly clean in the washing machine, and your water-based appliances may have a shorter lifespan. Hard water is caused by high levels of dissolved calcium, magnesium, iron, and other elements, and may be present whether you use city water or a private well. In any case, hard water isn’t usually a major health risk, and you can correct it by installing a water softener.
You may also struggle with cloudy water, which has an opaque look. In some cases, there may also be light discoloration. Cloudiness is formally referred to as turbidity, and can be measured in terms of the number and type of suspended particles in the water. There are many potential sources of turbidity, including runoff, storms, or new construction—basically any kind of land disturbance can lead to cloudy water. It’s tough to analyze, because some cloudy water is safe to drink, and some clear water may have a high level of dissolved solids. You’re best off testing your water for suspended particles to make sure it’s safe to drink.
Chlorine has long been the gold standard for killing bacteria in water and pipes, and is easily identifiable in public pools and hot tubs, where it’s necessary to preserve a clean environment. It’s also used to treat water, lowering the risk of public health threats; however, it should be removed from your water by the time it reaches your home. In some cases, you may smell or taste chlorine in your water. While it’s not an immediate threat to your life or health (in most cases), it can result in dry skin and hair, faded clothing, and shortened appliance lifespans.
An Earthy or Musty Taste
Water should, by default, be free of any odors or tastes. However, if your water contains additional particles, it may develop a strange smell or taste. For example, you may notice an earthy or musty odor. This could be the result of algae development, or decayed vegetation. This usually isn’t a problem for your health, but could make your water unpleasant to drink. A filter should get rid of the problem.
Have you ever noticed a “rotten egg” smell in your water? That could mean your water has a high concentration of hydrogen sulfide, which is a colorless compound capable of causing corrosion to your pipes. Again, low levels are usually nothing to be concerned about, but if you want purer, better tasting water, you’ll need a filter.
Some water may acquire a metallic taste, which usually indicates the presence of metals. These include iron, copper, manganese, and zinc, which naturally occur underground and in most household pipes. In some cases, elevated levels of metals in water can be problematic. In others, they’re relatively harmless. If you taste metal in your drinking water, make sure to have it tested for safety.
Certain other particles in household water can cause staining on your bathtub, in your sink, and in other areas exposed to water. For example, hard water can leave signature kinds of spotting on your appliances. Manganese and iron can create an orange, rust-colored ring, and an excessively low pH level can leave blue-green stains on white appliances (and sometimes, white clothing). These issues are usually inconsequential, but are worth investigating if you’re interested in a filter.
Bacteria and Viruses
Pathogens can also propagate in your drinking water, from a variety of sources. Bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other microorganisms could negatively impact your health—and they’re oftentimes odorless and tasteless. The only way to detect them is with a specific testing kit.
For the most part, these problems are easily remedied—even if they’re annoying in the meantime. With the right appliances, some simple plumbing changes, and a few other tweaks, you can restore your drinking water to the right consistency and ideally, a better taste.