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Troubleshooting Color, Taste or Smell


Drinking water questions?

Call us at (541) 685-7861, or send us an email.

Chlorine taste and odor

We add chlorine to kill organisms that can make people sick.  Federal law requires a trace of chlorine in the water to ensure its purity as it travels from the filtration plant to your tap. Some customers may notice the taste and odor of chlorine more than others.

It is easy to remove the taste of chlorine in the water that you drink:

  • Set a pitcher of water in the refrigerator for an hour or so.
  • Add a tasty slice of citrus or cucumber to the water.
  • Boil for 5 minutes.

Discolored water

We all expect clean and clear water to flow from our taps, but sometimes you might see something else. After treatment, the water introduced into the system is clean and clear. There are, however, natural dissolved minerals in the water that can settle in the piping system over months or years. When there is higher-than-normal use of cold water—such as filling a swimming pool or using a fire hydrant—that increased flow could stir up the reddish sediment lying on the bottom of the pipes. In some cases, such as when there has been recent maintenance on the water distribution system, the water may appear milky white. This is caused by tiny air bubbles. Although discolored water typically won't make you sick, you might want to flush the pipes in your house before drinking the water or washing.

Here's how to flush your home's pipes:

  • Turn on your outside hose bibs at full force one at a time for 10 minutes or until the water runs clear.  Start with the hose bib closest to your water meter.
  • If the water does not clear after a few minutes, wait an hour. Repeat the process until the water runs clear.
  • After the outside hose bibs run clear, run the cold-water faucets at full force throughout the house for 5 minutes or until the water clears.
  • Start at the cold-water faucet in the bathtub because that faucet has the highest flow.
  • After the tub faucet and hose bibs run clear, flush all other cold-water faucets in the house.
  • After flushing, remove faucet aerators to clear any particles and then reinstall them.

Please contact EWEB at 541-685-7861 if you follow these instructions and you still see discolored water flowing from the tap.

In a water emergency, please call EWEB at 541-685-7595.

More troubleshooting tips

If you're experience color, taste or smell issues, the solution can depend on whether the problem is with cold water or hot water, and if the issue is at all faucets or only some. You may need to flush your hot water heater or clean the faucet aerator screens. 

Download our troubleshooting guide to find solutions to the specific problem you are experiencing.

Steps you can take to maintain high-quality drinking water in your home

Flush cold water faucets before using for cooking, drinking, or making baby formula.

If a faucet has not been used for several hours or longer, run the water for 30 seconds to 2 minutes (or until the water feels cooler) before using the water for cooking or drinking. This will improve water quality by bringing in fresh water, and reduce lead levels if present in your home's plumbing.

Clean faucet screens.

At the tip of most faucets you will find an aerator screen which blends air into the water, reducing water use. But it can also trap sediments and metals from your pipes and hot water tank. This can impact water quality and may block water flow. Routinely clean screens and replace them as needed. Twist off to remove. You may need a wrench to loosen the aerator.

Maintain household water filtration devices.

The water delivered to your home meets and exceeds all federal and state drinking water requirements. Installing a home water device is a personal decision. Always maintain filters according to the manufacturer's guidelines. Unmaintained water filters, including those found in your refrigerator, can harbor bacteria and/or release contaminants.

Do not use hot tap water for cooking, drinking, or making baby formula.

Hot water can help dissolve metals such as lead into your drinking water. Always start with cold water and heat as necessary.

Maintain your hot water heater.

Hot water heaters can cause discoloration, particulates and odor at the faucet. Most manufacturers recommend flushing or maintaining of water heaters annually or every few years. The typical life span of a tank-style water heater is 10 years.