Color, Sediment, Taste & Odor FAQs

Why do my ice cubes appear cloudy?

Ice cubes made with tap water are seldom perfectly clear, for a perfectly good reason: The water served in our area contains dissolved calcium and other naturally occurring minerals. When the water is frozen, the minerals turn into harmless solid white particles that make the water appear cloudy.

What causes rusty water?

Reddish or rusty water is a common result of older pipes in your home. When water stands in the pipes for long periods of time (including overnight), fine particles of rust may accumulate. Another possible cause may be a rusting hot water heater. The problem can easily be solved by letting the water run for a few minutes to clear out the pipes. Rusty water is not a health hazard, but you may want to avoid doing laundry with the rusty water to avoid staining.

What if the rusty water doesn't clear up?

When pipelines in the streets are disturbed due to repairs in your area, mineral sediments that have settled in the pipes sometimes break loose and cause rusty or dirty-looking water. The sediments are harmless mineral deposits that naturally occur in water. If the water does not clear after running it for a few minutes, please call Customer Service at (408)279-7900 and make an appointment for a service inspector to investigate the cause.

What causes the bluish stain in my sink?

New copper pipes are usually the culprit. Bluish stains are possible when the copper pipes in your home dissolve slightly into the water. Local hardware stores can provide you with stain removal products. After a few months, the new pipes should develop a mineral scale that reduces the amount of copper dissolving in water. Water supplied by SJW is optimized to prevent corrosion of copper pipes, and special monitoring programs are in place to make sure the corrosion control measures are working.

How does the water taste?

A lot of the answer to this question depends on where the water comes from. San Jose Water receives approximately half of its water from state or federal water projects through the Santa Clara Valley Water District. Downtown San Jose receives most of its water from SJW’s deep wells. Most of the year, Los Gatos and Saratoga receive local mountain surface water. Most customers that call SJW about taste are calling about a chlorine taste or odor. Water disinfection is required by USEPA and California Department of Public Health guidelines. We target the amount of chlorine to the minimum required for effective disinfection. If the chlorine taste is objectionable on certain days, please call Customer Service at (408) 279-7900.

Is there anything I can do to eliminate the chlorine taste in my water?

Yes. Place a pitcher of water in your refrigerator for cool, fresh water any time. Chlorine will dissipate with time and the water will taste fresher. Reverse osmosis and activated carbon filters are also effective in removing chlorine from water, but choose a reputable vendor and be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for installing and maintaining such treatment devices.

What about an "earthy" or "musty" taste and odor in the water?

Algae growth in lakes and reservoirs can occur during the warm weather months and may occasionally cause your water to taste and smell earthy or musty. When the algae (a microscopic plant) grows, it gives off an odd but harmless flavor or odor.

While we can't prevent the warm weather, much is being done to prevent the taste and odor problem from occurring. The Santa Clara Valley Water District, which operates the local reservoirs, is monitoring them for the control of algae. In addition, the District carefully processes all drinking water at its modern water treatment plants and has a specially trained taste panel which samples the water to more clearly identify potential problems and provide early intervention. Additional information about the District's water supply can be viewed here.

Phew! My hot water smells like rotten eggs!

"Rotten egg" smells may be caused by a problem in your hot water heater. Magnesium anodes used in hot water tanks to prevent corrosion sometimes generate bad smelling gasses. The odor usually occurs early in the morning and only with your hot water. This smelly problem may be easily fixed by replacing the magnesium anode with one made from an aluminum alloy. Before replacing the anode, be sure the odor is coming from the hot water and not from the sink drain or garbage disposal. If you have any questions about repairs, contact a plumbing professional.