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What does your water smell or taste like?


No one wants odd smelling water. First, you’ll need to determine if the problem is coming from the public water supply or from your own plumbing. If it’s coming from the water supply, the odor will be at every water faucet and not fade as the water runs. If it’s from your plumbing, the odor will only exist at one or a few faucets.

First things first. We recommend you do a glass test at the faucet where you first noticed the odor. Follow the steps below:

  1. Run the cold water tap for 20 to 30 seconds.
  2. Get a clean glass.
  3. Fill and rinse twice with cold tap water.
  4. Fill the glass and turn off the faucet.
  5. Step away from the sink (this eliminates the possibility of mistaking odors from your drain for odors in your water).
  6. Smell the water in the glass and characterize the odor, if any. Please see the descriptions below to characterize the odor you are detecting.

Chlorine/Medicinal Taste/Odor

Generally, a chlorine odor occurs when SJW needs to make a water source change. A chlorinous odor may occur seasonally or more frequently depending on operational needs. SJW’s website generally announces large source changes, so please visit www.sjwater.com to check to see if there is a source change in your area.

Some may also be sensitive to odors, so if you are new to the area or just got back from a long vacation, the water might smell chlorinous to you for a couple of days. SJW takes chlorine and bacteriological samples throughout the distribution system every day to ensure chlorine levels are within an acceptable range. If the chlorinous smell gets worse or you feel a burning sensation from the hose bib, please call customer service at (408) 279-7900 to report the issue.

Foul/Sulfur/Rotten Egg/Sewage Odor

If the odor is a sulfur/rotten egg or sewerage smell that you only smell at the sink and not in the glass you can easily remedy this by applying a small amount of bleach into the drain trap at bedtime and let it stand through the night. Do not run the water until morning to give the bleach time to kill the bacteria (the cause for this odor) in the drain. This may take more than one application.

  1. Cold Water: If the odor is coming from the water in the glass please call Customer Service at (408) 279-7900 to report the issue.
  2. Hot Water: If you find these odors in your hot water only we recommend flushing your hot water heater or contact a licensed plumber.

Swampy/ Fishy/ Earthy/ Musty/ Moldy/ Grassy Odor

These odors may be caused by an algae bloom in the source water or from water sitting in the pipe for an extended period of time, which can happen at the end of a main. If you believe that you live on a dead-end main please call Customer Service at (408) 279-7900 to report the issue.

Chalky, Plastic

If you detect an odor characteristic of plastics/latex or chalk and you are located in a project zone where new water mains are being installed, please call Customer Service at (408) 279-7900 to report the issue. If you aren’t sure if there is work going on near your home, check our website to see all of the latest system impacts: https://www.sjwater.com/customer-care/service-alerts.