Why Is My Water a Rusty Color?

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Why Is My Water a Rusty Color?

Water should run crystal clear. So, when the water coming out of your tap has a rust-brown shade, it’s quite unnerving. What could be hiding in this dirty, tainted, and rusty color water? Is it safe to use?

When your water has a rusty color, you’re in a bit of a pickle. It’s nearly impossible to go on with your life without water, and it’s a convenience that most of us take for granted until it becomes an issue. However, who wants to take a shower in rusty brown water, let alone brush their teeth with it? You’re stuck until you can find out what’s causing the water’s sudden color change.

The good news is, it’s only the presence of mineral sediments that causes rusty, colored water. In most cases, iron or manganese are to blame for this discoloration. Both of these minerals are harmless, meaning that you can bathe, brush your teeth and even drink the water from the tap with confidence. Of course, you should confirm that these minerals are the cause of the discoloration before you take that shower or down a glass of the reddish-brown water. Other symptoms of iron-heavy water include a metallic taste or rust stains forming on clothing and plumbing fixtures and even clogs or blockages.

3 Reasons That Explain The Rusty Color In Your Water

rusty color in the water
This is what really bad rusty color looks like.

So, if iron is to blame, how does it get there? Why would there be so much iron in the water to the point that it turns red or brown? There are a few fairly common reasons you may experience this water discoloration problem:

Wells with High Iron Content

Groundwater naturally contains iron. Minerals and rocks in the ground act as a filter, allowing iron to seep into groundwater. For this reason, it’s quite common to find high iron content in wells.

If your water source is a well and you notice the onset of rust-colored water, don’t be alarmed. Iron levels in wells can change over time and even fluctuate seasonally. You can confirm that iron levels have caused the change in your water color with the help of a plumbing professional. From there, you can take action towards solving the problem.

Even though high iron doesn’t pose a health risk, most people prefer water without an excessive amount of this metal present due to the aesthetic, taste and smell factors. Also, there are many treatment options available including installing a filter. Usually, there’s a way to eliminate the problem and enjoy normal water again.

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Old Municipal Water Systems

Across the country, water pipes and systems range in age. While some are newer, such as those in San Antonio Texas, others, like those in Philadelphia, are old. Parts of California also have fairly old municipal water systems. LA, for example, is known for its old pipes. Over 20% of the pipes in this city were installed before 1931, meaning they’re getting close to being 100 years old!

Old systems equal old materials which means a higher likelihood of rust appearing. Water main breaks are frequent in these old systems. These events release sediment, including rust particles that have sunken to the bottom of pipes into the water system. Pipes in these systems also corrode, leading to the arrival of the tell-tale rusty colored water.

Unfortunately, in this case, there’s not much you can do to solve the problem. You can inquire with local authorities to find out if there’s been an event in your area that would explain the change, for example. If there’s not a reason for the discolored water, then you can report the problem, and hopefully, your local water company will deal with it.

Rusty Spots in Corroded Water Heaters

While less common, it’s also possible that your water heater is to blame. If your hot water is the only temperature that’s coming out rust-colored, it’s even more likely that your water heater is at fault.

A corroded water heater can result in excessive sediment build-up in the bottom of your heater. If there really is severe corrosion, it may mean that it’s time to replace your heater altogether. So, the assistance of a plumbing professional will help you determine the best course of action to follow.

Rusty colored water is a nuisance at best, and at worst can make your water completely unpalatable or permanently stain your clothes. When you notice rust-colored water coming out of your faucets, call an experienced professional plumber to diagnose the problem and give an estimate on a hot water repair or replacement. Soon, you’ll enjoy crystal clear water again!

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About the Author:

Orange Coast Plumbing in Santa Ana, Orange County, Ca. takes great pride in providing plumbing knowledge to our online guests. Our entire team contributes to our blog. We have been in business since 1977 and have seen every kind of plumbing situation. We sincerely hope our posts contribute to bringing you plumbing peace of mind.