Tap Water Smells Like Dirt? Change in Water Taste and Odor is Temporary

Tap Water Smells Like Dirt? Change in Water Taste and Odor is Temporary

Mesa residents may notice a slight change in the taste and odor of their water for the next few weeks. According to mesaaz.gov, the temporary change is caused by a byproduct of seasonal algae in surface water called geosmin. Even at low concentrations, geosmin causes a musty or soil-like taste and odor in the water. Geosmin is not harmful and the water is safe to drink and use in daily activities. The City of Mesa’s Brown Road Water Treatment Plant is using carbon treatment to reduce geosmin in the water distribution system.

According to the Water Research Foundation, most contaminants that cause aesthetic problems in drinking water are not considered a threat to human health, although unpleasant tastes and odors are the most common cause of customer complaints, and they often play a role when customers choose alternative supplies such as bottled water. 

Because aesthetic characteristics are not usually related to public health, they are regulated by secondary standards—water quality goals that are not mandatory or enforced in most states. Nevertheless, customers who find the taste or smell of tap water disagreeable often assume the water is of poor quality and, therefore, unsafe to drink. 

Taste and odor problems can stem from microbiological or chemical causes and can be triggered by conditions in source water, during treatment, or in distribution systems. For example, the presence of salts and metals such as iron, copper, manganese, or zinc can impart undesirable flavors, and blue-green algae and actinomycetes that grow in surface supplies produce compounds that cause earthy–musty odors. In addition, some consumers object to the flavor of chlorine, and disinfection by-products formed when chlorine combines with naturally occurring organic matter can cause off-flavors.

Mesa insists that its water continues to meet all state and federal drinking water standards. For more information about water quality, the City of Mesa’s Consumer Confidence Report can be found online at www.mesaaz.gov/ccr. For questions or hard copies of the report, please contact (480) 644-6461 or water.quality@mesaaz.gov.

Sources: mesaaz.gov and waterrf.org

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