What to Do If Your Water Turns Brown

You may have had a nightmare about this before. As you turn on the faucet and cup your hands beneath it to wash your face in the morning, you are greeted by a steady flow of brown liquid bursting from the sink. As you reel in disgust and panic, remember that the cause of the discoloration probably isn’t as repulsive as it seems.

What Causes Water to Turn Brown?

High levels of iron, manganese, and other minerals are a common source of darkened water. The presence of these substances in your water can indicate a break in an exterior line, which is allowing the soil to contaminate the supply. Houses connected to wells are more likely to experience this issue compared to those hooked into the municipal system.

Water can also be discolored by rust in the pipes or fixtures associated with the supply lines. Changes in pressure, like activating a line that has been turned off for an extended period, may force clumps of rust through the pipes. Your water may also turn brown after a period of extended demand by a nearby fire truck or public water main burst.

What Should I Do?

First of all, don’t panic! If you discover discolored water pouring from the tap, inform all household members to avoid using the water supply temporarily. Contact a local plumber and describe your situation for professional advice on how to proceed.

It is often recommended that you turn on the tap and allow the water to run for up to half an hour. In many cases, the color will return to normal after this period. Consider contacting your city’s water supply office to discuss the issue and request credit for meter use during this phase. Take a picture immediately before and after to ensure proper documentation.

Since many causes of brown water stem from a fault in your plumbing system, you’ll likely need the help of a professional plumber to address the issue. Be sure to note any information you can that may help the technician. For example, if you only notice discoloration when you use hot water, the problem likely lies with your water heater or a hot water line.