If your water has a funny taste, or smell, there's probably an explanation for it, and it may not be anything to worry about.
Depending on its source, water can taste different
Your water comes from a variety of sources, including rivers, boreholes, wells and springs.
Each of these sources of water can have their own unique taste, or smell, depending on the type and amount of natural minerals it contains. Sometimes we might need to change the source that supplies your home, and this may mean you notice a change to the smell or taste of your water.
In some cases however, the smell or taste could be for other reasons. Many of these problems are due to problems with your internal plumbing, but the good news is they can be fixed quite easily.
Typical smells and tastes...
Some of the more regularly reported smells and tastes are covered below. Depending on the nature of the problem, there may be different ways to identify and fix the cause of the problems.
Chlorine type smell
We add chlorine to the water at the treatment works to ensure that it is safe to drink. The level of chlorine left in the water when it comes out of your tap is very low and is not harmful to health.
Sometimes a taste or smell of chlorine can become more noticeable, which some people find unpleasant. Keeping water in a covered jug in the fridge should improve the taste and smell.
TCP Taste to Water
If your tap water develops a medicinal, chemical, metallic or TCP-like taste or smell, it is likely that the chlorine in the water is reacting with rubber or plastic components within your domestic plumbing system or in your kettle.
The taste and smell is often stronger if the water has been boiled or is left to stand in a glass. This type of taste is not harmful at the levels usually seen in tap water, but can be very unpleasant. Fortunately this type of problem is very easy to solve.
Earthy or musty?
These types of tastes and smells are harmless and can develop when water is left standing in pipes for long periods. Running your taps for a few minutes should remove any stale water.
Occasionally harmless earthy tastes can develop in our source water – particularly in the summer months.
Like Fuel or solvent?
Please contact us for assistance on 0345 702 3797 if you notice that your water supply tastes or smells of fuel or solvent.
If there has been a spillage of fuel near to your property, fuel compounds (including those found in heating oil) can penetrate plastic pipework to contaminate the water supply, which could be hazardous to health.
Plastic pipes laid in ground that have been contaminated may need to be replaced with a special barrier pipe even if no taste or smell is detected. This is because contamination of the water supply can occur days, weeks or even months afterwards.
A metallic or bitter taste or smell to tap water is normally associated with increased concentrations of metals commonly found in domestic plumbing systems, such as copper or zinc.
Water left standing in metal pipework for long periods can pick up traces of metals, which can produce unusual tastes or smells often described as metallic or bitter – particularly in water from the hot water system. This can be a particular problem in large buildings or in buildings with long lengths of pipe.
Running the cold water tap can help to reduce this problem, as can lagging the cold water pipework to prevent it being warmed by hot water pipes. The water you run off does not have to be wasted and can be used for purposes other than for drinking – such as watering plants.
Please contact us if the taste persists or if you are concerned about lead pipework.
This type of taste or smell is particularly associated with black plastic pipework.
Black plastic (alkathene) water pipes were commonly used in the 1960s and 1970s. This material can sometimes create a ‘woody’ or pencilwood taste or smell to your water supply. This taste or odour is not harmful to health and can usually be reduced by running the taps for a few minutes to clear the water that has been standing in contact with the pipe material. However, replacing your supply pipe is the only permanent solution.
The water you run off does not have to be wasted and can be used for purposes other than drinking – such as watering plants.
We do not add – and currently have no plans to add – fluoride to the water we supply.
The water we supply naturally contains between 0.1 and 0.3 mg/l (parts per million) of fluoride, which is not removed during treatment. The maximum concentration of fluoride allowed in the water is 1.5 mg/l. There is no minimum limit.
In the past, local health authorities could ask water companies to artificially fluoridate the water supply, but the companies could refuse. Legislation in 2008 gave the authorities the power to compel companies to fluoridate the water supply, after public consultation.
Fluoride is a health issue. We believe that health professionals should make decisions about health measures, not water companies.
Further information about fluoridation can be obtained from:
Health Protection Unit
Telephone (0345 504 8668) or from the drinking water quality regulator, the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI).
Where to find help...
If the problem with your water persists, contact us to let us know, or alternatively, we can recommend an approved local plumber.
We can provide help finding an approved plumber, who will be able to help you with your water supply problem.
If you're still experiencing an issue with your water supply let us know, we'll be able to help you resolve the problem.