My water is yellow/ orange/ brown

Learn what causes brown water and how to get rid of it

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What causes brown/ orange/ yellow water

A yellow, brown, or orange colour to tap water is normally caused by disturbance of sediment (mostly iron particles) in the water main. This can happen after sudden changes in flow within our network, like when a water main bursts or if the Fire Service or other third party are using our hydrants.

Check our website for any incidents or work going on in your area.

What can I do?

The problem will normally be short-lived. Running the first mains-fed tap (usually the kitchen tap) for 30 minutes should help to resolve it by flushing it through. If it’s a widespread issue, we’ll flush the mains to help clear the problem from the network.

We have an on-going programme of maintenance in place to reduce the amount of sediment in our network, through planned flushing and pipe replacement/upgrade. We’ll usually make you aware if we’re carrying out this work in your area.

Is it safe?

The sediment will be mostly iron deposits from older cast iron pipes. Although the levels of iron aren’t likely to be harmful to health, discoloured water won’t look or taste very nice, so we recommend waiting until the water runs clear again before using it for drinking and cooking.

Persistent or recurring discoloured water

If your tap water is persistently discoloured it might be being caused by the condition of your service pipe (the pipe connecting your home to the main) or your internal plumbing system. This is likely to be the case if your neighbours’ water is clear or only your hot water is affected. Check the condition of any internal storage tanks and make sure the filling loop (used to top up water in the central heating system) is not left connected, as this can cause back-siphonage from your radiators to your water supply. You may need a plumber to help you investigate, we recommend choosing a competent and qualified plumber using the WaterSafe scheme.

Other types of discolouration

When mains sediment is disturbed the colour of the water can vary. Although it’s usually yellow, orange, or brown, it can sometimes appear to have a black or yellowish green tinge. However, if your tap water is a totally different colour, like pink, blue or bright green please click here for advice.

Checklist if you have discoloured water

  • Check the first mains fed cold water tap (usually the kitchen cold water tap). If the water is clear at this tap it may indicate a problem within your internal plumbing system.
  • Check with your neighbour. If their water is clear, it could indicate a problem with your supply pipe or a problem within your plumbing system.
  • If your neighbour’s water is also discoloured there might be a burst water main in the area or we may be flushing or carrying out other work. You can check for work in your area here
  • Try running the first mains fed cold water tap at a steady flow until it clears – this water doesn’t have to be wasted, it can be used to water plants.
  • While the water is discoloured, we suggest you don’t do any laundry or use your hot water.
  • If the water remains discoloured after several hours, please give us a call as we may need to investigate further or flush the water main.