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Cloudy Water from Taps: Causes and Solutions

Drinking water

So, You Have Cloudy Water

Have you ever poured a glass of water from the tap only to discover that it’s cloudy or milky in colour? This is not the ideal scenario but certainly a common one for many Aussie homes.

Cloudy drinking water is much more likely a sign of a problem with your plumbing than an issue with the water supplier. So what causes this cloudiness, and is it safe to drink?

In most cases, it’s perfectly safe to drink, but the answer will always depend on the exact cause. Find everything you need to know about this cloudy water from tap situation with the causes and solutions below.

What Causes Cloudy Tap Water?

There are four main causes of cloudy tap water, and the good news is that the most common reasons are also the least harmful and the easiest to fix.

1. Air Bubbles

The most common cause of milky water is tiny air bubbles. That’s it! It could be air trapped in your pipes or a recent change in pressure resulting in aerated water, which is full of air bubbles pouring from the tap on a cloudy colour.

It can also be a blocked aerator. We’re referring to the compact nozzle fitted to many indoor taps. It’s used to reduce water flow, and a clogged aerator will increase the pressure and result in cloudy or milky water.

Recent plumbing work can cause pressurised water pipes, and so can issues with the water heater.

In addition, colder water temperature dissipates gases more effectively than hot water, and so white water will be more frequent from the hot tap than the cold one.

2. Hard Water

Hard water refers to a water supply with high dissolved mineral content. This includes the presence of calcium, iron, magnesium and other minerals that naturally occur in waterways.

Groundwater can possess a higher than the recommended concentration of mineral content resulting in cloudiness. It’s also possible that years of use have resulted in a mineral build up in your pipes, increasing the hardness of a drinking water supply.

Brisbane, Adelaide and some townships in Western Australia have harder water than other regions, and it’s not uncommon for these areas to experience cloudy water from the tap.

3. Total Suspended Solids (TSS)

Total suspended solids (TSS) refers to particles found in water. They include bacteria growth, algae, debris, metals, and pollution, among other foreign bodies, which can contaminate a water supply.

A concentration of TSS can present as cloudy water with visible particles floating around the glass.

It’s unlikely that you’ll discover a concentration of TSS in your mains water supply. Unlike air bubbles, these can be harmful. However, governing bodies manage water quality and keep solids at levels safe for consumption.

4. Methane Gas

Another unlikely cause of cloudy tap water is methane gas. The colourless and odourless gas can accumulate in water bores including wells, where it can be detected through discolouration of the water supply.

This would only affect remote properties and those who rely on bore water for the garden tap.

Methane gas shouldn’t be considered an issue for anyone relying on the government or council managed water mains.

Is Cloudy Water Safe to Drink?

So, is cloudy tap water safe to drink? It all depends on the cause. The tiny air bubbles are completely harmless. It’s just trapped air. Let the water rest for a few seconds, maybe a minute, and the water clears, but it’s safe to drink right from the get-go.

If the glass doesn’t clear up, you could be looking at a concentration of hard water. Water is considered hard if the mineral content is 200 milligrams per litre or above.

SA Water says hard water is safe to drink, but there’s potential for the minerals to be deposited as limescale on kettles and shower screens. It can contribute to eczema if bathing in it. Better Health reports that the alkaline in hard water can affect your skin’s pH balance resulting in inflammation.

Regarding tap water flow contaminated by TSS, it should not be consumed in its present state. Bacteria, for example, can lead to a variety of health issues, including diarrhoea, vomiting, headaches, fever and fatigue.

Water coming from a groundwater well could be exposed to methane gas. If so, there’s little evidence to suggest this is harmful if ingested. But there is plenty of concern regarding the gas’s explosive nature and asphyxiation if it leaks into a home.

Again, TSS and methane presence are highly unlikely to be the cause for most households. But it’s certainly worth investigating if relying on a bore or water tank as your water supply.

How to Fix Cloudy Tap Water

The good news is that there’s not much to be concerned about. The tiny air bubbles solution is simply waiting for them to clear. It could take seconds or up to a minute before the cloudy appearance rescinds, but it’s always safe to drink.

The next step is filtering your water. Purchase a filter jug or a more comprehensive water filter to suit your requirements. You can even have a water filtration device for your taps. This can help with both hard water solids and sediment.

If hard water from a shower head causes eczema, try fitting a water softener to at least bathroom faucets.

If these simple solutions above don’t rectify the problem, it’s time to call a plumber. A professional plumber will investigate the likely culprits, including pressure within hot water systems and the condition of your pipes. It could be something as simple as a blocked aerator which can be swapped out for a new one.

The Mr Emergency team is available 24/7 for water pressure and water pipes work. We can be at your door within 30 minutes* to begin working on a long-term solution for crystal clear drinking water.

Please note: This information is provided for advice purposes only. Regulations differ from state to state, so please consult your local authorities or an industry professional before proceeding with any work. See our Terms & Conditions here.

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