brown water

What Does It Mean If I Have Brown Water?

Have you ever reached for a glass of water or turned on a water fountain, only to see a stream of brown water flowing out of the tap?  Whether your water comes from a municipal source or a private well, no one wants to drink brown water that looks dirty and unhealthy.  Not only should you hesitate to drink brown water, but you also should not use it for bathing or cooking either, until you are certain of the cause.

brown water

What Causes Brown Water?

There are actually many different reasons your water could be brown. Some are harmless, while others could pose a serious health risk. That’s why it’s important to stop using your water until you are able to determine the problem.


One of the most benign reasons your water could be brown is an accumulation of sediment or rust. Any kind of disruption to the water system could stir up these particles. This can turn clear water into a murky brew.  Nearby construction and water main breaks are the most likely causes of this type of brown water.  In these cases, the water usually clears up in a few hours. While the water might not look appealing, it would be safe to drink.


Similarly, issues with the plumbing in your home could also cause brown water.  If you have had issues with your pipes or recent plumbing repairs, this could dislodge rust from older pipes.  Likewise, if you have had to turn off the main water supply, the change in water pressure when the system is turned back on can also stir up rust.  Rust, which is oxidized iron, may make your water taste and look bad.  While rust itself isn’t harmful, it could indicate issues with your pipes which could compromise the quality of your water.


Other minerals that can cause a disturbing color change in your water are iron and manganese.  Both of these minerals are naturally found in many of the foods we eat and are considered healthy.  Some people even seek out water that is high in these minerals as a natural supplement to their diet.

Water Heater

Maybe you only have brown water when you turn on the hot water. This might mean that the problem is with your water heater.  An anode rod that isn’t functioning properly can cause a change in water color.

Is Brown Water Safe to Drink?

The safety of brown water is hard to determine without knowing the cause.  Most of the common causes of brown water do not pose a health threat.  However, the brown water could be a sign that there is something else wrong with the water supply.  For example, old rusty pipes could be contributing to the off-color. While the rust itself is not harmful, the damaged pipes could allow the water to become contaminated by bacteria.  The best way to know if brown water is safe to drink is to test it.

TestAssured makes an easy to use testing kit with 10 different tests. The test kit will allow you to determine the quality of your water.  The test results might even help you to identify what is causing your water to turn brown.  Most of the tests will provide results within minutes, with the exception of the bacteria test, which takes two days to develop.

What Should You Do If You Have Brown Water?

The first thing you want to do is determine what is causing the color change in your water.  To find out if the problem is caused by the water supply, call your local utility company and ask if they are aware of any issues.  They typically will provide advanced notice if they will be doing any work that could disrupt the water quality and may advise boiling your water before using it.  If the problem isn’t coming from the main supply, the source could be in your home and may require an inspection by a plumber.

If you are unable to make changes to your water system to clear up the water, an easy solution is a water filter.  There are a number of filters available to fit every need and budget.  You can start with something as simple as a filtered water container to clean water for drinking and cooking or you can go for a full home filtration system.

While drinking brown water probably will not cause health problems, it is important to identify the source as a change in water color could be an indication of other issues.

One comment

  1. Darrien Hansen

    Thank you for explaining that a change in water pressure can cause rust to alter the color and taste of your water. My brother has noticed that the water that comes out of his kitchen faucet has turned brown recently, and he would like to make sure that it is safe to drink since his wife is pregnant and needs to stay hydrated without getting sick. Maybe it would be best for him to find a purification system to help keep his water clean.

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