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Water Quality

The taste and odour of water can vary from tap to tap and can be impacted by naturally occurring minerals, treatment processes and internal plumbing.

shower The taste and odour of water can vary around the home.

Customers own personal likes and dislikes can also influence a perception of taste and odour. Some common taste and odour complaints a water utility will receive about water quality are:

  • Chlorine
  • Musty, mouldy or earthy
  • Rust or Metal
  • Fluoride


Shoalhaven Water adds chlorine to the water supply at our water filtration plants and satellite chlorinators strategically positioned throughout the reticulation system to remove harmful bacteria and protect water quality. A small residual of chlorine is generally present in your drinking water once it reaches your tap and from time to time you may notice a slight chlorine taste or smell. Shoalhaven Water carefully controls and monitors this process to ensure the residual poses no risk to health.

Seasonal changes in demand, a property distance from the water filtration plant and unavoidable changes to system operation can impact the degree of chlorine in the water.

Musty, Mouldy or Earthy

Musty tastes and odours in the drinking water can be caused by organic growth within water pipes. Mould and bacteria can breed in the internal plumbing when certain jointing compounds are used for domestic fittings or appliances, or when cold water pipes pass closely to hot water pipes that are not insulated.

Water pipes in areas of the supply system with low flow rates can also create an environment for organic growth.

Rust and Metal

Drinking water with a rusty or metallic taste generally contains excessive iron, manganese and other metals. When these materials are present in high levels, customers can also notice a change in the colour of the water, this is known as discoloured water. The discoloured water may vary from the extreme (mud colour) to an almost unnoticeable (very light tea colour). Shoalhaven Water will flush or scour lines to remove the problem when this occurs.

Shoalhaven Water has thorough treatment processes to remove naturally occurring iron and manganese from the water supply. However, as the water moves through the system to a tap, it may pick up material from corroding pipes not lined with cement that may change the taste of the drinking water.

Customers may also notice a rusty or metallic taste if the internal pipes are corroded. When the house plumbing is corroded, water may appear clear at first, but then turn rusty or black in a few minutes.


The taste and smell of drinking water does not change as a result of water fluoridation because the type of fluoride used to fluoridate the water supply has no taste or smell.

For more information on fluoride visit the NSW Health website

Do you notice a chlorine taste or odour?

A chlorine odour in the water does not usually mean there is a high level of chlorine in the water. “Chlorine” odours are generally caused by the small amount of chlorine in the water, reacting with household plumbing fixtures such as hoses, tap washers, and tap strainers/aerators. As well as producing odours, chlorine can produce tastes when it reacts with some plumbing fixtures.

Some of the things which can be simply checked if water taste problems being experienced are:

Tap Washers some tap washers produce tastes—try other taps in the house or the front garden tap, preferably the tap closest to the meter. Eliminate taps until a definite area can be determined.

Newly installed kitchen mixer taps— will contain a lubricant that is water & corrosive resistant, Non Toxic, and suited for hot & cold potable water but may present tastes that some people may find unpleasant while others may not even notice. Clarify this by checking water coming from taps in other parts of the house eg bathroom taps, or better still, the meter tap.

Aerators on kitchen taps— often collect material that can cause taste complaints when combined with chlorine. These strainers may require cleaning to remove such build up. Caution must be taken when dissembling the aerator to ensure washers are replaced in the correct order.

Hoses on newly installed dishwashers and washing machines— can cause tastes in nearby taps. Clarify this by checking water coming from taps in other parts of the house eg bathroom taps, or better still, the meter tap. Try turning taps connecting dishwashers and washing machines off when not in use and see if the problem persists.

Some garden hosesparticularly soaker hoses, can produce strong chlorine odours. This is often caused by the small amounts of chlorine present in the water reacting with the plastics and chemicals used in the manufacture of the hoses. This will not normally produce taste and odours in the water coming from other taps within the house.

Water sitting in plumbing overnight—it is a good idea to let water run for a while before using for drinks. Storing water in the refrigerator, can avoid the need to use water straight from the tap first thing of a morning.

Reducing Off-Tastes and Odours in the Drinking Water

Most persistent taste and odour problems for individual customer tolerances are easily solved with a point-of-use (POU) water filtration system containing activated carbon. Activated carbon is a highly effective tool in water filters because it has enormous surface area and is highly porous— 1 pound (1.2 Kilograms) of activated carbon has the surface area of more than 100 acres (40.46 Hectares).

Poorly maintained filtration systems may in themselves become a source of contamination. Care should be taken to insure the system is maintained per the manufacturer’s specifications.

What is Shoalhaven Water doing to minimise noticeable chlorine?

Shoalhaven Water regularly monitors and adjusts the residual chlorine on all water supply systems to ensure optimum performance and minimal customer impact. Chlorine can easily be removed from drinking water by:

  • Exposing the water to sunlight for a number of hours (eg let the water stand in a covered clear container on a window sill or similar)
  • Adding freshly squeezed lemon juice (7 drops per litre) to the water (to assist in removing chlorine)
  • Chilling the water will reduce the chlorine taste

What about Shoalhaven Water mains?

Taste and odour complaints do not always arise from problems within a house and sometimes can be rectified by our staff flushing mains near your house. For example, high surges of water (main breaks/very hot days combined with large population increases) can cause water to discolour. These occurrences are infrequent and generally isolated in location. 

Shoalhaven Water staff immediately act to clear the water supply at the affected areas by flushing water through hydrants and property lines. Whilst discoloured water is generally safe, it is unpalatable and it is not recommended for drinking. Water can be safely boiled and when cooled, palatable for drinking. Shoalhaven Water can also arrange for alternative drinking supplies on request.  

If water becomes discoloured try running the water from an outside tap for a few minutes until it clears. Consult with neighbours and if the problem does not appear to be isolated to an individual house contact Shoalhaven Water’s customer service team on 4429 3214 so a check for other possible causes can be investigated.