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Questions about your water
Some possible causes of problems with water which appears dirty, has an unusual color, or sediment/particles include:
- Sediments or pipe materials from breaks in water mains or hydrants. Water mains in the distribution system can fail due to age, corrosion, high pressure surges, or damage by construction work. Hydrants can also be broken off by vehicles.
- High flows can occur in water mains due to fire fighting, water system tests, or maintenance. Unusual high-flow conditions can stir up sediment or scale from water mains.
- Construction activities: the customer's service connection from the distribution main to the water meter is sometimes disturbed by construction activities of contractors or other utilities.
- Aging galvanized plumbing: rust particles or scale from galvanized steel home plumbing can also produce reddish-brown water or rust particles, particularly noticeable when a tap is first turned on.
Since there are many causes of dirty water, EBMUD investigates each complaint carefully. Please be prepared to answer the following questions when reporting this problem at 1-866-403-2683.
- What is the location of the premises where the dirty water occurred?
- When was the dirty water first detected?
- What does the water look like? Does it have color?
- Are both the cold and hot water dirty?
- Is the water dirty at all faucets?
- Are the particles large, small, or colored; does the water look milky or contain air?
- Have you had plumbing work done recently on either hot or cold water lines?
The answers to these questions will assist us in finding the cause of the dirty water and may also suggest corrective steps to take. EBMUD Water System Inspectors respond to calls regarding water which appears to be dirty, colored or has foreign particles, within one business day.
A common cause for slow water flow from your faucet is a clogged faucet aerator. Fortunately, unclogging it is a simple fix. Sediment that flows in the water supply lines can get trapped in the aerator screen. If your aerator is two years or older, consider replacing it. It is recommended that aerators be changed once every 2-3 years as they get worn, grimy, and/or clogged.
For bathrooms, it is recommended that the flow for that aerator be 1.0 gallon per minute. For kitchen aerators, the recommended flow is 1.5 gallons per minute or less.
To clean the aerator, follow these simple steps:
- Plug the drain so you don’t lose any small parts.
- Take the aerator off the end of the faucet. You should be able to unscrew it with a wrench or pliers or by hand. Covering the pliers with electrical tape will keep them from damaging the aerator.
- Clean the aerator screen and parts. You can use a toothbrush and water to scrub debris off the pieces.
- Be sure the holes in the screen are clear. Soaking the aerator parts overnight in white vinegar will remove lime scale and calcium build-up from hard water. Take the aerator apart. There are several parts inside the aerator. As you take them out, pay close attention to how they fit together. This will make it easier to reassemble.
- Clean the aerator screen and parts. You can use a toothbrush and water to scrub debris off the pieces. Be sure the holes in the screen are clear. Soaking the aerator parts overnight in white vinegar will remove lime scale and calcium build-up from hard water.
- Reassemble the aerator and screw it back on the faucet. It doesn’t have to be very tight. If water leaks above the aerator after you’ve hand-tightened it, use the pliers to give it a small turn.
Your water should flow freely now.
Note: If parts are damaged or get broken in the process, replace the entire aerator. Take the aerator being replaced with you to the hardware store so you can shop for the correct replacement. The two most common aerators are standard-dual thread aerators (fit both male and female threads) and Chicago-style aerators, which are available as either male or female threads.
Pressure in your pipes may create the appearance of cloudy, milky or foamy water. This is air under pressure in your water pipes much like carbon dioxide in a bottle of soda. Turning on the faucet releases the pressure, causing the air bubbles to appear. The water is safe to drink. Run the water at your hose bib first. Once clear, run the cold water at your interior fixtures. If you allow a glass of water to stand for a few moments, the air bubbles will rise to the surface and will clear within minutes.
Discoloration in water, such as a light yellow to dark brown color, may occur when pipeline sediment in the water is stirred during pipeline repair work. The discoloration is caused by dissolved iron which is stirred up by turning valves, flushing hydrants or reversing water in mains that are being returned to service. To remove the discoloration, run your front hose bib first and once clear proceed to run the cold water at your interior fixtures.
If the cloudy, milky, foamy or discolored water persists, please call 1-866-403-2683, and give us your address and a telephone number so we can have an inspector contact you.
Low water pressure may occur as EBMUD restores water service back to customers following a pipeline repair. EBMUD is careful to gradually restore pressure to avoid other potential main breaks.
More questions about your water? Visit the Water Quality FAQ page.