Water Quality FAQs

If you have questions, concerns or problems regarding water quality issues not answered below or if your call is an emergency, call EBMUD at 1-866-403-2683. We will respond to all water quality related calls within one business day. You may also refer to the Annual Water Quality Report for more information.

Why does my water have an unpleasant taste and/or odor?

It is very difficult to separate taste from odor because these two human senses are so closely related. Most occurrences of a peculiar taste or odor in the water can be grouped into one of the following three categories: 1) chlorinous, bleachy, chemical, and medicinal; 2) sulfurous (rotten egg-like), decayed, and sewage-like; or 3) musty, moldy, or earthy.

  • Two common causes for a chlorinous, bleachy, chemical, or medicinal taste or odor in the water: the addition of chloramine to the water by EBMUD, and the interaction between chloramine and organic material in your plumbing system.
  • Two common causes of a sulfurous decayed, or sewage-like taste or odor in the water: bacteria growing in your drain or bacteria growing in your water heater.
  • Two common causes of a musty, moldy, or earthy taste or odor in the water: bacteria growing in your drain, or certain types of organisms growing in the EBMUD's source water reservoirs. Certain types of algae, fungi, and bacteria growing in the water supply excrete small amounts of chemicals into the water that cause a musty, moldy, or earthy taste and odor. The two most common chemicals are geosmin and methylisoborneal (MIB). Although these chemicals have no documented health effects, most people can detect them in the water at concentrations as low as 5 parts per trillion. EBMUD works very hard to avoid having these compounds reach our customers and treats the water from Upper San Leandro and San Pablo Reservoirs specifically to avoid this.

Causes of tastes or odors in water must be carefully investigated. Please be prepared to answer the following questions when reporting this problem at 1-866-403-2683:

  1. What is the location of the premises where the taste or odor occurred?
  2. When was the taste or odor first detected?
  3. Is the taste or odor in the hot or cold water, or both?
  4. How would you describe the taste or odor?

The answers to these questions will assist us in finding the cause of the taste or odor and will also suggest corrective steps to take. EBMUD Water System Inspectors respond to calls regarding taste and odor within one business day.

Why does my water look dirty, have sediment and/or particles in it?

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.

  1. What is the location of the premises where the dirty water occurred?
  2. When was the dirty water first detected?
  3. What does the water look like? Does it have color?
  4. Are both the cold and hot water dirty?
  5. Is the water dirty at all faucets?
  6. Are the particles large, small, or colored; does the water look milky or contain air?
  7. 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.

Why do I sometimes get cloudy water coming out of my faucets?

Cloudy water could be a result of dissolved air in the water, which is a common and harmless condition. To verify this, place the cloudy water in a glass and observe whether it clears from the bottom up (you may be left with bubbles on the side of the glass and a small surface layer of bubbles). If this occurs then you have dissolved air in the water.

If the cloudy water persists, or if you are noticing unusual tastes or odors, please call 1-866-403-2683, and give us your address and a telephone number so we can have an inspector contact you.

We recently purchased a new dishwasher. In order to establish the correct settings, the dishwasher requires us to program the level of hardness/softness of the water. What is the water hardness in the grains per gallon (gpg)?

The range of EBMUD's water is 1 - 7 gpg.

What is the level of fluoride in the water?

The normal fluoride level in EBMUD drinking water is approximately 1 part per million (1 milligram per liter).

Is water treated with chloramine hazardous to some pets?

EBMUD uses chloramine in its drinking water to maintain a disinfection residual in the distribution system. Chloramine is safe for all pets except those with gills (fish, tadpoles, etc.). Water that contains chloramine (or chlorine) may be treated a number of ways, including commercial products found in pet supply stores. Just follow the instructions on the package. If you have any questions, consult the manufacturer's web page, because these products contain varying amounts and types of reactive agent.

Can I have the water in my home or office tested by EBMUD?

EBMUD routinely tests water in the mains throughout the service area. However, we do not typically provide laboratory testing on water inside residences or businesses.

If you have a specific individual concern such as lead contamination from your plumbing, you can obtain references for qualified laboratories by contacting the State of California Department of Public Health at (510) 620-3475.