Skip to main content
Water tap banner

Changes to the taste or odour of your water

In Canberra, we are fortunate to have high quality drinking water and tastes and odours aren’t often noticeable, however variations to water quality can occur within the supply from Icon Water from time to time. 

Sometimes, changes to taste and odours of your drinking water can also be due to inherent issues or plumbing around your home.

|

Chemical, medicinal or plastic taste or smell

Why this might be occurring
A chemical, medicinal or plastic taste or smell within drinking water is likely to be caused by the rubber and plastic materials used in domestic plumbing arrangements, appliances and fittings. This can occur with newly installed plumbing materials imparting residual tastes, or as a result of deteriorating materials.

Fittings that use rubber and plastic can include gaskets/seals, washers and flexible hoses fitted to flick-mixers in kitchen sinks, kettles and domestic appliances.

How you can investigate
Test the taps around your home and at the front garden tap to determine where the change is coming from. We recommend that you sequentially and systematically document which taps are affected, whether it occurs when you are using hot or cold water, and whether other occupants or neighbours experience the same aesthetics.

If you identify internal taps are the source of the change, we suggest that you investigate or change the washers and fittings on your taps or contact a licenced plumber for advice. 

If you identify the garden tap is the source of the change, or you have concerns about the water supplied to your meter, we encourage you to contact us on 02 6248 3111.

Metallic, bitter or stale taste or smell

Why this might be occurring

A metallic, bitter or stale taste or smell is most probably caused by increased concentrations of metals commonly found in domestic plumbing or appliances.

This may be more noticeable when water has been left standing in iron or copper pipework for hours, or if the plumbing in your home is experiencing corrosion.

How you can investigate

  • Test the taps and appliances around your home and at the front garden tap to determine where the taste or smell is coming from, and check with other occupants or neighbours to understand if they experience the same aesthetics.
  • Take note of the time of day and when the tap was last used
  • Take note of the type of tap being used – is the tap a flick mixer, a hot tap, a cold tap or a front garden tap? For instance, flick mixers can be can be receiving water from the hot water service even when running ‘cold’
  • At full flow, run water for at least three minutes to replace the water in your household pipes

Observe the taste/odour of the water after flushing

If you identify internal taps or appliances are the source of the taste or smell, we suggest that you investigate for signs of corrosion or engage a licenced plumber for advice. 

If you identify the garden tap is the source of the change, or you have concerns about the water supplied to your meter, we encourage you to contact us on 02 6248 3111.

Petrol or diesel taste or smell

Why this might be occurring

If a petroleum-based hydrocarbon product (for example paint, solvents/thinners, petrol, diesel, oil, kerosene) has leaked or been sprayed on the ground, this can contaminate drinking water.

These products among many other chemicals and household wastes should never be disposed of within your drains or on your garden, and can cause drinking water contamination and environmental damage. Find more information within our waste disposal guide.

How you can investigate

Check taps around your home for the smell of petrol or diesel, including the front garden tap closest to your water meter (which is closest to the Icon Water assets supplying your property). Look for any signs of contamination to the area.

If you identify the aesthetic impact of petrol or diesel only within the water from internal taps, we suggest seeking the advice of a licenced plumber immediately.

If you identify the aesthetic impact of petrol or diesel within the water from your front garden tap please contact us immediately on 02 6248 3111

Chlorine taste or smell

Why this might be occurring

All drinking water processed at our water treatment plants is disinfected using chlorine. Chlorine is added at a level sufficient to control microbiological contaminants and to provide lasting protection throughout Canberra’s network.

Icon Water ensure the water is safe to drink by conducting operational testing and continuous online monitoring at our water treatment plants according to our regulatory requirements. In addition, Icon Water undertake an extensive water quality monitoring program throughout the drinking water network to ensure the water supply is within specification. This is conducted by a NATA-accredited, independent laboratory.

How you can minimise the taste or smell

Some customers may be sensitive to the taste or smell of chlorine and may detect changes in chlorine levels in their tap water. For example, chlorine may be more noticeable when water is heated (such as when you run a shower or bath), over different seasons or at different times of day. Changes to chlorine levels are normal and the water is still safe to drink.

The chlorine concentration is generally low (less than 1 part per million) and can be further reduced by:

  • Placing a jug of water in the fridge for a few hours, or;
  • Adding freshly squeezed lemon juice to the water. Lemon juice contains ascorbic acid which can neutralise chlorine.


Further information

Information about how we manage chlorine in Canberra’s water supply can be found here. If you have further questions we encourage you to contact us on 02 6248 3111.

Earthy or musty taste or smell

Why this might be occurring within our network

Occasionally the water within Icon Water’s network has an earthy, musty smell or taste. This is likely due to natural compounds in the source water like Geosmin and 2-Methylisoborneol (MIB), which are more likely to be present in catchments over warmer months. Some people can taste and smell these compounds at very low concentrations (as low as 10 parts-per-trillion) but the concentration in Canberra’s water is usually below this range.

Sometimes not all of the Geosmin or MIB can be removed within the treatment process but the water is still safe to drink. The presence of these compounds is purely an aesthetic issue and meets the health parameters set by the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

Icon Water monitor for these taste and odour compounds and work to optimise the treatment process to minimise their levels and any aesthetic impacts to customers. If you have further questions we encourage you to contact us on 02 6248 3111.

Why this might be occurring inside your home

Similar odours can be detected in water that has been left to stagnate within people’s homes (for instance within pipework or air conditioning systems).

If you are only detecting musty odours within your internal plumbing, we suggest flushing your systems or contacting a licenced plumber for advice.

Are Chloramines used in our treatment process?

Chloramines are formed when ammonia is added to chlorine and are commonly used as a disinfectant in some water treatment facilities.

At Icon Water, Chloramines are NOT used at any point of the treatment or distribution. All drinking water processed at our water treatment plant is disinfected using Chlorine to provide long lasting protection throughout Canberra’s network.

Very small levels of chloramines may unintentionally form because of dosing free chlorine but represent a very small portion (<5%) of the disinfection residual in our supply. This data can be found in our Annual Water Quality report with the analyte “Chlorine combined” incorporating Chloramines.