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Drinking Water Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my tap water sometimes have a rusty brown color?

While it is not harmful, residents should not drink obviously discolored water. Brown or discolored water is often related to plumbing corrosion problems inside buildings and from rusting hot water heaters. If you have an ongoing problem with brown water, it may be due to rusty pipes. You should run your cold water for 2-3 minutes if it has not been used for a long period of time. This will flush the line.

If your water suddenly looks discolored, it might be because of a disturbance to nearby water mains, including breaks or repairs. This can also happen if there is construction near your building. Additionally, the use of fire hydrants for firefighting can temporarily cause brown water. Because the water mains are pressurized, a disturbance may stir up or resuspend sediments, which causes the water to be discolored. Discoloration is a temporary condition most often from iron and manganese particles that have settled to the bottom of the water pipes buried under the roadways. Any sudden change in the flow of water within the pipes or outside vibration, may loosen or resuspend the brownish/red/orange particles of iron into the water. This temporary problem is generally resolved or reduced when DEP flushes water from nearby hydrants.

If you notice brown or discolored water coming from your tap, call 311 or file a report online, so we can follow up.

Why does my tap water sometimes have a taste or odor?

You may, at times, find your water tastes or smells like chlorine. DEP is required to maintain a chlorine residual in the distribution system to prevent the growth of microorganisms. Chlorine is a very effective disinfectant, and is not considered hazardous or harmful in the amounts used to treat the water supply. New York City water meets all federal and state standards and is safe to drink. Chlorine odors may be more noticeable when the weather is warmer. The most effective way to eliminate or reduce the taste is by leaving a glass or pitcher of your tap water in the refrigerator overnight before drinking. You can also pour water from one container to another about 10 times to reduce the chlorine.

If you notice that your tap water smells or tastes differently, call 311 or file a report online, so we can follow up.

Why does my tap water sometimes look cloudy?

Air becomes trapped in the water as it makes its long trip from the upstate reservoirs to the City. As a result, bubbles of air can sometimes cause water to appear cloudy or milky. This condition is not a public health concern. The cloudiness is temporary and clears quickly after water flows out of the tap and the extra air is released.

If you notice that your tap water has an unusual cloudy or milky appearance, call 311 or file a report online, so we can follow up.

Is New York City’s water hard?

Hardness is a measure of dissolved calcium and magnesium in drinking water. Water with less calcium or magnesium is considered “soft” which makes it easier to create lather and suds. New York City’s Catskill/Delaware water supply is “soft”.  Citywide average hardness is about 1.8 grain/gallon (CaCO3). In areas of the City where Catskill/Delaware and Croton Water supplies are blended, the hardness can reach 7 grain/gallon (CaCO3), which is considered “moderately hard.” For more information, visit Water Hardness.

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