Rusty Water


The vast majority of people in the United States take clear, freely running water as a given. The lack of water as experienced in the rest of the world is simply not a problem here. Still, problems do occur from time to time. In particular, rusty or discolored water can sometimes be found in the most modern of homes.

Nothing is quite so unappetizing as seeing discolored or rusty water running out of a tap. It stops you from drinking, from washing clothes or dishes and from bathing. In some cases, it can even cause illness. In short, rusty water is a problem that needs immediate attention.

Three Possible Causes

  1. The most usual cause of dirty or rusty water is a buildup of sediment in the bottom of the hot water heater. When the tap is opened, the water swirls and dislodges some of the sediment which then flows through the pipes and out the tap. You can try to drain and flush the hot water heater however it is more likely that your water heater is starting to go so this would be the best time to replace it before there is a major leak. Look at the rusty water as a sign that your water heater needs to be replaced.
  2. Old or rusting piping can cue the same effect. Rust is not particularly dangerous even if unpalatable but damaged pipes that allow soil or other contaminants into the water supply are significantly more problematic. The only solution is to investigate, find and repair any damaged or rusty pipes. Unfortunately, it is an complicated and expensive process. We would recommend calling in your local plumber.
  3. The last cause is oxidizing bacteria. These creatures use iron as a nutrient and in the process turn it into iron oxide also known as rust. These problem is most prevalent with well water but sometimes the bacteria can infest a hot water heater. The solution is to treat the well of the heater with a chlorine solution similar to those used to treat swimming pools.

The Need for Speed

While most causes of rusty water are not life threatening, they significantly damage the quality of life of anyone who needs to use the water. Bad taste, poor cleaning ability and potential health problems are all possible. A professional plumber can easily and quickly identify the source of the problem. The homeowner can then make an informed decision about how to proceed with repairs. In all cases, it is best to deal with the situation as rapidly as possible.