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By: Tyler Gatewood on September 8th, 2020

Why Does My Water Taste Funny?

The way your tap water tastes can be inconsistent, which can make drinking it a difficult endeavor. Aside from the unpleasant taste is the concern that the funny taste may come from a dangerous substance or pathogen. You have heard of everything from disease outbreaks in the news to the water crisis in Flint, MI, and it has you wondering if you will become the next statistic. 

As a Jackson, MS-based company, here at Exell, we know what it’s like to drink from the tap and wonder about the quality of the water. And we talk with people every day who ask us this same question. We are passionate about clean, safe water and want you to have the information you need to stop worrying.

There are many potential causes that can give your drinking water a funny taste, some of which are:

  •     Naturally occurring compounds, such as geosmin, that can give your water a dirty, earthy taste
  •     Chlorine used during the municipal water treatment process
  •     Copper in your pipes, which can cause a bitter taste
  •     Chloride ions and sulfates, which can cause a salty taste
  •     And trace metals from old pipes that can cause a metallic taste. 

We have already discussed the possible reasons of your water smelling funny, but below we will detail each of the causes of funny tasting water mentioned above, as well as what you can do about it.  

My Water Tastes Dirty

It can be alarming to take a big sip of water, fresh from the tap, only to notice that it tastes like dirt. There is a good chance you can attribute this earthy flavor to the naturally occurring compound called geosmin. Geosmin is produced by bacteria found in soil as well as algae that can be found looming in local water sources. This can be a seasonal problem, worsening during the warmer months when algae is in full bloom. 

The good news is that geosmin, while not pleasant, is not harmful and your water remains safe to drink. While geosmin is the likely explanation, that does not mean that it is the only explanation for a dirty taste in your water. 

A more localized problem is bacteria growth in your plumbing. One common bacteria is legionella, which causes outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease

My Water Tastes Chlorinated

Another common complaint is water that tastes like it came from a swimming pool. While it can be concerning to drink water that tastes like bleach, you can rest assured that it is safe and crucial to maintain the integrity of your water. Chlorine is used in the water treatment process to eliminate bacteria and algae. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires chlorine to be added to public water systems for sanitation. They suggest keeping levels below 4 mg/L, however chlorine can be tasted in levels as low as 1 mg/L. 

The good news is that if you do not enjoy the taste of chlorine in your water, letting it stand in an open container in the refrigerator will help to evaporate the chlorine, giving it a fresher flavor. 

My Water Tastes Bitter

Bitterness can indicate the presence of copper in your water. Copper is a naturally occurring metal that is used to make many parts for plumbing systems, so it can enter your water stream as your water passes through the plumbing system. Keep in mind, some copper is necessary to stay healthy, but too much can be harmful.

People can begin to taste copper once it reaches a level of 1.3 mg/L, however it is not a health concern until it reaches levels above 60 mg/L. 

If you are concerned, it is always best to err on the side of caution and have your water tested. This can be done by calling your local health department. Another option is calling your local water service provider, such as Exell, and asking about having a water quality survey done. 

My Water Tastes Salty

If you have noticed that your water has a salty aftertaste, there is a good chance you have a high concentration of chloride ions in your water supply. This problem is often caused by irrigation drainage, which is why people who live in coastal areas may notice this problem as seawater enters their water supply.  

Another possible cause for your water having a salty flavor is sulfates in your water supply. Sulfates naturally occur in soil and rocks, so as groundwater moves through the earth, it picks up sulfates along the way. 

If the presence of sulfates reaches higher than 500 mg/L, it can begin to have some unpleasant side effects

My Water Tastes Metallic

If you’ve ever noticed a metal taste in your water, chances are you are actually drinking metal. The most common culprits are trace metals such as iron, manganese, zinc, and copper, all of which are commonly found in older plumbing systems.  

Fortunately, all of the metals listed above are relatively harmless, but it is important to determine the cause of the metal taste. For example, while most trace metals are not a cause for concern, if your water is contaminated with lead it can be toxic for you and your family.

What Should You Do About Bad-Tasting Water?

The first step if you do not like the taste of your tap water should be to have a site survey done.  This will ensure that the taste is not caused by anything harmful. 

This should be offered by any water service companies, like Exell, free of charge. During this process, your water will be tested with a TDS meter that gives you the total dissolved solids in your water supply. 

Once we have determined that your water is safe for consumption, we will work with you on how to provide you with a more refreshing product. We offer many purification options, like reverse osmosis (RO) systems and microfiltration systems to water cooler dispensers

If you need an expert opinion on how to get the best tasting water, a member of our team at Exell will be happy to discuss the wide range of options we have available.