Taste and smell issues with South West Water

Sometimes your water may smell, look or taste different than usual. We’ve attempted to break down the underlying issues below with help from South West Water.

The water tastes musty

Musty and earthy tastes in water are caused by organic matters such as algae in untreated water. They may produce these kind of compounds in South West Water supply, despite the tap water quality being at a record high.

This slight residual taste or smell mostly occurs late summer and early autumn when levels in the sources of the uplands of Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin Moor and natural springs are at their biggest. Do not worry, as the treatment process still reduces the level of anything harmful from the water.

The water tastes oily

In the case your water tastes oily you should contact South West Water on their services helpline as soon as possible.

Oily tastes are caused by any spilt oils that have sept through polyethylene supply pipes, from petrol to paint thinner. This causes the supply to be contaminated and you will notice the taste or smell quickly.

The water tastes of antiseptic or chlorine

As the South West Water supply is mainly sourced from rivers and reservoirs fed from the moors and natural underground reserves of water and natural springs, some chlorine is added at treatment works to disinfect it. This problem is not harmful.

You may notice a slight difference in smell or taste despite the high quality of the South West Water supply. If it causes concern or the problem is consistent you may wish to store drinking water in a refrigerator in plastic bottles or a jug and replace it every 24 hours. By chilling the water you will reduce the strange taste as it dissipates and evaporates.

If you believe the taste is particularly strong and smells metallic, bitter or like antiseptic and does not reduce when used in hot drinks, then there is usually another problem. South West Water has found the most likely cause of the unpleasantness is components in internal plumbing systems, usually made of rubber. Appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers may also have rubber flexible supply hoses that affect the taste.

They recommend you fit a ‘non return’ or ‘check’ valve between the supply hose and cold water supply, preventing water being tainted by any connecting rubber hose which may be new or breaking. They have these to order on the South West Water website that are suitable for most domestic appliances.