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5 Causes of Brown Water & How to Get Rid of It

Scott Winfield
Last Updated on
by Scott Winfield

Each time you turn on the faucet, the expectation is that clean, clear water will come out. But it is not unheard off to be confronted by brown water.

For most people, the reaction is shocking. However, the fact is brown water and water contamination are common occurrences in the US.

If you have experienced this and wondered what caused it and if the water is safe for consumption, then this article is for you.

Read on to learn more about what causes brown water and how you can get rid of it.

5 Causes of Brown Water & How to Get Rid Of It
5 Causes of Brown Water & How to Get Rid Of It

Why Is My Water Brown All of a Sudden?

Water can be brown in color due to the presence of contaminants at the source or in transit. It may also be caused by the disturbance of some elements in the water. This water may or may not be safe, depending on the nature of the contaminants.

Here are five leading causes of brown water:

Damaged Water Pipe(s)

Damaged Water Pipe(s)
Damaged Water Pipe(s)

Old pipes and those made from low-quality materials easily corrode and could leach sediments like rust, iron, or manganese into your water, giving it a brown color.

Additionally, dirt and debris may easily get into your water at points of significant structural damage to the pipes causing the brown color.

Routine Repairs

Routine Repairs
Routine Repairs

Dirt or cleaning agents may get into the pipes during routine repairs, either at your home or at the source.

Regular flushes are normally done after routine repairs to remove contaminants from the water, but not all sediments are removed during these flushes, leading to brown water at your tap.

Sediment Accumulation (At Source or In Transit)

Sediment Accumulation (At Source or In Transit)
Sediment Accumulation (At Source or In Transit)

Accumulation of sediment, which then mixes with water, is usually the main cause of water discoloration. It also occurs at two major points, at the source, and on transit via pipes.

Your water may turn brown due to a huge amount of sediments like iron, manganese, or dirt, which are not adequately filtered out before distribution.

While most water supply agencies strive to filter out most contaminants, technical failure or the system being overwhelmed by flooding may contribute to inadequate filtration.

Similarly, sediment accumulation may also occur in pipes. Material deposits from pipe corrosion or even small amounts of silt or dirt build up over time to a point where they’re sufficient to cause water discoloration.

Water Flow Surge

Water Flow Surge
Water Flow Surge

Unusual pressure from a heavy flow of water may sometimes dislodge sediment deposits from pipes. Some sediments may be stuck on the pipes, and normal water flow cannot remove them.

A water flow surge may be due to increased demand for water which your supplier may address by increasing volume. It can also happen whenever fire hydrants close to your home are used by emergency services.

The high pressure from the surge dislodges and causes the sediments to dissolve in water at a higher rate than when the flow is normal.

Change in Water Source

Change in Water Source
Change in Water Source

Due to unprecedented high levels of demand, your water supplier may switch to or add other water sources to the supply.

Water from the different sources may be naturally discolored or may have minerals that dissolve with water treatment solutions lending it a brown color.

Further, change in water source involves changing valves, an operation which may dislodge deposited sediments that may mix with the water giving it a brown color.

How to Get Rid of Brown Water

Here are the steps as well as some of the best methods to get rid of brown water:

1.    Identify the Reason for Your Brown Water

Before you can begin to look for a solution to your brown water problem, it’s important to figure out what is causing the problem. If you don’t correctly identify the problem, then you may make more work for yourself and your brown water problem still won’t be solved.

2.    Choose a Solution Based on Your Findings

Here are some of the solutions based on the five causes of brown water we discussed above.

Damaged Water Pipe(s)

Your water pipes may be the cause of the brown water. Have a plumber inspect your pipes to see whether they are out of shape.

In some cases, the problem may be extensive, and the only solution is to overhaul your water piping system.

If you suspect that the problem is in your piping, hire a qualified plumber to check your plumbing. If there’s any problem in your home piping causing water to be brown, they’ll identify it and provide a solution.

Routine Repairs

Confirm with your immediate neighbors if they’re getting brown water, assuming your neighborhood relies on the same water supplier. If they are facing the same issue, the problem may be at the source or in the pipe system.

Once you’ve ruled out the water pipes and fixtures as not being the cause of brown water, you should request an inspection of your water by city or town inspectors since the problem may be with your water source.

City or town local authorities might be your water suppliers, and they can quickly check if the problem is at the source and offer a remedy.

City/ town inspectors can also check the sources of private water suppliers, and if any fault is found, they may close down the source or demand an overhaul of the water supply system on public safety grounds.

Sediment Accumulation (At Source or In Transit)

Before you do anything, open all your taps and let them run for at least twenty minutes. This should take care of brown water caused by water flow surges, corroded pipes, or sediment accumulated in stagnant water, and your water should clear out after a while.

If it doesn’t, it means your water source is the cause of the discoloration.

Water Flow Surge

It may turn out that the brown water is harmless, and your local authorities and water supplier can’t do anything to change it. In this case, the best option would be to install contaminant filters on your taps to remove sediments from the water.

Change in Water Source

Another thing to consider is that the problem may be at your water source. If you’re drawing water from a well or borehole, it would be best to get another source.

Your water supplier or local authority may also be adamant about any changes to ensure you get clear water. If you’ve exhausted all options, you might want to find an alternative water supply.

After applying any or all of these interventions, check whether your water:

  • Has any foul odor/smell
  • Has any lingering discoloration

No odor or lingering discoloration means your water is safe for use, but it is advisable to hire a professional to test your water for the presence of heavy metals and other health-threatening contaminants.

3.    After Implementing Solution, Check if Your Water Is Now Clean

Once you’ve determined the cause of your brown water problem and you’ve implemented the correct solution for that issue, it is critical that you check your water again. If the water runs clear, you’ve solved the problem.

If the water is still brown, it may be time to consider other causes and their solutions. If after doing all you can you still can’t fix the issue, you may need to contact someone within that area of expertise.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some other questions you may have regarding brown water and how to get rid of it.

How much does it cost to get rid of brown water?

The average cost of removing brown water in the U.S ranges between $996 and $3,108, according to data from HomeAdvisor. This cost may vary depending on the cause of the brown water, the severity of the problem, and the remedial work required.

However, you’ll need to schedule a consultation with a qualified service provider to get an accurate estimate.

How long does it take for brown water to go away?

The time it takes for brown water to go away depends on the severity of the problem causing the brown water.

Major repair works involving the water source and water piping network may take days or weeks, while minor repair works like appliance and pipe fixture replacement may take a few hours.

However, the brown water goes away within 30 minutes to a few hours after repairs are done, and water is flushed through the system.

Is brown water safe to drink?

Depending on the type of contaminants present in the water, brown water may or may not be safe. It may be safe to drink the water if it’s a small number of iron fragments making the water brown, but the metallic taste won’t be as pleasant.

This is because the human body relies a lot on iron and can safely absorb the necessary amounts of iron for its use. However, iron in water may pose a significant health risk in individuals with hemochromatosis genetic disorder.

Individuals that are predisposed to the disorder lack the ability to regulate optimum absorption of iron. They might therefore absorb high amounts of iron from the brown water, which is deposited in major body organs like the liver, kidney, and pancreas leading to organ failure.

Brown water is safe to drink if its contaminants are dirt and debris. These can easily be removed by filtration and boiling the water as an extra precaution.

If lead or asbestos is present, the water can pose a serious health risk when consumed.

Since there’s no way for you to easily determine what the contaminants are, it would be best if you didn’t drink the brown water.

Is it okay to bathe in brown water?

It depends. Brown water may have too many contaminants in it, causing it to have an awful smell that would put off many people from bathing in it.

In some cases, too much dirt and debris may be present in the brown water, making it undesirable.

In other instances, brown water may have fewer contaminants, a milder color, and less foul odor and might be okay for bathing.

Bathing in brown water doesn’t pose significant health risks, aside from the possibility of causing acne, eczema, or wrinkles.

You should also expect the brown water to be “hard” due to the high amount of dissolved minerals, and soap or shampoo foaming may be hard. Hard water may also increase hair dryness and cause hair color fading.

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Scott Winfield
Scott Winfield
My name is Scott Winfield and researching and writing about water filters and other strategies to purify water has become my full time passion in recent years. I'm glad that you found our site and you can look forward to authoritative and well researched content here to help you get the best in water.
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