Why Does My Water Taste Like This?

You come in from a run or working in the yard and need some water. Turn on the tap, fill a glass and take a nice long drink expecting a refreshing taste.

But what if that doesn’t happen?

Your water might taste off. Maybe it’s the taste of bleach or metal or even just dirt. There isn’t anything you can see in your glass but it certainly isn’t what you expected when turning on your tap.

bad tasting water

The bottom line for you and millions of others drinking water from the tap is that water does indeed have a taste. And in different parts of the country tap water may have its own distinctive taste. Here’s why: As much as 85% of the country gets its water from a municipal water authority with sources such as groundwater, rivers, lakes and even a combination of all of them.[1]

Then, the water must travel through a network of pipes until it reaches your house. What occurs as it travels on its way to you? The water picks up minerals and other compounds that contribute to its overall taste.[2]

The remaining 15% of the country gets its water from private wells, which are sourced entirely from groundwater. This portion of the population must test their water themselves for contaminants which can be costly.[3]

What’s Up with Your Water?

Does the taste of your water correlate with dangerous contaminants in the water supply? Sometimes, but not always. There is research showing that some diseases have been caused by pathogens in the water supply. The Centers for Disease Control [CDC] tested water over a two-year period from 2009 and 2010 and found that 1,040 people became ill from disease they developed from their drinking water. Of those people, 85 were hospitalized and nine died.[4]

The issue researchers are finding is that the link between how your water tastes and what’s actually in it isn’t clear-cut. They say that, for the most part, when you taste something odd in your water it is usually something harmless.[5]

Yet, here’s the concern: The elements to be worried about don’t always have a distinctive taste. For instance, lead has no characteristic taste and, as a matter of fact, can taste slightly sweet.[6]

It’s Really a Scent?

Theresa Slifko is a manager in the water quality lab at Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and says that the “taste” in your water is really more about a smell. In fact, the MWD employs 25 water supply taste and sniff testers to ferret out what could be lurking in tap water and to make sure it tastes the way it should.[7]

Water Flavor Contributors

Susan D. Richardson, a professor of chemistry at the University of South Carolina, says the taste of water depends entirely on where it comes from. For instance, well water will tend to have a slightly chalky taste because it passes through layers of limestone before getting to your well. If you live near a beach, your water could have a sulfur aroma, and egg-like taste due to sulphur-producing microbes in the water.[8]


What causes an earthy smell or taste to the water? This could be the result of some algal blooms in the source water or even from some bacteria in your sink. A bleach-like chlorine taste is courtesy of your municipal water treatment plant. They typically use chlorine to kill bacteria.[9] 

How about a medicinal taste or smell? Corrosion of copper pipes is the culprit, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.[10]

Animals falling into an open water source could be the cause of a gasoline smell in the water and having zinc, iron or manganese in the water will give off a metallic taste. Does your water taste salty? This is one taste that could be of concern as it may indicate that either human or animal waste may have invaded the water supply. It could also be an increase in chlorides.[11] It’s wise to get this tested as soon as possible even though there could be other reasons for salt water getting into the supply of drinking water.

A fast solution to clean drinking water could be utilizing a point-of-use reverse osmosis filtration system. It will clean your water after exposure, removing microbes, bacteria, copper, lead, and chlorides. This ensures the health and safety of your employees and visitors.

[1] https://www.livescience.com/54521-tap-water-tastes.html

[2] http://www.cooksscience.com/articles/story/why-does-water-from-different-places-taste-different/

[3] https://www.livescience.com/54521-tap-water-tastes.html

[4] https://www.livescience.com/39442-drinking-water-disease-outbreaks-us.html

[5] https://www.livescience.com/54521-tap-water-tastes.html

[6] https://www.livescience.com/54521-tap-water-tastes.html

[7] https://www.livescience.com/54521-tap-water-tastes.html

[8] http://www.cooksscience.com/articles/story/why-does-water-from-different-places-taste-different/

[9] https://www.livescience.com/54521-tap-water-tastes.html

[10] https://www.scdhec.gov/library/CR-006453.pdf

[11] https://www.livescience.com/54521-tap-water-tastes.html