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Taste & Odour

The taste and odour of water can vary from tap to tap and can be impacted by naturally occurring minerals, treatment processes and internal plumbing.

effluent pumpout truck The taste and odour of water can vary around the home.

Some common taste and odour complaints a water utility will receive about water quality are:

  • Chlorine
  • Musty, Mouldy or Earthy
  • Rust or Metal
  • Fluoride


Shoalhaven Water adds chlorine to the water supply at our water filtration plants and satellite chlorinators strategically positioned throughout the reticulation system to remove harmful bacteria and to protect water quality. A small residual of chlorine is generally present in your drinking water once it reaches your tap and from time to time you may notice a slight chlorine taste or smell. We carefully control and monitor this process to ensure the residual poses no risk to health.

Chlorine odours are generally caused by the small amount of chlorine in the water reacting with household plumbing fixtures such as hoses, tap washers and tap strainers/aerators. If you are experiencing a problem start by checking the front yard tap, does the water coming out of this tap have a chlorine taste or odour? If not, eliminate other taps in the house until a definite area can be determined. 

Chlorine can easily be removed from drinking water by:

  • Exposing the water to sunlight for a number of hours (eg let the water stand in a covered clear container on a window sill or similar)
  • Adding freshly squeezed lemon juice (7 drops per litre) to the water
  • Chilling the water will reduce the chlorine taste

Musty, Mouldy or Earthy

Musty tastes and odours in the drinking water can be caused by organic growth (such as algal blooms) within water pipes. Mould and bacteria can breed in the internal plumbing particularly if left to sit. If you have been away from the house for a period of time it is a good idea to let water run for a while before using it for drinks. This is generally not harmful but if you are concerned you should take a sample to your local water tester for reassurance.

Water pipes in areas of the supply system with low flow rates can also create an environment for organic growth.

Rust and Metal

Drinking water with a rusty or metallic taste generally contains excessive iron, manganese and other metals. When these materials are present in high levels, customers can also notice a change in the colour of the water, this is known as discoloured water. The discoloured water may vary from the extreme (mud colour) to an almost unnoticeable (very light tea colour). Shoalhaven Water will flush or scour lines to remove the problem when this occurs.

Shoalhaven Water has thorough treatment processes to remove naturally occurring iron and manganese from the water supply. However, as the water moves through the system to a tap, it may pick up material from corroding pipes not lined with cement that may change the taste of the drinking water.

Customers may also notice a rusty or metallic taste if the internal pipes are corroded. When the house plumbing is corroded, water may appear clear at first, but then turn rusty or black in a few minutes.


The taste and smell of drinking water does not change as a result of water fluoridation because the type of fluoride used to fluoridate the water supply has no taste or smell.

For more information on fluoride visit the NSW Health website.