For emergencies, please call 203-562-4020
For emergencies, please call203-562-4020

Discolored Water

It’s possible that from time to time your water may appear discolored or cloudy. Discolored water is not unique to the RWA’s water system. Water distribution systems across the U.S. also experience this issue. Water main breaks, firefighting activities, vehicles hitting fire hydrants and changes in the operations of a distribution system can increase the speed or change the direction of water traveling through water mains, resulting in discolored water.

What causes discolored water?
Naturally occurring minerals (primarily iron and manganese) in the water are the usual causes of discolored water. These minerals are heavier than water and settle to the bottom of water mains. When the flow of water through the water pipes increases or changes direction, the minerals are stirred up and discolor the water that flows out of your faucets when you turn them on. The RWA works to keep water discoloration to a minimum by cleaning water mains on a regular basis.

Is discolored water harmful to drink?
Some people may be more vulnerable to substances in drinking water than the general population. Those people who are Immuno-compromised, such as people with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, those who have undergone organ transplants, have HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders, some elderly and infants can be particularly at risk from infections. These people should seek advice from their health care providers about drinking discolored water. It is a personal choice whether or not to use the discolored water. If you choose to drink it, fill a container, put it in your refrigerator to chill and let the color settle to the bottom. When ready to drink, use the clear water from the top of the container.

What should I do if my water is discolored?
If the water is lightly discolored (the color of a brown paper bag or lighter), try running a cold water faucet located at the highest point in the house (for example, a second floor bathtub) for five to 10 minutes to clear out internal plumbing. Flush your toilets two or three times. If the initial cold water flush does not clear up the problem, wait about an hour and repeat flushing. This amount of water use should not affect your water bill. If you live in a condominium complex or apartment building and experience discolored water, you may want to contact your superintendent and suggest they contact the RWA about flushing within the complex. You can also remove the aerator on the faucet (located directly under the faucet where the water comes out) with your fingers or pliers by twisting it to the left. Clean the small screen in the aerator and flush the faucet out with cold water.

Avoid running hot water if the cold water is discolored. This will minimize filling the hot water tank with the discolored water. If the cold water remains discolored, please contact the RWA at 203-562-4020 or email so a crew can be dispatched to find the cause of the discolored water. Even if you are in an apartment or don’t pay your water bill directly, it’s important to notify us of any potential problem.

Can I still do laundry when the water is discolored?
Discolored water can sometimes stain fabrics, especially light colors. Wait until water runs clear at the tap before using a washing machine, and then wash a load of darker clothes first. If you were washing clothes when you first discovered the discolored water, it is better to stop the cycle while it is full and wait until clean water is available to finish. If you allow the water to empty from the washing machine and go into the spin cycle, it is more likely to cause permanent staining to the laundry items. Do not use chlorine bleach if you rewash stained laundry; bleach will set the stains. Instead, use a product made to remove rust stains.

Does discolored water indicate there’s a problem with my household plumbing system?
Discolored water can come from plumbing systems that aren’t used often. Rust or iron can build up in the plumbing system, causing brown or yellow colored water, stained fixtures and laundry, and a metallic taste. If you regularly experience discolored water, especially after periods when water hasn’t been used in your home, have your plumber check for and replace old galvanized pipe. If no galvanized pipe is found, have your plumber thoroughly flush your water heater and household plumbing system.