Why does my water taste bad
Why does my water taste bad is a question we’ve heard many times from New Hampshire residents. There may be several reasons why your water tastes bad or off.
Water is the universal solvent
More substances dissolve in water than in any other chemical because the H2O molecule helps water dissociate ionic compounds into their positive and negative ions. This means that wherever water goes, it takes along chemicals, minerals and nutrients. As water dissolves some of the various elements in our bedrock and ground, it can end up taking on the taste, odor and color of these elements. My water tastes funny is something we hear often, and here are the main culprits:
Iron in the water
If your water tastes like an old, rusty pipe, this is likely caused by dissolved iron. New Hampshire has striations of iron in our granite bedrock. Our water in this region tends to have low pH and low mineral count. This combination makes the water hungry for dissolving some material to reach equilibrium. If iron is in the water’s path, it gets dissolved. When iron is dissolved in water, the water can still be clear—but will taste like rust. When the water is used in your home, it evaporates and leaves the iron behind, which oxidizes in the presence of air and leaves staining.
Sodium in the water
Sometimes your water may have a salty taste. Sodium chloride or calcium chloride de-ices our roads in the region. This material will dissolve with the spring rains and can travel down through the ground, eventually impacting water quality, especially if your well is below the grade of the road. When the chloride content is more than 250 mg/L, this can impart a salty taste to the water. And as the chloride number grows, it also can contribute to corrosion of the plumbing much the same way that salt corrodes your car.
Copper in the water
“My water tastes like a penny.” The rainwater in New England has low pH, which means it is slightly acidic. Carbonic acid, a very weak acid, is formed when the water combines with carbon dioxide in our air. Because our ground here has low calcium carbonate content, there is not much mineral to buffer this acidity. When water with low pH is pulled out of our wells and through copper plumbing, it will dissolve a small amount of copper from the pipes. This imparts a “penny” taste to the water and causes the water to leave a blue-green stain after it evaporates.
Organic material in the water
In rare and unfortunate cases where natural organic material from the surface of the ground seeps down cracks in the bedrock and gets into the well, this imparts a skunk cabbage or pig manure type of smell. These are often referred to as tannins, which arise specifically from the decomposition of leaf material and pine needles and impart tea color to the water as well. We also refer to this as organics, meaning broadly organic material in the well. This is usually an indication of surface water intrusion into the well, and that problem should be handled first before treatment.
Why does my water taste bad
When our experts are asked why does my water taste bad, we tell customers that some of these taste issues are best handled with a drinking water system, and some are more appropriately solved with water treatment for the whole house. Occasionally a problem signifies that the well should be evaluated. Our certified water specialists are trained to know the difference and to guide all our customers through the decision process.