Common Problems Experienced by Customers

Common Problems Experienced by Customers

Water quality problems are most often associated with how the water smells, tastes or looks.

Discoloured water

Bottle of orange brown waterCommon causes

A sudden increase in the rate or direction of water flow through pipes can stir up sediment. This may become suspended in the water, making it look discoloured.  Corrosion may occur in older homes with cast iron pipes, causing the water to look orange or brown. Discoloured water can occur at any time but is more common in spring and summer when water use increases.  
Discolouration of your water is harmless and the water is safe to use.

What to do

Run a garden tap, close to your meter, onto your garden for 2 minutes to see if the discolouration clears. If the problem clears, it is most likely corrosion or a leak in the pipework on your property – a plumber should be able to help you locate and rectify the problem.
If the problem does not occur in your cold water taps, the likely cause is your hot water service.
If the problem is in the water supply, it will occur in every tap on the property, including garden taps. If the problem doesn’t clear, make sure you contact the customer care centre so that we can investigate and take appropriate action.

Discoloured water and your laundry

If discoloured water occurs, don’t use a washing machine until the problem is resolved

Milky/White water

Bottle of milky white waterCommon causes

Air trapped inside pressurised water pipes can lead to tiny air bubbles in the supply, which gives the water a white or milky appearance.

Air can enter the water supply during maintenance of the network or can be introduced into your household pipes in various ways (for example mixer taps or hot water services).

Aerated water is harmless and the water is safe to drink.

What to do

If you notice your water is white or milky, fill a clean, clear glass with cold water and let it stand for a few minutes. If the problem is due to air, the water will start to clear from the bottom of the glass, as the bubbles rise to the surface.

If your water is permanently cloudy, make sure you contact the customer care centre on 1300 650 950.

Hard water

Common causes

Some areas throughout South Australia have ‘hard water’, particularly if their water comes from groundwater supplies. Hardness is a measure of how much calcium carbonate is in your water. Calcium carbonate is a natural mineral that dissolves into water as it moves through soil or rock in the catchment.

The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) have a scale (see below) of water hardness and it’s impacts on water quality. You can also visit In your area: What’s in your water to look at hardness levels in your suburb.

LevelDescription
< 60mg/LSoft water, but possibly corrosive
60-200 mg/LGood quality
200-500 mg/LIncreasing scaling problems
> 500 mg/LSevere scaling

Signs of hard water

Hard water may deposit spots on shower screens, drinking glasses or plants because the minerals remain after the water has evaporated. When hard water is heated, the minerals that cause hardness may come out of the water and be deposited as scale. This can affect kettles, hot water services, pipes and fittings and scale may build up over time.

Soap does not lather well in the presence of hard water. The higher the mineral content the more soap is required to form a lather.

Hard water is harmless and the water remains safe to drink.

What to do

There are several ways to reduce the effects of hard water in your home. Some of these include:

  • Keeping  your hot water system to below 60 degrees Celsius
  • Using a water softener to reduce scaling in hot water services and associated pipework (it is not recommended you drink softened water. Softeners can significantly increase the level of salt in your water)
  • Avoid spots on glassware/shower screens etc. by using liquid soaps and ensure you dry wet surfaces immediately after water use
  • Using bicarbonate soda or vinegar based cleaning products to clean domestic appliances (making sure to rinse thoroughly after use)
  • If you are installing a new dishwasher, visit In your area: What’s in your water to determine if your area has hard water. If it does, consider a dishwasher suited to hard water and use the recommended dishwashing products.

Water quality problems are most often associated with how water smells, tastes or looks. If you have one of the problems listed below, the first step in solving the issue is finding the source. You can find steps on how to do this here.

Taste or smell

The following taste and odour problems are harmless and your water is safe to drink

Chlorine taste and smell

Chlorine is used as a disinfectant in many of our systems to ensure your water is safe to drink. The amount of chlorine added is regulated and compliant with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG). Visit In your area: What’s in your water to look at chlorine levels in your suburb.

What to do

To remove the chlorine taste, fill a clean container and allow it to stand and/or refrigerate the water. Adding fresh lemon juice will also improve the taste

Earthy or musty taste and smell

Organic matter in the source water or algal activity in our reservoirs/River Murray may occasionally develop to levels that make the water smell earthy or musty. We do our best to remove these odours at our treatment plants, however seasonally; some areas may still notice a faint taste or odour in their drinking water.  

Above ground plastic pipes on your property may also degrade and develop a biofilm, leading to earthy or must taste or odours – your plumber will be able to inspect your pipes for you.

What to do

If you are detecting persistent earthy or musty taste or odours, make sure you contact the customer care centre so that we can investigate.

Metallic taste

Corroding pipework on your property may result in leaching of copper and/or Iron into your water supply, resulting in a metallic taste.

What to do

To fix this taste problem, a plumber will be able to inspect for any corrosion present. If you detect a metallic taste, run your tap for 30 seconds to flush any stagnant water from the pipework. Any resultant blue/green staining can be cleaned using a citric acid or cloudy ammonia cleaning product.

Plastic taste

Chlorine reacting with natural organic matter when water is boiled, or in new houses with plastic pipes may cause a plastic taste.

What to do

To reduce any plastic taste, use fresh water each time you boil the kettle. If you are in a new house with plastic pipes, run the tap for 30 seconds to flush the water from the pipework.

Septic Smell

Low levels of dissolved oxygen in water may result in a septic/rotten egg smell. This should not occur in your drinking water with the most common cause of this problem being the drain pipe. This is due to organic matter such as food waste accumulating on the walls of the drain. Bacteria may then grow on this matter and release an unpleasant odour.  

What to do

A drain cleaning product may reduce the septic smell pleasant in the drain. Your plumber will be also able to inspect your drains for you.

If you are detecting persistent septic odours in your drinking water, make sure you contact the customer care centre on 1300 650 950 so that we can investigate.

Cross connections

Water quality problems can be introduced from other water sources on a property which are accidently or illegally connected to the properties internal plumbing. Examples of these sources are a private bore, rainwater or recycled water reticulation on your property.

This may change the taste, smell or appearance of your water and can potentially result in the water being contaminated and unsuitable for use.

What to do

If you find or suspect a cross connection on your property, make sure you contact the customer care centre so that we can investigate the problem.

However, if you are concerned, please contact us.


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  • Major faults

  • Underway

  • Multiple streets
  • Goolwa
  • 19/10/2017
  • Water Quality
  • SA Water customers in Goolwa and surrounding areas, including Goolwa Beach, Goolwa South, Goolwa North and Hindmarsh Island may currently be experiencing discoloured or milky water coming out of their taps.

    This water remains safe to drink.

    During recent planned maintenance in the area, some existing sediment in the local water supply network has been stirred up, resulting in the discoloured water.

    We are working hard to resolve the issue, and we are flushing out the discoloured water. Given the size of the water network in the area, this may take some time. At this stage, we are hoping water supply will return to normal by Friday afternoon.

    We will continue to monitor the situation, and provide updates on our website and Facebook page.

    For further information or any questions, please contact us on 1300 SA WATER.

  • See all major faults

  • Scheduled works

  • Underway
  • Thomas St
  • Croydon
  • 23/10/2017
  • Supply Interruption
  • Estimated start time (water off): 23/10/2017 09:00 AM
    Estimated restore time (water back on): 23/10/2017 03:00 PM

    We’re committed to improving your services and are undertaking maintenance work in Croydon. Water supply in the surrounding area may be impacted during the above times. Traffic restrictions may also apply.


  • See all scheduled works