Easy ways to deal with water issues

Easy ways to deal with water issues

While the water we deliver to your property is clean and safe to drink, there are times when other factors might impact on how the water smells, tastes or looks.

These are some ways to easily address them.

If your water appears discoloured

Why your water might look discoloured

Discolouration of your water is harmless and the water is safe to use, but if discoloured water occurs, don’t use a washing machine until the problem is resolved.

A sudden increase in the rate or direction of water flow through pipes can stir up sediment, which 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.

What to do

  • Run a garden tap, close to your meter, onto your garden for two minutes to see if the discolouration clears. If the water 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 this issue doesn’t 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 your water doesn’t clear, make sure you contact our Customer Care Centre on 1300 SA WATER (1300 729 283) so that we can investigate and take appropriate action.

If your water appears milky or white

Why your water might appear milky or white

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 times when there’s maintenance work on the network happening, or it can be introduced into your household pipes in various ways such as 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 our Customer Care Centre on 1300 SA WATER (1300 729 283).

If your water is hard

Why your water might be hard

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.

Some areas in South Australia have ‘hard water’, particularly if their water comes from a groundwater supply.

Hard water is safe to drink.

You can check if your water is hard by using our  handy search tool to find information about the tap water in your suburb.

The minerals in hard water may leave spots on shower screens, dishes or plants because the minerals remain after the water has evaporated. When hard water is heated, the minerals are deposited as scale. This can affect kettles, showerheads, hot water services, pipes and fittings. Scale may build up over time.

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

What to do – in your home

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

  • Keeping your hot water system to below 60 degrees Celsius.
  • Using a water softener to reduce scaling in your hot water service and associated pipework (it is not recommended you drink softened water as softeners can significantly increase the level of salt in your water).
  • Using liquid soaps to avoid spots on glassware and shower screens, and ensuring you dry wet surfaces immediately after water use.
  • Using  vinegar-based cleaning products to clean domestic appliances (making sure to rinse thoroughly).
  • Dissolving detergents or using liquid detergents to wash clothes.
  • Following the manufacturer’s guidelines for hard water use in appliances.
  • Installing a dishwasher suited to hard water and using the recommended dishwashing products.

The higher salt content in hard water can also accumulate on plumbing and bathroom fixtures. While this may give the appearance of corrosion, it is actually a build-up of salt and scale. Proprietary descaling solutions are effective in removing small deposits and there are a number of products on the market. The scale-forming properties of hard water tend to form a film on the surface of metals providing corrosion protection.

What to do – large scale irrigation systems

The main cause of scale is heat, so lowering the temperature of your irrigation pipes and tanks will reduce the build-up and impact of scale. Water softening is not practical for large scale reticulation or irrigation systems.

To reduce scale in irrigation systems:

  • Ensure polyethylene pipes are buried as deep as possible, greater than 200mm is recommended.
  • For long lengths, use a larger diameter pipe to increase flow rates and keep water temperature down.
  • Paint external surfaces of polyethylene tanks with a white or light coloured water-based paint to minimise heat absorption.
  • Raise the internal outlet point of the tank above the base and remove scale on the bottom of the tank before it reaches the top of the outlet.

To remove scale in irrigation systems:

  • Acid descaling can be effective for small quantities of scale and small diameter plastic pipes.
  • Heavy scale requires a larger volume of acid and all relevant safety precautions must be taken. Care must also be taken to use special inhibited acids on metallic pipes to avoid corrosion.
  • It may be possible to use foam ‘pigs’ to clean the inside of larger diameter pipes (50mm or greater). Safe use depends on a number of factors including the pressure rating of the pipe.

Where possible, seek professional advice or assistance for these types of activities.

To prevent scale in irrigation systems:

  • Scale inhibitors (for example, polyphosphates) can be effective at preventing build-up of scale in new or cleaned systems. This treatment does not soften the water.
  • Water conditioners are available to suit different water qualities. Seek advice on the best water treatment options from the product supplier.

If your water has issues with taste or smell

Sometimes the taste or smell of your water is impacted by other issues, which don’t impact on the safety of your water supply. But this is how you might address them.

Chlorine taste and smell

We disinfect water supplies to protect public health, and chlorine is used as a disinfectant in many of our systems to ensure your water is clean and safe to drink. We understand that people have different perceptions about the taste of tap water in South Australia, and some people notice that water disinfected by chlorine can have a distinct smell and taste. The amount of chlorine added is regulated and compliant with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines 2011 (ADWG). You can check the chlorine levels in your suburb by visiting our handy search tool.

What to do

  • To remove the chlorine taste, fill a clean container and let it stand, uncovered 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 or the River Murray may occasionally develop to levels that make the water smell slightly earthy or musty. We do our best to remove these odours at our treatment plants, however seasonally;  people in some areas may still notice a faint taste or smell in their drinking water.

Above ground plastic pipes on your property may also degrade and develop a biofilm, a layer of organic and inorganic materials that can collect, over time, on the insides of pipes. Biofilm is generally not harmful but can lead to earthy or musty taste or smells, 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 our Customer Care Centre on 1300 SA WATER (1300 729 283) so we can investigate.

Metallic taste

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

What to do

  • To fix this taste issue, 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 resulting 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

An unpleasant septic/rotten egg smell should not occur in your drinking water.

If there is a smell, the most likely cause of the problem may be your drainpipe. This is commonly due to organic matter such as food waste accumulating on the walls of the drain. Bacteria may then grow on this matter and release the smell.

What to do

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

If you are detecting persistent septic smells in your drinking water, make sure you contact us on 1300 SA WATER (1300 729 283) so we can investigate.

If your water is cross contaminated with other sources

Water quality problems can be introduced from other water sources on a property which are accidentally or illegally connected to your property’s internal plumbing.

Common examples are a private bore, rainwater or recycled water reticulation.

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 us straight away on 1300 SAWATER (1300 729 283) so we can investigate the problem.

If you need any further information on easy ways to manage water issues, we’re here to help. Please contact our Customer Care Centre on 1300 SA WATER (1300 729 283).

  • Major faults

  • Underway

  • Polkinghorns Rd
  • Arthurton
  • 18/06/2020
  • Water Supply On
  • 18/06/2020 03:05 PM - We are attending to an incident in Arthurton with no interruption to the water supply. The safety of our crews and customers comes first, and we always aim to minimise inconvenience by restoring services as quickly as we can. Reference Number WO: 07505663.
  • See all major faults

  • Scheduled works

  • Underway
  • George St
  • Green Fields
  • 29/10/2020
  • Temporary Supply Interruption
  • Estimated start time and water supply off: 01/11/2020 09:00 AM
    Estimated restore time and water supply back on: 01/11/2020 06:00 PM

    We’re improving your services and undertaking maintenance work in Green Fields. Sometimes our crews need to temporarily interrupt the water supply to our customers and/or manage traffic while they are working. Temporary traffic management may remain in place until reinstatement of the impacted road is complete. We always aim to minimise inconvenience by restoring services as safely and quickly as we can.


  • See all scheduled works