In the UK we are expectant that we turn on our taps in our home for clean, clear and drinkable water. Brown tap water is an alarming sight if it suddenly comes out of your pipes!

Why is the water brown? Well, in the UK we have advanced water quality conditions that is in place to keep tap water clear, so brown tap water is not something we would normally expect to see and it does mean that there are contaminants in the water.

brown tap water vs clear tap water

What Causes Brown Tap Water?

Usually, disturbed minerals, sediment or rust will mix with the clear water to cause tap water to appear brown.

Brown tap water can be a result of something that has happened to the water mains, or it can be an issue to do with your property’s internal plumbing or connection to the water mains.

If something disturbs the water mains, for example, new pipework being laid, this can disturb and stir up settled silt. These deposits can then make their way into the water supply that ends up in our homes and coming out of your taps.

Typically, causes of brown, orange or deep yellow mains supply water will be:

  • A burst main or pump
  • Valves opening or closing
  • Changing the setting of valves bringing water into your local network to bring in water from elsewhere to meet customer demand
  • Water being used by fire services or another third party
  • Laying a new supply pipe
  • Switching water back on following a mains repair or routine flushing of the network.

Has any of the above happened near you lately? It is always worth checking for local pipework relaying or repair notices.

If there is no such mains disturbance it may be worth looking a bit closer to home. There can be situations where brown tap water is the result of issues on your own property, such as:

  • the condition of the service pipe which supplies your property with water from the mains.
  • your property’s internal plumbing – properties with old lead piping that can crack and crumble, presenting lead into the water
  • the use of stop-cocks to switch your supply off and on when making repairs or putting in new plumbing

Can I Drink Brown Tap Water?

It is best not to assume that brown or other discoloured tap water is safe to drink.

While brown tap water is usually not poisonous or severely harmful, it can have an unpleasant taste, smell bad and aesthetically not look very appealing.

Also, its discolouration could indicate other problems which are potentially hazardous. If the issue is a rusty pipe, then this can be a sign that lead is present in your water which can cause several health problems.

Symptoms of Lead Poisoning

If the brown water is the result of damaged pipework in your home, then this can lead to leaks, damp and then mould and mildew which is something to avoid as they pose health hazards and can damage property.

What Can I Do About Brown Tap Water?

First, if you have a water meter, make a note of the reading, because you may be entitled to a refund from your supplier if you then decide to flush out your pipes.

to try to identify the source of the problem run your taps to see whether the brown water is coming from your hot or cold supply:

    1. If the brown water is coming from your hot water, there may be an issue with your boiler. It may need flushing, repairing or even replacing. Contact your boiler service engineer.


    1. If it is your cold water that is running brown, try flushing out your pipes by running your kitchen tap for 20 minutes. If it does not clear at first, then wait 20 minutes then repeat the process. Try this a few times.


  1. Check with your neighbours to see if they are having the same problem.

If, after 24 hours, your water has not started to run clear from your taps, then the problem is likely be beyond your domestic pipework, and you should therefore contact your local water supplier.

Their website will include emergency numbers and contact details, or check your latest water bill for this information. If you report the problem, you can also request to be told the root cause of it.

While brown tap water has a root cause and can be fixed, regular, treated tap water will still contain unwanted chemicals such as chlorine which is used to treat the water until it gets to your property.

Solutions include an under sink water filter system which is a low-cost solution to actively filter out unwanted impurities in the water before it reaches your taps. With 24/7 protection and the ability to actively protect your household from a range of water quality issues, a water filter can give you peace of mind about your water supply in the home.

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