Yellow water coming from your faucet can be a worrying sight. You probably jump straight to the worst – your water must be contaminated, and you’re pretty sure there’s only one outcome here: getting sick.
Luckily, while yellow-tinted water is pretty alarming, it’s not a guaranteed sign of danger. There are many reasons why your water may have taken on a yellow color, and many can be easily resolved.
Let’s look at some of the most common causes of yellow water, and how to fix the problem.
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Why is the Water Coming Out of My Tap Yellow?
To determine why your water supply has turned yellow, I would recommend taking a couple of actions.
First off, test your water – especially if yellow tap water is a new issue in your home. A test may help you determine the source of the problem, if your yellow water is being caused by contaminants like tannins, iron or other inorganics in the water (more on this below).
You should also ask yourself a few questions:
- Do you get your water supply from a public system or a private well?
- Is your water consistently yellow, or does it run clear again after a few minutes?
Once you know for sure the cause of your yellow water, you’ll have a clearer idea of whether it’s safe to drink. In the meantime, while you’re still investigating, you may want to drink bottled water rather than the drinking water from your tap.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of yellow water discoloration.
Causes of Yellow Tap Water
Perhaps the simplest to solve the cause of yellow water is corroded faucets. Over time, the insides of your faucets can wear away. When you switch them on, the flow of water could dislodge the corroded material and carry it out of the faucet, giving your water a yellow tint.
It’s easy to determine whether a corroded faucet is turning your water yellow. Just open another faucet in your home and check the water from that one. For clearer results, fill two glasses – one with water from the problem faucet and one with water from another faucet. Compare both glasses side-by-side to see if there is a color difference.
Rusty Household Plumbing
The problem might go further back than your faucets. If your home’s plumbing is particularly old, or if it’s made from outdated materials like lead or galvanized steel, you’re more likely to notice that your water is yellow.
Drinking rust in your water usually isn’t dangerous to your health, but it can be unpleasant. Arrange for a professional plumber to check your plumbing and determine whether it needs replacing.
While updating your entire plumbing system could be expensive, it might also be essential if it’s rusting from the inside out.
Rust in Water Heater
Your water heater is another aspect of your home’s plumbing that could accumulate rust. A rusty water heater could release a small amount of rust into your hot water supply, causing it to take on a yellow, orange or brown color.
Again, there’s a simple way to determine whether your water is yellow because of a rusty heater.
Turn on your hot water and cold water faucets side-by-side. If your hot water is discolored, you know its quality is most likely related to what’s going on in your heater.
Contaminants in Incoming Water Supply
There are certain contaminants that might occur in a water supply, causing it to take on a yellow color. These include iron, copper, zinc or lead. If you own a private well, you’re more likely to come across iron and manganese. Manganese tends to be more of a dark grey/black shade when it stains, but in your water, it might appear more of a darker yellow-ish when combined with iron.
If you own a private well, you’re more likely to come across iron and manganese. Manganese tends to be more of a dark brown shade when it stains, but in your water, it might appear more yellow-ish.
Iron can turn water a shade of yellow, orange or brown, and it might also leave stains or give water a rusty smell. When combined with bacteria, iron can take on a sludge-like consistency that might affect water flow. Zinc can also be found in wells, and can affect the color of your tap water.
City water contains much lower levels of iron and manganese, but depending on the water quality in your local area, you may spot discoloration if these contaminants occur in higher-than-average quantities.
Lead is another contaminant to be aware of, especially if you know (or suspect) that the water systems supplying your home contain lead. However, lead can be colorless – it usually depends on the contaminants it comes into contact with.
If you get your water from a nearby facility, it’s highly likely that the water main line will need to be repaired or replaced at some point. When maintenance is being carried out on a pipe upstream of your home, rust and other impurities may be able to get into your drinking water.
This shouldn’t be enough to pose a serious health risk, and you would be informed by your local authority in advance if you needed to switch to bottled water for a period of time while maintenance was being carried out.
Another pipe maintenance task is to “flush” the pipes in your public water system.
To flush the pipes, suppliers will temporarily increase water pressure, which may be powerful enough to dislodge rust and send it towards your home. This may cause temporary discoloration of your water, but again, unless you’re told otherwise, your water should still be safe for drinking.
Though burst pipes aren’t a common problem, corrosion, certain weather conditions or damage can cause this issue.
When a pipe bursts, sediments and impurities from outside the pipe may be able to get into your water supply. You may also notice a drop in your water pressure, as some of the water may be leaking out of the pipe into the surrounding area.
Your local authority will usually quickly become aware of a burst pipe issue and work to resolve the problem within a matter of hours. If you have a leak or burst in the pipes supplying your own property, you’ll need to call for a plumber, as these will be your own responsibility to fix.
Fire Hydrant Use
Perhaps the least likely cause of yellow water – but one that’s still worth considering – is fire hydrant use.
If there’s an emergency in your area, fire services may need to access water from a nearby fire hydrant. This may temporarily divert water away from your home, and can cause water pressure changes that dislodge sediments in the pipes running underground.
Another common cause of yellow water for private well owners is tannins. Tannin contamination is typically caused by a natural fermentation process – groundwater seeps through layers of decaying soil and vegetation. By the time this water reaches your well’s aquifer, it will likely have taken on a distinct shade of yellow.
Tannins are one of the most common reasons for yellow water, and good news: they’re not dangerous.
Still, you might want to improve your water quality by filtering this organic matter out.
Related: Seeing brown water in your water softener brine tank? This could be why
How Do You Fix Yellow Tap Water?
You should understand now why it’s so important to know what’s turning your water yellow – or you’d probably waste a lot of money trying to fix non-issues! Fixing yellow drinking water depends on the problem you’ve detected.
If you have an issue with your home’s plumbing or pipes, contact a professional plumber and ask for an inspection of your water lines. You may then need to call a company to replace the pipes in your water system, or replace a couple of pipes, depending on the level of concern.
Water filters may also be an option for you, if your pipes aren’t too deteriorated.
If you have a problem with sediment, iron, manganese or other impurities in your water – especially if you have a well water supply – consider installing a water filter.
Filtration can remove these impurities from your water supply, and the water flowing out of your taps should look and taste normal with filter use. A whole-home water filter is best, here, as it’ll provide you with better drinking water and protect your home’s pipes and appliances.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Safe to Drink Discolored Tap Water?
It depends on the level of contamination. It’s best to treat your water with filtration to stay on the safe side. If your home is supplied with city water, using a pitcher filter is an affordable, effective means of filtering the stuff that comes out of your taps.
Contact the company that supplies your area with water if you want to know exactly what your water contains, or look online for the information. You can then decide on which filters will be best for removing the problem impurities.
Is It Safe to Bathe in Yellow Water?
Washing and bathing in yellow water shouldn’t pose a major health risk, but if your discoloration is being caused by sediment, rust, tannins and stain causing bacteria, these may damage your appliances, showerheads and faucets. If you can, it’s best to wait until you have normal-colored water before you bathe again. Obviously, this doesn’t mean going months without showering – get the problem solved as quickly as possible!