Why Does My Water Sometimes Taste or Smell Different?

Some people are more sensitive to taste and odors than others and this may affect how they perceive their water quality. But what may be the cause of that taste or smell of the water in your home?

  • Often household odors (e.g., drains, compost buckets) may be mistaken for odors in drinking water. Fill up a glass of water and move it to another room to determine if tap water is the source of the odor.
  • Water sitting unused in plumbing for a long period of time may develop a taste or odor from the pipe material itself. Flush suspect taps until the water runs cold to bring in fresh water from the water main serving your home. Remove and clean faucet aerators periodically and replace water filters according to the manufacture’s guidelines.

What If It Smells Earthy?

This could be caused by the presence of Geosmin and Methylisoborneol (MIB) in our source water, the Molalla River. These two algal byproducts can cause your water to taste and smell earthy. These taste and odor compounds are purely aesthetic and have no effect on the safety of your water. This can become more noticeable in summer months when temperatures are higher and river levels are low. Our water treatment plant, that was originally constructed in 1971, does not have the ability to remove these algal byproducts without a substantial upgrade to the plant. Customers can purchase a point-of-use device (e.g., filtration system containing granulated activated carbon(GAC)) to remove the odor causing compounds. See the front side for filter rebate information.

What If It Smells Like Disinfectant?

Of all the odors, chlorine is often the most noticeable. Chlorine is added to drinking water in small amounts to destroy harmful microorganisms that can cause illnesses. Occasional fluctuations in flavor or smell do not necessarily indicate an increase or decrease in the disinfectant. It is more likely caused by a change in water temperature, especially when it is warmer or by chlorine dissipating as it moves throughout the distribution system.

Filtering drinking water or leaving a pitcher of water out on the counter to allow the chlorine to naturally dissipate will help.