What’s that taste in our tap water?

What exactly makes water taste so good – or in some cases, a little strange?

What’s that tang in our tap water?

Australian drinking water is ranked among the best in the world, giving us the privilege of clean, safe and tasty water, as well as bragging rights. Tap water generally has a unique tang, which is influenced by plumbing, treatment and the original source.

So, what exactly makes our water taste so good – or in some cases, a little strange?

The Water Industry Operators Association of Australia conducts a yearly competition to bestow an Australian council with a trophy for the Best Tasting Tap Water in Australia.

Water samples are blind-tested and rated against a ‘tasting wheel’, which contains attributes such as sweet, sour, salty and bitter. It also contains other elements, such as earthy, mouldy, woody, chemical, fishy and medicinal. The ‘mouthfeel’ is characterised as “drying, stringent, cooling, oily, chalky, tingling or metallic”.

Do you taste chlorine?
One taste you’ve probably come across with tap water is chlorine. This is one of the main complaints about tap water. While not desirable in water, chlorine is used as an effective disinfectant and a major defence against the spread of pathogens in our water supply.

If you live in an area with old or corroded pipes, you might notice a stronger chlorine taste because more of it is used to counter the risk of microbial contamination.

If you’re bothered by the chlorine flavour or smell, try slowly boiling your water for several minutes. This will remove most of the chlorine.

What smells like rotten eggs?
If you notice the smell of rotten eggs in tap water, that’s usually caused by hydrogen sulphide, or sulphur. The presence of sulphur can be a result of water supply geology or decaying organic matter. As such, it should always be investigated.

Hard and soft
Tap water is often described as being either ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ and these attributes relate to the water’s origins and mineral content.

Hard water often comes from limestone areas that are rich in calcium and magnesium carbonates, and can have salty taste. With hard water, you might find it difficult to wash your hands because it prevents a soapy lather from forming. It also presents problems, such as changing the flavour in tea and causing a mineral build-up inside water pipes and appliances, such as kettles.

Soft water is the opposite. It mostly comes from rainfall supplies, which often contains very small amounts of sodium chloride (also known as table salt). If you have a rainwater tank, you might notice a metallic tang, which comes from the roof, tank and plumbing.

Strange tastes and odours from rainwater tanks should be investigated properly, since they might be the first signs of a problem. The last thing you want is to find out that your strange-tasting water is the result of decaying vegetation from overhanging trees or dead animals.

The wrap-up
With our population increasing and the possibility of a drying climate upon us, we are likely to see more and more of Australia’s water supply being treated against the spread of disease by the local or regional water industry.

Desalination has become increasingly important over the last 20 years. Currently, it’s only used when natural water storages deplete due to lack of rainfall. In Perth, however, it’s a permanent feature.

Luckily, some areas have great access to a relatively natural supply of high-quality raw water from safe storages and catchments. Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and many parts of Tasmania are some of the luckiest cities. In other places, such as Perth and Alice Springs, treated groundwater is the primary source of tap water.

You can read more about tap water at theconversation.com.

Do you like the tap water where you live? What are the tastes or smells from your water?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    5th Nov 2018
    Tank water is actually healthy and a little vegetation therein harbours the bacteria which clean/filter the water. Not a problem.
    I've never had bad smelling tank water and I doubt anybody else has either. Not as though you're going to get a dead cow in the tank.
    5th Nov 2018
    No just bird poo left on the roof and in the gutters. If you live too close to the airport water often isn't too good either.
    6th Nov 2018
    Lived near cane fields once. Tank filled with ash from the burning off and with dead cane toads fleeing from the fires.
    5th Nov 2018
    I am on holidays in Penang Malaysia and the tap water here is much better than in Melbourne - very soft, beautiful taste and not over chlorinated. Australia is not the only place with drinkable tap water
    5th Nov 2018
    In actual fact Melbourne's water is better than Adelaide, especially if you have sensitive skin.
    5th Nov 2018
    Try living in Carrington Qld 4883, we have been on 'Boil Water' notice since 14th Jan 2018
    5th Nov 2018
    If you live in some reasonably hot areas in Aust. you have to boil all your water. It's not even safe to risk cleaning your dentures in unboiled water.
    Blinky Bill
    5th Nov 2018
    I expected to read about fluoridation of tap water as well as chlorination.
    6th Nov 2018
    Me too, they don't like to talk about fluoride which is toxic to the body, and no mention of chloramines either.

    5th Nov 2018
    The article states "the possibility of a drying climate upon us"

    That is pure warmist propaganda being pushed by out greenie friends and their sinister agenda!

    Australia's, NSW, Qld etc climate is NOT drying!

    Neither are droughts becoming more frequent or severe as the greenies LIE to us..

    See if you can find even a hint of "drying" in the Australian Bureau of Meteorolgy historical rainfall charts below.

    Here are the links:

    Australian rainfall since 1900 is on a RISING trend i.e. Australia is becoming WETTER!

    No significant rainfall trend in NSW:

    No significant rainfall trend in Qld:

    No significant rainfall trend in Sth East Australia:

    To see the charts just copy the links and paste them into an internet browser address bar.

    We are being lied to on numerous things to do with climate!
    Don’t fall for the fraud, check out the facts for yourself!
    5th Nov 2018
    Dear Luvco2, I am not qualified to assess whether climate change is real or otherwise. I am just a dumb engineer. However when it comes to climate change I am prepared to accept the scientific consensus rather climate change sceptics, like yourself, using no more than empirical evidence. If the climate scientists are wrong and the sceptics right we will have done no harm to the planet by reducing our use of practices and materials which are claimed to damage our environment. However if the climate scientists are right and the sceptics are wrong we run a very real risk of causing almost irreparable harm to our planet. To me it is a no-brainer.
    6th Nov 2018
    Here goes LUVCO2 spreading his propaganda, I would rather believe the scientists that study climates. It is not the greenies it is the scientists that are talking about our climate and the risks we face if we do not change our destructive ways. We are not being lied to. Why are you so fanatic about it, are you an investor in coal or gas?
    7th Nov 2018
    Music veg, which scientists do you trust - the ones who, with the aid of massive funding from gullible governments and have a monopoly over the media, or those who have rejected the theory of anthropogenic climate change by correctly using scientific method?

    Do you really trust those who invented the now infamous "hockey stick"? Those from the University of East Anglia whose leaked emails told a very different story from the one they were promoting?

    How about the claim that there is 97% consensus in the scientific community? One honest media report stated that this figure was obtained by a process which commenced with a then graduate student from Indiana mailing out 10257 questionnaires to scientists asking if they supported the theory of global warming. Of the 3146 which came back, 79 were hand picked where all but 2 said "yes."

    Around the same time a Global Warming Petition Project sent the following statement to scientists:

    "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane or other greenhouse gases is causing, or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the earth's atmosphere and disruption of the earth's climate. Moreover , there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the earth.

    The petition was signed by 31487 scientists.

    It should not be forgotten that many of the promoters of global warming which changed to climate change because there has been no significant global warming in the last couple of decades, previously were equally persuaded and vocal about global cooling.

    And you trust them?
    7th Nov 2018
    Well I don't know where you get your information from maxchugg, how do I know your information is rigged too. What other reasons are there to show why the weather is so unstable and changeable? We just went from humid hot conditions back to winter temperatures today in Victoria.
    Also I do watch a lot of documentaries and they are clearly pointing out how much has changed with the climate, what causes it, we are probably still finding this out, but one thing I know is that spewing out toxins in the air from coal powered stations is definitely not good for anyone's health. So I still want a cleaner future no matter what the truth is.
    bloke in the bush
    5th Nov 2018
    ... a simple method to get rid of the chlorine and other chemicals ( once they have done their job of killing off all the nasties ... ) is to fill an open topped glass jug with tap water and place in an open sunny spot for an hour or so ... free and easy ...
    5th Nov 2018
    I have noticed in our area there is sometimes a pink stain in the toilet bowl and the shower base.I have asked other people and they have noticed it too. Can anybody explain what or why this is.
    5th Nov 2018
    I get that in my water, sinks and washtub.

    Its supposed to be a bacteria called Serratia generally considered harmless, but reported by some experts to cause urinary tract infection.

    The water that comes out of the tap is supposed to have at least a 0.2 Chlorine residual in it.

    This by no means makes it sterile, but it kills a wide variety of harmful bacteria.

    I prefer to boil everything anyway.
    6th Nov 2018
    Thanks for the info Charlie
    6th Nov 2018
    I don't like taking any chances, and bought an Alkaline water filter system, makes the water taste amazing. I can be assured that all toxic chemicals including fluoride and chloramines are filtered out.
    7th Nov 2018
    No mention of sodium fluoride, a highly toxic byproduct of the aluminium and phosphate fertilizer industries, where disposal was a problem because it could not be safely dumped anywhere on earth, so it is now dumped into the water supply.

    Propaganda promoting the use of fluoride is obsolete, World Health Organization charts show that declining tooth decay has occurred even where there is no fluoride in the water supply.

    Logically it is impossible to justify the practice of forcing people to ingest a highly toxic product which has the possibility to cause enormous harm including bone deformities and cancers as it accumulates in body organs, particularly kidneys.

    Another problem is that dosage of this toxic chemical cannot be controlled. Not only is it ingested from the water supply, more comes from crops which are watered with fluoridated water, dairy products etc.

    Compelling those who do not want to consume fluoride is unconscionable conduct. For those who want more than they obtain from toothpaste, fluoride supplements could be made available, funded by the money saved by not purchasing the massively overpriced byproduct of the fertilizer industry.
    7th Nov 2018
    At least you agree with me on this one.

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