Water Colour, Taste and Odour

Note:  if you have serious immediate concerns about your water quality, please do call the Operations Department. However, the information on this page is intended to address complaints and inquiries that we hear on a more frequent basis.  Water colour, taste or odour complaints are not typically a trigger for either municipal alerts or  Alberta Health Services declaring any kind of advisory. 

Why is my water sometimes discoloured?

While annoying, discoloured water can be part and parcel of seasonal variations in your treated drinking water source.  There can be seasonal variations in the causes related to temperature and aeration.  These causes are not always treatable nor are they a cause for alarm.  In past years, naturally occurring manganese has been a principal cause.  water coloured by manganeseWhile not ideal, discolourization does not mean the water is in any way unfit for consumption (there is a federal aesthetic objective of 0.02mg/l for manganese while the drinking water health guideline is 0.12mg/l). The priority for treatment is water safety for consumption, not its aesthetic appearance. If you have concerns about what the colour might mean, please contact Utilities about arranging a sample for a chlorine residual test at no charge.  

Where does the taste of earth or dirt I notice come from?

Surface water bodies (lakes, rivers, and reservoirs) contain natural bacteria and algae that produce geosmin and 2-methylisoborneol (2-MIB). Geosmin is a natural bicyclic terpene with an earthy odor.  If water levels are low and aeration is poor (late summer /early fall, drought), the concentrations are higher in the source water so the taste and odour of “earth” becomes much more evident.  Most of the Town's water comes from Mosquito Creek and is stored in a reservoir, so we are going to encounter geosmin here in Nanton.  

Should I be worried about bacteria and algae in my treated water?Beets

Geosmin and 2-MIB are not dangerous. All they impact are taste and odour.  They cannot be removed in standard treatment processes. 

Why does the taste of chlorine sometimes seem strong?

Chlorine is the principal treatment of water-borne bacteria and contaminants that have historically caused serious illnesses like cholera and E. Coli.  The more bacteria that lives in the raw water, the greater the level of chlorine demand treatment required to make the water safe.

What can we do about it?

The Town dredged the reservoir in 2019 with some reasonable improvements.  Hot summers are going to generate higher quantities of geosmin  in both the creek and reservoir.  However, the municipality has further plans to improve aeration and introduce activated carbon filtration in 2023 (a $1.3 million investment), which is hoped will have significant impact on overall water quality, including taste and odour.   Chlorination requirements could potentially be reduced in treatment too.

Why do some municipalities have better tasting water?

These communities tend to either draw their raw water from groundwater sources or already have treatment process in place like improved aeration and activated carbon filtration.  The Town does not have access to significant groundwater resources that could replace Mosquito Creek.

What can I do at home?

There are a variety of measures that can be implemented, the most cost effective being:

  • a jug water filter that can sit in the fridge
  • allowing water to stand for a time to allow chlorine to naturally dissipate
  • running the tap  for a few minutes to let high discolourization pass.