Why is My Tap Water Yellow (Causes & Treatment) What to Do Guide

 Last updated  - November 19th, 2021

If your tap water recently turned yellow, it’s normal to be concerned. In some cases, the yellow water will last for only a couple of days. On the other hand, yellow tap water might last much longer and can even be harmful to your health. Let’s see what might be the reason your tap water has turned yellow, and how to treat the situation.

yellow tap water coming out

Possible Causes of Yellow Tap Water

There are 4 common reasons why your tap water has turned yellow:

1. New Water Source

One of the most common causes of change in water quality is a new water source. Experts even state that a change of water source caused a crisis and debacle in Washington in the early 2000s. Changing the source can significantly impact water’s qualities, affecting its look and taste and even making it harmful. Unfortunately, in this scenario, you can’t do much about the new water source. The only solution is to buy bottled water until things go back to normal.

2. Organic Material

Over time, dirt, sediments, and other organic material can build up at the bottom of water supply lines. Normally, this build-up isn’t a big deal and won’t impact the quality of water. However, you may see a change if something causes the water to speed up. For example, high service demand or even firefighting can cause water flow to become faster, which would cause the water to stir up sediments and become yellow. However, especially after you return to your normal flow of water, the issue should pass shortly.

3. Pipe Material

Another thing that can cause yellow water is the material of your pipes. Cast iron and lead pipes tend to corrode over time, which causes rust to reach the water. While lead makes the water darker and even includes small particles, iron will cause water to take on a brown or orange tint. Even rubber materials such as O-rings can eventually break down into easy-to-spot black particles within your water. If you’re using an older pipe system, it may be worth exploring if your pipe material is the cause of the yellow water.

4. Upstream Pollution

If it’s been raining heavily recently, your water might become yellow for a couple of days. Basically, rainwater may wash pesticides and other chemicals into the water supply, which would cause it to change color. Your water should return to normal after the rain stops, but you can also contact your water supply company if you’re worried about contamination.

What Should You Do?

So now that you know something is wrong, what do you do to resolve the issue?

Determine the Cause

To start, you’ll need to figure out the specific reason why you’re seeing the issue. If you are not completely sure what is the cause of your tap water becoming yellow, there are a few things you can do. First, avoid using tap water until you determine the cause, and also avoid cooking and washing with tap water. It might not be harmful, but it’s better not to take the risk.

You should also turn on the sink for a couple of minutes to see if the color gets back to normal after running for a while. If the water eventually clears out, the problem is most probably with your house’s plumbing. In that case, you will need to call the plumber to identify the exact cause.

Another thing you should do is to check with your neighbors to see if they also have yellow tap water. If they do, you’ll know that the problem is beyond your house. Otherwise, make sure to call the plumber. You can also call your water provider to ask about the problem. If the water discoloration is not only in your home, it might be caused by sediments in the main water line. You should ask the provider if they have recently changed the water source, or if others have reported the same issue.

Finally, if you recently moved to a new home, you might live near marshlands without knowing. In that case, the discoloration might be completely harmless. When the water moves through soils, it gets filtered and retains a yellowish color. While it looks a bit unpleasant, this water is usually safe for drinking.

Finally, make sure to distinguish yellow water from green water. If your water is actually greenish, it means that the copper in your home has corroded. In that case, you should call the plumber immediately and use bottled water until the problem is fixed.

Filter Your Water

If you learn that the problem extends beyond just your home and can’t be resolved, you can try filtering the water. After you call the water provider and ensure that the water is safe, you can buy a filtration system in most home improvement stores. If you are not sure which system to buy, you should ask a professional plumber. They will find you a system that is easy to install and can solve discoloration problems.

If you want to get rid of sediment, you should install a water filter. Most of these are able to remove sediment, debris, as well as some bacteria in water. You should also know that water filters with charcoal are able to remove bad tastes and even smell, which can be a nice long-term investment.

Another option might be buying a water purifier to sterilize your water. These systems use UV light and special chemicals to remove any unhealthy elements that can be found in water. However, water purifiers might leave a bad taste, so if your main concern is related to taste and odor, you should buy a different filtration system.

Replace Rusty Plumbing

If it happens that the problem is specific to your house due to plumbing or pipe issues, you should replace the pipes as soon as possible. However, if you are not a professional plumber, it can be quite dangerous. You can get injured and even damage your home. Doing it yourself might seem like a nice way to save money, but if you don’t do it properly, it can cost you even more.

Once you identify that you have rusty plumbing or other pipe issues, it’s a good idea to call a few plumbers and get a rounded opinion on the issue. You will get more perspectives about the issue, and you will also see which plumber offers the best ratio of price and experience. You should also check your home warranty to see if it covers problems related to plumbing. If you can’t find a copy of the warranty, contact your insurance and they should give you another copy.

Ultimately, depending on the cause of the yellow water, there are a few approaches you can take to either resolve the issue or purify the water.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Water Softeners Turn the Color of the Water to Yellow?

If your water softener is new, its resin might turn the water yellow. However, this effect should only last a short time and is not harmful.

Can I Drink Discolored Water?

Whether or not discolored water is safe to drink will depend on the cause of the color change. If your water changed color due to iron or manganese, it is still safe to drink. However, if it changed color due to materials such as copper, or other contamination, it might not be safe. It’s ideal not to drink discolored water until you know the cause and can confirm it won’t be harmful to consume.

Final Verdict

Usually, determining the cause of your discolored water is not difficult. Depending on that cause, you’ll have different solutions to pursue, some of which are thankfully easy and affordable. However, until you’ve confirmed the cause in your specific case, make sure not to drink or otherwise consume any discolored water. If you do find yourself in this situation, we hope this article helps you understand how to diagnose and resolve yellow tap water.