Our customers at AZ Water Systems LLC sometimes complain that their water comes out of the tap cloudy. They wonder not only why this happens but whether or not the water is safe to drink.

Much of the time, cloudy water is simply caused by air bubbles. In this case, the cloudiness will clear up after a few minutes. But other causes can be high amounts of minerals, bacteria or other contaminants. If cloudy water comes out of all fixtures, it may be a sign that the water from your water company is pressurized. Water that’s under high pressure holds more air than water that’s under low pressure. If it only comes out of one fixture, there’s probably an issue with that fixture.

Hot water is also sometimes cloudy at first. Water expands as it’s heated and is better able to capture molecules of other gases. After the water comes out of your fixture, these molecules usually rise up out of the water into the air and leave the hot water clear.

Air in Cloudy Tap Water

Besides being under high pressure, another reason so many air bubbles can accumulate in water is its temperature. When water is cold it can hold on to more air than hot water. So in the winter, the cold water from a reservoir or a water tank looks cloudy when it comes out of your spigot, but as it warms up in your house it releases the air bubbles and grows clear again. All you have to do is wait a short while before the water clears, but there’s no problem if you drink the water while it’s still cloudy. Cloudiness caused by air bubbles is completely harmless if the bubbles are made from ambient air. If you have an ozone water treatment system, however, the water can be dangerous to drink until the ozone has bubbled out, which typically takes less than a minute.

Minerals in Cloudy Tap Water

When it comes to minerals that make your tap water cloudy, the chief culprits are calcium and magnesium. These minerals are actually good for your health. Calcium helps the body build strong bones and teeth and magnesium supports the health of the heart, but they can make the water look rather milky. Not only that, the two of them are the source of limescale, a crust that leaches out of the water to stick to the inside of plumbing pipes and water-dependent appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines and garbage disposal units. Limescale can grow to the point where it lowers water pressure to a trickle and destroys your appliances.

Minerals get into tap water as the water travels underground and picks them up from the soil and from rocks. They can even come from old plumbing pipes. Other solids that can make tap water cloudy can come from the particles that are present in stormwater or wastewater. Though they can’t be seen with the naked eye, if they are present in large numbers, these particles can cloud your water. Particles, along with calcium and magnesium, can clog your pipes and make it difficult for soap to lather up and clean properly and interfere with the workings of water-dependent appliances.

Bacteria in Cloudy Tap Water

Some bacteria found in water are harmless. but others are quite pathogenic. Many of these bacteria are connected to metals and are grouped as iron bacteria, sulfate-reducing bacteria and sulfur bacteria. Though they don’t cause illness and are naturally found in soil, they can make the water truly unpalatable. They not only cloud up the water but give it a rusty color and a terrible smell. They can also clog pipes and wells with slime.

Problems With Your Water Heater

Cloudy tap water can also be the result of sediment in the water heater. These sediments may not just be minerals but dirt and rust that have come loose and are being knocked around the water heater tank by the action of the hot water. These particles can be pulled into the water from your hot water tap and make it cloudy or even discolor it. They can also get stuck in pipes and damage them.

Fixing Cloudy Tap Water

The good news is that there are many things that you can do to clear up the water that comes out of your tap. If you know that the cause is air bubbles, you can simply wait for them to clear. Other causes need more active responses. They include:

  • Reverse osmosis
  • Active charcoal filter
  • Shocking your well
  • Ultraviolet filter
  • Water softeners

Reverse osmosis is a type of water treatment where the contaminants are blocked from entering your fresh water line while water is allowed to pass through. An RO system has three types of filters, and at least one has pores that are as small as .0001 microns. This is smaller than a lot of viruses, which are much smaller than bacteria. It also removes dissolved salts and metals such as iron, arsenic and copper. It can remove the calcium and magnesium that contribute to limescale. RO systems are customizable, and a homeowner who wants some calcium and magnesium to come through to their fixtures can allow this to happen through a reverse osmosis system.

Active charcoal filters utilize charcoal to remove contaminants from the water that can make it cloudy. The bits of carbon are minuscule, no more than 50 microns wide. They capture contaminants that can cause cloudiness in the water, including pesticides. However, these types of filters don’t remove pathogens, minerals or salts. Like reverse osmosis filters, they are customizable and can be used to remove pollutants that are at high levels in a homeowner’s water.

When it comes to bacteria that feed off of rust and other metals that make water not only cloudy but discolored and bad tasting, shocking a private well with chlorine has proven effective. Shocking a well is simple. You determine the right amount of chlorinated bleach to use in your well. Experts recommend 50 to 100 parts per million. Add it to the well, and wait for six to 12 hours. After this, flush your plumbing, and have the water tested again in two to three days.

An ultraviolet filter uses UV radiation to kill pathogens such as bacteria that can cause cloudy water. UV filters can also be used in tandem with activated charcoal filters, and this setup removes close to 100 percent of pathogens that not only becloud your tap water but can make you ill.

If hard water is causing cloudy tap water, a water softener can remove calcium and magnesium, and replace them with sodium ions.

Call Us for Help

To find out what kinds of contaminants are in your water that is probably making it cloudy, ask your water company for a water quality report. If you have a private well or live in an older home whose pipes may be leaching contaminants such as rust into your water, send a sample of your tap water to a laboratory recommended by Arizona’s Department of Health. If you find that you’re in need of a water softener to make sure that your water is always crystal clear, don’t hesitate to contact our plumbers at AZ Water Systems LLC. We serve Gilbert, AZ, and the surrounding area.

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