What’s That Smell? Common Reasons Why Your Water May Stink

woman looking at water looking unhappy or disgusted

Whether you have city water or well water, if you turn on your tap only to find a strong, foul odor, you could have a problem. While you may initially think your water supply has been contaminated, there are several other reasons why you water could be smelly.

Although bacteria is often the cause of smelly water, this is not the only reason water may smell and taste bad. Chemical reactions, high traces of minerals, and decaying organic material can all cause changes in your water. Let’s look at some of the most common water smells, what causes them, and how to get rid of unwanted odors for good.

Odor: Rotten Eggs

If there’s a rotten egg smell coming from your faucet, the most common culprit is sulfur bacteria that have found its way into your water supply. The foul smell usually comes from a lack of oxygen in a well, which produces hydrogen sulfide gas. It can also occur as a result of sulfur-containing chemical reactions in the groundwater. If you only experience the smell when running hot water from the faucet or in the shower, it may be a chemical reaction occurring inside your water heater, not your water supply.

woman looking at water looking unhappy or disgusted

Odor: Dirty or Earthy

If you notice a burst of musty, earthy smelling water when using your hot tap, you may be dealing with iron bacteria in your water supply. Though this type of bacteria is not harmful, it can be a nuisance as it often imparts a bad taste. Iron bacteria are found in well water with high levels of iron. In addition to a pungent odor, you may also notice slime in your toilet’s tank or other plumbing fixtures in your home.

Iron bacteria forms when iron and oxygen mix. The bacteria feed on the iron and create a slime to protect itself. When the bacteria die, it gives off an earthy odor. Because of its warm temperature, your home’s water heater is often the perfect breeding ground for iron bacteria. Bacteria in a water heater may produce a longer-lasting smell when you turn on your faucet.

Odor: Fishy Drinking Water

If your water has a fishy smell, it could come from naturally occuring organic material that has found its way into your water source. This smell is often an indicator that you’re dealing with elevated levels of chloramines, barium, or cadmium.

Chloramines are a compound of chlorine and ammonia and are used to disinfect public water. While chloramines are necessary to remove harmful contaminants in your water, they create a strong odor. Barium and cadmium are naturally occurring metals found in deposits that can make their way into your water due to fertilizer contamination or deteriorating pipes and plumbing. Although the smell is off-putting, it rarely signifies the presence of harmful bacteria or contaminants.

Odor: Swimming Pool Smell

Complaints of bleach smelling water mostly comes from homeowners living in a large city because water treatment facilities manually add chlorine to disinfect drinking water. Homes located close to a water plant may have higher levels of chlorine in the water. While chlorine is necessary for municipal water treatment, it only dries out your skin and gives your water a weird smell and taste once it arrives to your home or business.

Contact Atlantic Blue Water Services

Although odorous water can be a nuisance, it’s typically not a health concern. To be sure of your water’s odor source, contact Atlantic Blue Water Services for a free water analysis. If you’re ready to eliminate that pesky smell from your water source once and for all, our specialists can help. Call us at 410-840-2583.