Common Water Problems and Solutions

The following information and chart listed below is intended to serve only as a general guide for determining common water problems and solutions. In some cases, these symptoms may indicate a serious problem, in others, only the taste and smell (its aesthetics) may be affected, but not its safety. Although the information provide below will help to to identify your problem about your drinking water, we believe it is safest for you to have your water tested by an accredited laboratory.

Acqua Pulita performs water quality assessments for any job. If you are experiencing any of the problems listed below please contact us for more information.

Symptoms / Problem
Possible Cause
Possible Effects
Means of Treatment

White scale on pipes and fixtures. Soap scum in sinks and bathtub or yellow or whitish scum on flower pots. Hot water heaters and other appliances failing in less than their expected useful life. Frequent failure of hot water elements.

Calcium (limestone) and magnesium salt (hard water).

Excessive hardness causes scale build-up in pipes and damages water using equipment. This reduces the expected life span of water heaters, geysers, dishwashers, washing machines and other fixtures and appliances. Water that contains mineral salts (as calcium and magnesium ions) that limit the formation of lather with soap.

Water Softener / Ion Exchange (Exchange calcium and magnesium for sodium and potassium).

Rotten egg smell, tarnish silverware or black greasy stains.

  • Dissolved hydrogen sulfide gas.
  • Iron.
  • Sulfide Reducing Gas.

Very poisonous, corrosive, flammable and explosive.

  • Manganese green-sand filter constant chlorination followed by filtration or de-chlorination.
  • Constant chlorination followed with a point of use activated carbon filter or whole house filtration.
  • Aeration.

Rotten egg smell in hot water only.

Hydrogen sulfide is generated by a chemical reaction with anti-corrosion magnesium rods. Also called a “anode rod in a water heater or geyser.

Unpleasant smell.

Remove and omit rod with alternate metal rod. CAUTION: REMOVING THE ANODE ROD MAY AVOID THE HEATER WARRANTY!!

Turbid, cloudy or dirty water.

Abrasive texture to water when washing or residual left in sink.

Water appears cloudy. Faucet screens clogs frequently. Excessively fine sand, silt in water. Muddiness created by stirring up sediment or having foreign particles suspended.

Suspended solids may hamper disinfection efforts. Sand can trap contaminants that can lead to health risks.

Point of use sediment filter or whole house filtration system.

Chlorine smell.

Excessive chlorination.

Could occur from formation of disinfection by products.

De-chlorinate with point of use activated carbon filter or whole house filtration system.

Arsenic (AS).

Impossible to detect without appropriate laboratory test.

Occurs naturally through rock decomposition or from industrial uses. Mostly found as As III or as V. Can be a serious health threat.

Depending on the form, As III or As V. Removal techniques include precipitation, ion exchange and Reverse Osmosis.


Impossible to detect without appropriate laboratory test.

Typically originates in deep wells that tap random contaminated ground water. Released into the air when water is turned on in showers, faucets, ect.

  • Aeration.
  • Carbon may be used at low level, not considered good for long term use.

Musty, earthy or wood smell.

Generally, harmless organic matter

Aesthetic only.

Activated Carbon Filter and Reverse Osmosis.

Detergent smell, water foams when drawn.

The slow escape of septic discharge into a water supply.

Disease causing micro-organisms may be present.

  • Locate and eliminate the source of seepage, then heavily chlorinate well.
  • Point of use activated carbon filter or whole house filtration system will absorb limited amounts.

Alkali Taste.

High dissolved mineral containing alkalinity.

Stains aluminum cookware.

Reduced by Reverse Osmosis.

Taste and Odor.

Fishy, musty, oily smell and taste.

Volatile organic compounds. Some VOC’s are dangerous to human health or cause harm to the environment.

Whole house filtration and Reverse Osmosis.

Salty or Brackish.

Salty taste, heavy corrosion and salty build-up. High sodium content.

Usually shows up in wells dug near marshy or coastal areas.

  • Reverse Osmosis.
  • De-ionize water with disposable mixed bed-anion/cation resins.

Red/Brown stains in sink, bath dishwasher, washing machine, laundry.

Iron. A naturally occurring mineral. Shows up in two forms: Dissolved ferrous and in solution or precipitated ferric particulate iron.

Various effects.

Ion Exchange, Oxidation and filtration.

Potassium permanganate chemical feed followed by filtration.

Reddish color in water sample after standing 24 hours.

Colloidal iron.

Various effects.

Constant chlorination followed by a point of use activated carbon media filter or whole house filtration system for de-chlorination.

Brownish/Black stains in dishwasher, washing machine and other plumbing fixtures.

Manganese. Also a naturally occurring mineral. Will react with chlorine bleach to intensify staining.

Various effects.

Ion Exchange, Oxidation and filtration.

Blackening and pitting of stainless steel.

  • Excessive salt content.
  • High temperature drying creates high chloride concentration accelerating corrosion.

Various effects.

  • Use chloride resistant metals.
  • Reduce total dissolved solids with Reverse Osmosis.

Green/Blue stains in dishwasher, washing machine and other plumbing fixtures.

Corrosion. Low pH caused by excessive carbonic acid. PH is a measurement of the acid or alkaline content of water.

Low pH can cause pinhole leaks in copper piping that requires replacing. Shortens the life for plumbing and geysers.

Aeration, Acid Neutralization, Corrosion inhabitator.

Yellowish cast to water after softening and/ or filtering.

Tannins (humic acids) in water from peaty soil and decaying vegetation.

Various effects.

  • Absorption via special macro-porous Type 1 anion exchange resin regenerated with salt (NaCI) up to 3ppm.
  • Manganese greensand or manganese treated sodium alumino-silicate under proper set of conditions.

Gray string-like fiber.

Organic matter in raw water.

Turbid water may contain disease causing micro-organisms.

Constant chlorination followed by a point of use activated carbon filter or whole house filtration system to de-chlorinate.

Cloudiness of water when drawn.

  • Some precipitant sludge created during water heating.
  • High degree of air in water from poorly function pump.
  • Excessive coagulant-feed being carried through filter.

Various effects.

  • Blow down domestic or commercial hot water heater tank periodically.
  • Water will usually clear quickly upon standing.
  • Reducing coagulant quantity being fed, service filters frequently.

Gasoline or oil smell.

Leak in fuel, oil tank or gasoline tank seeping into water supply.

Fuel components are toxic or carcinogenic.

Locate and eliminate the source of seepage. Contact specialist to assist with clean-up. DO NOT DRINK THE WATER.

Methane Gas.

Naturally occurring caused by decaying organics.

Methane gas are toxic and  it is extremely flammable and may form explosive mixtures with air.

Aeration and re-pump.

Phenol smell (Chemical Odor).

Industrial waste seeping into surfaces or ground water supplies.

Various – compounds may be carcinogenic.

Point of use activated carbon filter or whole house filtration system will absorb short-term.