Appearance Issues

toddler drinking from fountain

Why does my water look milky or cloudy?

Occasionally, a Tucson Water customer will turn on their tap and their water will emerge with a “milky” or “cloudy” appearance. This condition is commonly the result of millions of tiny air bubbles present in the water. They’re harmless and not a health concern, and they will not damage your plumbing or appliances.

Water in the Tucson Water distribution system is under pressure, causing any air present to be trapped in the water until the pressure is released at the tap:

  • If the amount of trapped air is low, your water may appear to sparkle or have small bubbles.
  • If there is a greater amount of trapped air in your water, millions of very tiny bubbles will appear when the pressure is released, giving the water a cloudy or white, milky appearance.

How do I know if my milky water is due to trapped air?

These air bubbles will rise to the surface of the water. The easiest way to test if your “milky” water is the result of trapped air:

  • Fill a clear glass with tap water and set it on the counter.
  • If the milky appearance is due to air bubbles, the water will begin to clear, within minutes, from the bottom of the glass up to the top of the glass.

What causes dissolved or trapped air? Some common causes:

  • Faucet Aerators – Kitchen faucets are commonly supplied with aerators. They add air to the water, which reduces the water flow but maintains a strong stream. If the water from an aerated sink shows signs of a milky appearance, but water from an outside hose bib does not, then the aerator is creating the condition. Sometimes, removing and cleaning the aerator with white vinegar to clear away sediment can eliminate this problem.
  • Water Heaters – As water is heated, trapped air can be released more readily from the water, causing your hot water to have more of a milky appearance than your cold water.
  • Well Pumping – All of Tucson Water’s drinking water supply is pumped from the aquifer, even the Clearwater blend. Trapped air is present in approximately 90% of Tucson Water wells.
  • Main break or use of fire hydrant - These rarer issues can cause large amounts of air to enter the drinking water system. This can cause your faucet to release air and water in spurts. This condition should clear quickly by leaving the faucet open for a minute or two to remove the trapped air from your plumbing (remember to make use of the water, rather than just allowing it to pour down the drain!).

If this “spurting” water condition doesn’t clear from the bottom of the glass within several minutes, contact Tucson Water at 791-3242.

Why is my water discolored or dirty?

Discolored water or dirty looking water can be related to:

  • Older, galvanized pipes and plumbing in the Customer Zone.
  • Recent activity in your neighborhood, such as construction, repairing breaks, or flushing fire hydrants.
  • Black particles in toilet water can indicate that a toilet flapper needs to be replaced.

Normally, the water delivered to you by Tucson Water is clear and clean. However, there are several unusual situations that can cause your water to have a brown, red, orange, or blue/green tint.

Troubleshooting Tips

appearance tips

Brown, Red, or Orange Water

Several different conditions can cause water to appear brown, red, or orange:

  • Sediment can occur in your water when a pipe breaks and dirt gets into the pipe during repairs. In addition, sand can sometimes get into the water system when a well malfunctions and pumps sandy water. Neither of these situations occur very often and both usually clear up quickly. In these cases, Tucson Water crews repair the problem and flush out the dirt or sand from the main system. If you find sand or sediment in your home, flush your system through a hose bib for several minutes until the water clears. If it does not clear, call Tucson Water to investigate the cause.
  • If the sediment you are encountering in your home appears as white particles, these are likely produced in your water heater. To mitigate this issue, flush your water heater periodically per manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Some of the large water mains in the Tucson Water distribution system used to be old iron or galvanized steel pipe. Rust from these pipes could loosen and enter the water. Tucson Water has replaced more than 275 miles of these old mains to help eliminate this issue.

Rust-Colored Water

Most rust issues now are related to the fact that many homes and businesses built in the 1950s and 1960s have old and rusty galvanized private plumbing.

  • Typically the rust color is noted by homeowners after returning from a vacation, or a few days away. This is caused by water sitting in rusty piping for a period of time.
  • Businesses could encounter rust-colored water on Monday mornings, after being closed for the weekend. If this is the case, open taps to flush the rust color from your system.
  • If flushing does not resolve the issue, contact Tucson Water to investigate for a possible distribution system problem.
  • To eliminate the rusting issue, replace all old galvanized and rusting pipe in your private plumbing system.
  • Rust colored water at one location, such as the bathtub, is likely due to a single rusting galvanized nipple behind the faucet/nozzle. A plumber can replace the galvanized nipple with a bronze nipple.
  • Water that sits in cul-de-sacs or dead end lines can sometimes stagnate, creating red or brownish water. Tucson Water flushes stagnant areas of the distribution system to clear the problem.

Blue, Green or Turquoise Water

In almost all cases, water that appears with a blue or greenish tint is caused by brand new copper water lines in your home plumbing system.

  • Water passing through the lines creates natural oxidation and turns the water blue. Eventually, the inside of the lines will be coated with minerals found naturally in the water and the oxidation will stop.
  • If you have a water softener, which removes many of the minerals from the water, this natural process will take longer than usual. Some water softening companies can inject minerals into the water that will coat the inside of the lines faster than the natural process.
  • Water softeners use materials called ion exchange resins which are part of the water softening process. Sometimes when a softener is in need of maintenance, it can release this resin into the water and you will see tiny orange or gold "beads" or spheres in your water. If this occurs, have the softener serviced by a water softener company and have faucets flushed to clear the material.

If you notice a colored water problem in your home, call the Tucson Water Customer Support Unit at 520-791-5945 . Staff can help you identify the problem and, if necessary, dispatch a crew to flush the water system.