What can be causing our drinking water to have a reddish color?

Your water might be affected by iron, which is a commonly-occurring constituent of drinking water. Iron tends to add a rusty, reddish-brown (or sometimes yellow) color to water. If the color is more black than red, your water might contain a combination of iron and manganese. Both of these metals can cause staining of plumbing fixtures or laundry, but they are not known to cause health problems.

Learn more: USGS Drinking Water and Source Water Research

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Why is our porcelain sink stained brown?

The brown stain is from a large amount of iron in your water. It is closely related to simple rust that you see on metal, which is iron oxide. Your water probably comes from groundwater that filtered through rocks containing iron-rich minerals on its way to the well.

Why does my drinking water look cloudy sometimes?

Once in a while you get a glass of water that looks cloudy; maybe milky is a better term. After a few seconds, it miraculously clears up! The cloudiness is due to tiny air bubbles in the water. Like any bubbles, the air rises to the top of the water and goes into the air, clearing up the water. The water in the pipes coming into your house might...

Why does it take so long to rinse the soap off my hands? What are hard water and soft water?

Water is said to be soft if it has a low concentration of calcium and magnesium ions in it, while hard water has a high concentration of calcium and magnesium. If you use soft water, the ions react with your soap to produce a residue that feels like it is hard to wash off. If you use hard water, you will have a harder time working the soap up into...

Where can I find information about my local drinking water supply?

The best way to learn about your local drinking water quality is to read the annual drinking water quality report/consumer confidence report that water suppliers now send out by July 1 of each year. The reports are often sent out with water bills, but they may be sent separately. The reports tell where drinking water comes from, what contaminants...

What can cause our water to have an earthy odor or to smell like rotten eggs?

Naturally-occurring organic compounds are created when plant material decays in lakes and reservoirs. Those organic compounds frequently cause musty, earthy odors, especially toward the end of summer. The odors can be objectionable, but generally are not harmful to health. However, odors can be caused by other constituents as well, so you might...

Where can I find information about bottled water?

Bottled water is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and by individual states. For general information about bottled water, sources include the International Bottled Water Association and NSF International .
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Date published: December 7, 2017

The Quality of the Nation’s Groundwater: Progress on a National Survey

The U.S. Geological Survey is near the midpoint of a complex undertaking to survey the quality of the nation’s largest drinking-water resource.

Current website: https://www.usgs.gov/news/quality-nation-s-groundwater-progress-a-nation...

Date published: July 13, 2016

New Study Shows High Potential for Groundwater to be Corrosive in Half of U.S. States

An analysis of more than 20,000 wells nationwide shows 25 states have groundwater that has either high or very high potential to be corrosive...

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Photo of a young girl drinking water, which likely originated from groundwater sources. 
January 17, 2017

A young girl drinks water, which likely originated from groundwater

A young girl drinks water, which likely originated from groundwater sources. 

The USGS is near the midpoint of a complex undertaking to survey the quality of the nation’s largest drinking-water resource. From 2012 – 2023, the USGS is assessing groundwater throughout the country through extensive sampling. The latest results from five regional aquifers are now

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Drinking water from tap
December 31, 2016

Drinking water from tap

The quality of the water we drink can potentially impact our health. The USGS has several programs and cooperative projects that characterize the quality of selected rivers and aquifers used as sources of drinking water to community water systems in the United States.

Attribution: Water Resources
September 1, 2016

Drought, Drinking Water and Natural Environments

This short video is one of a series of four total shorts highlighting USGS water science in California's Delta region. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is the hub of the state's water system. Water quality touches on all aspects of life. Teams of U.S. Geological Survey scientists along with their partners monitor water quality and identify sources of pollution and

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USGS
November 18, 2008

Why does my drinking water look milky or cloudy sometimes?

Listen to hear the answer.

Image: Iron Bog near Rochford, SD
May 24, 2001

Iron Bog near Rochford, SD

Naturally occuring bog-iron area near Rochford, SD, in the Black Hills of western South Dakota.

Image: Natural Iron-rich Acidic Spring Flowing into Cement Creek

Natural Iron-rich Acidic Spring Flowing into Cement Creek

Photograph showing natural iron-rich acidic spring flowing into Cement Creek near Silverton, Colorado.  Similar natural springs contribute water to Cement Creek and other tributaries of the upper Animas River.