FAQs - Water Appearance 

Internal Link Water appears blue
Internal Link Water appears cloudy in a glass, then it clears up
Internal Link Water appears dirty and cloudy
Internal Link Black particles
Internal Link Gray/White particles
Internal Link Pink growth on bathroom fixtures
Internal Link Water appears rust-colored
Internal Link White deposit inside coffeemaker or kettle used to boil water
Internal Link Watermarks on glasses and dishes 

 

Water appears blue

If the water appears blue, fill a clear, colorless glass with water. Take it into a different room and observe it. Taking it into a different room will eliminate any reflection that may cause the water to look blue. If the water is still blue, it could be from one or both of the following.

Copper plumbing is a source of colored water. When water stands in copper pipe, the water may absorb some of the copper, making it appear blue. This is most common when the pipe is new (less than one year old). If this is the case, the sinks typically have a blue stain below the tap. If your pipes are more than one year old and you have a blue stain in your sink, the plumbing may be corroding. Call a plumber.

The source may be automatic toilet bowl cleaner that turns the water blue. There may be a cross connection in the plumbing and water from the bowl is backing into the water pipe. If the water has been turned off, depressurization in the system may cause the blue toilet bowl cleaner to migrate to other fixtures, especially in apartments. Run the water for a few minutes. If the blue color persists, call a plumber.

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Water appears cloudy in a glass, then it clears up

Cloudiness in water that disappears in a few minutes is dissolved air in the water. When cold water from the water main enters a warm building, the air escaping from the water makes the water look cloudy or milky. The cloudiness usually occurs more often in winter than in summer because cold water can hold more dissolved air than warm water.

Cloudy water is frequently seen in Milwaukee because of the use of ozone as a disinfectant. Ozone is a form of oxygen, so the water is becoming saturated with oxygen.

If the water appears cloudy at only one faucet, it has to do with the building plumbing, not the city water supply. If the faucet you are using has an aerator, the aerator is adding a lot of air to the water, causing it to appear cloudy.

If you have a mixing faucet - one that supplies both hot and cold water - the aerator in the tap adds additional air to the water to cause the cloudy effect. Replacing the cartridge in the mixing faucet may clear the cloudiness.

Water may appear cloudy after you have not used the tap for a few hours. Because the water has been motionless in the plumbing for more than a few hours, it has warmed up a few degrees. Even a few degrees will warm the water enough so air escapes quickly from the water. Run the tap water three to five minutes so fresh water from the water main is coming into the house. To conserve water, collect the running water and use it to water plants.

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Water appears dirty and cloudy From one faucet only

 -- If the problem is only at one tap, it is related to the building plumbing, not the city water supply.

From the hot water faucet only

-- The water heater could be the source of the problem. Refer to the owner's manual or call a plumber. Do not use hot water from the faucet for cooking or drinking. Hot water systems (heaters, boilers) contain metallic parts that corrode over time and the metals become dissolved in the hot water.

From hot and cold water taps, or from more than one tap in the house or building

-- If you have water that appears dirty from both the cold and hot water taps, it is most likely due to corrosion of the internal plumbing or the source could be the city water supply. Run the cold water for a few minutes. Always run cold water when you are trying to clear the lines. This reduces the chance of drawing dirty or rusty water into the hot water tank. If the water does not clear after this, call the Milwaukee Water Works 24-hour Control Center, 414-286-3710.

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Black particles

Black particles in the water at one faucet

The particles are likely from a disintegrating washer or corrosion of the plumbing. Run the water for a few minutes to clear the particles. If there is a screen in the faucet, remove and clean it, or clean the aerator. If the problem persists, call a plumber.

Black particles in the toilet bowl water

The black particles are likely the result of the disintegration of the float in the toilet tank. The float is especially likely to break down over time if you use an automatic toilet bowl cleaner in the tank. Replace the float or call a plumber about replacing the float.

Black particles in the water from only the hot water faucet

The particles are coming from the hot water system, such as the water heater, not the city water supply. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for maintenance of the water heater or call a plumber.

Black particles in the cold water from all of the faucets

The black particles likely originate in the water main. Particles in the main could be loosened if there has been a fire in the area and a hydrant was opened, if there is construction in the area, or if a hydrant was improperly opened and/or closed. Call the Milwaukee Water Works Water Quality Section during regular business hours, 414-286-2585, and after business hours and on weekends, call the Milwaukee Water Works 24-hour Control Center, 414-286-3710. Weather permitting, the Milwaukee Water Works will flush the main by opening a fire hydrant and letting the water run until it is clear. When the crew has finished, let the cold water at faucets throughout the building run for a few minutes to clear the lines. Remove and clean faucet screens and aerators.

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Gray/White particles

The faucet screens are clogged with white/gray particles that float in water

The particles are most likely the result of a disintegrating dip tube in your water heater. Some water heaters have a dip tube made of polypropylene or polyvinyl chloride that can disintegrate over time. Call a plumber. Periodically remove the screens from the faucets and clean them.

The faucet screens are clogged with white/gray particles that sink in water

The particles are likely calcium carbonate. Your water heater may need routine maintenance. Consult the owner's manual. Periodically remove the screens from faucets and clean them. If the particles persist, call the Milwaukee Water Works Water Quality Section during regular business hours, 414-286-2585, and after business hours and on weekends, call the Milwaukee Water Works 24-hour Control Center, 414-286-3710.

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Pink growth on bathroom fixtures

The pink growth or stain is the result of a mold or a bacterium, specifically, Serratia marcescens. The mold is present in the air. Mold and bacteria grow wherever there is a warm, moist or humid environment, like a tub or showerhead. The mold and bacteria feed on the small quantities of nutrients in water.

Regular cleaning with bleach or a cleaner that removes mildew will clear the mold. Wipe away standing water to reduce growth. Certain materials, like rubber, plastic gaskets, etc., contain nutrients that help these organisms grow.

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Water appears rust-colored

The water at only one faucet appears rust-colored

The corrosion of iron pipes causes water to appear rusty, yellow or brown colored. Because the discoloration occurs at only one tap, it is an indication of possible internal plumbing problems, not the city water supply. Call a plumber.

The water at all of the faucets appears rust-colored

The corrosion of iron pipes causes water to appear rusty, yellow or brown colored. If you see the color at all of the faucets, it is coming from the water main feeding your building. Run all of the cold water taps until the water runs clear, up to 10 minutes. If the problem persists, call the Milwaukee Water Works 24-hour Control Center, 414-286-3710.

Rusty water can stain laundry so avoid washing laundry, particularly white items, until the water clears. If you see rust stains on your laundry, you may want to try a product such as "Iron-out," found in the laundry detergent section of stores. If the rusty water is an ongoing problem, call the Milwaukee Water Works Water Quality Section during regular business hours, 414-286-2585.

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White deposit inside coffeemaker or kettle used to boil water

The white deposit, or scale, is a deposit of calcium and magnesium, which naturally occurs in the water. Rinse the kettle with warm vinegar to remove the deposit. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations to clean a coffeemaker.

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Watermarks on glasses and dishes

The watermarks are mineral deposits in the water. If you use a dishwasher, follow the manufacturer's recommendations to avoid watermarks. If you hand wash your dishes, dry them immediately after washing and rinsing rather than let them air dry.

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