3 Reasons Your Tap Water Looks Rusty


Picture this: You turn on your faucet to fill a glass of water and notice rusty sediment floating in your drink. While not ideal, if your tap water looks rusty, it isn’t necessarily a reason to panic. Common causes of rusty tap water include a water main break, water heater issues, or corroding metal water pipes. By following clues of how widespread and from which faucets the issue appears, you can narrow down and find the root cause.

Rusty Water

If both your hot and cold water is brown… 

For instances where your hot and cold water are both appearing brown from the faucet, the reason is likely from a water main break in a local water main or fire hydrant. Water main breaks can result in sediment in your water supply due to the interconnectedness of many municipality water lines. This happens often and is typically not a major cause for concern. 

If both your hot and cold water are running with brown residue or sediment, check your local “boil water warnings” to see if it’s a widespread issue. If not, alert the local water authority as soon as possible to make them aware of the problem and to ask if there has been any recent maintenance on the water mains in your area. This should give you a good indication of what is causing the issue as well as a better idea of how long it will take until your water supply is running clear again.

If only the hot water is brown…  

If your hot water is brown and the cold water supply looks clear, your water heater is likely to blame. Sediment buildup in the water heater itself can lead to rusty brown water. This problem should be eradicated as soon as possible to prevent your water heater from breaking entirely. Sediment buildup can lead to premature corrosion in the water tank, along with the potential for problematic leaks, cracks, and even bursts/explosions within the tank. 

To fix the problem, you will need to drain and flush the water heater tank in order to remove any sediment buildup. (This should be done at least annually or every six months if you have hard water supply.) If it’s too late and you notice the water heater tank is showing early signs of corrosion, call in a plumber for their professional opinion on what to do next.

If you only notice the issue from a few faucets… 

For specific faucets with sediment buildup or rusty water, you likely have a water supply pipe that is corroding. Many homes with older plumbing systems suffer from sediment buildup in the pipes. Sometimes this can be a minor problem, easily fixed by running the water for 20 minutes or so to flush out any small amounts of rust that might have broken loose from the pipes. However, if the problem persists after attempting a simple fix, you likely need to replace the pipes in question.

Better to be safe than sorry

In any case, it’s important to exercise caution when dealing with rusty water or sediment in your water supply. Switch to drinking bottled or boiled water for the time being until you can get the problem solved.

It’s also a good idea to bring in an experienced plumber to make sure your drinking water is as clean as possible. If you’re concerned about the color or taste of your water, call All American Plumbing, Heating & Air today at (209) 509-4448. We provide trusted plumbing service in the Los Banos, Turlock, Merced, and Patterson areas.