Water Quality Troubleshooting

Q: Why does my water have an unpleasant taste and/or odor?

It is very difficult to separate taste from odor because these two human senses are so closely related. Most occurrences of a peculiar taste or odor in the water can be grouped into one of the following three categories: (1) chlorinous, bleachy, chemical, and medicinal; (2) sulfurous (rotten egg-like), decayed, and sewage-like; or (3) musty, moldy, or earthy.

  • A common cause for a chlorinous, bleachy, chemical, or medicinal taste or odor in the water: the small addition of chlorine to the water by the District to make sure that the water is clean and safe to drink.
  • Two common causes of a sulfurous decayed, or sewage-like taste or odor in the water are bacteria growing in your drain or bacteria growing in your water heater.
  • A common cause of a musty, moldy, or earthy taste or odor in the water is bacteria growing in your drain.

Causes of tastes or odors in water must be carefully investigated. Please be prepared to answer the following questions when reporting this problem to us at 831.475.8500:

  1. What is the location of the premises where the taste or odor occurred?
  2. When was the taste or odor first detected?
  3. Is the taste or odor in the hot or cold water, or both?
  4. How would you describe the taste or odor?

The answers to these questions will assist us in finding the cause of the taste or odor and will also suggest corrective steps to take. A customer service representative should respond to calls regarding taste and odor within one business day.

Visit How to Get Rid of Odor in Water for tips on flushing your water heater.

Q: Why do I sometimes get cloudy water coming out of my faucets?

Cloudy water could be a result of dissolved air in the water, which is a common and harmless condition. To verify this, place the cloudy water in a glass and observe whether it clears from the bottom up (you may be left with bubbles on the side of the glass and a small surface layer of bubbles). If this occurs then you have dissolved air in the water.

If the cloudy water persists, or if you are noticing unusual tastes or odors, please call 831.475.8500 and give us your address and a telephone number so we can have a customer service representative contact you.

Q:  What is hard water and what can I do about it?

Hard water is simply water that contains two harmless minerals - calcium and magnesium.  Water is considered "hard" if it measures more than 120 parts per million or 7.0 grains per gallon.

Although hardness does not affect the safety of the water, some customers may find it to be inconvenient. The minerals may make the water hard to develop a sudsy lather. Hardness minerals may also contribute to scaling in teapots, spots on dishes and residues on plumbing fixtures and glass shower doors.

Q: We recently purchased a new dishwasher. In order to establish the correct settings, the dishwasher requires us to program the level of hardness/softness of the water. What is the water hardness in the grains per gallon (gpg)?

In Capitola/Soquel area, the range of water hardness is about is 140-360 parts per million (ppm) or 8.5 to 21 grains per gallon (gpg).

In Aptos/Rio del Mar/La Selva Beach area, the range of water hardness is about 75-240 ppm or 5 to 14 gpg.

Q: My showerhead and shower doors have a white film on them. What causes it and what should I do about it?

A: The white film is the residue of hardness and other minerals in the water. When the water is heated or evaporates, the minerals leave a white coating on items such as showerheads, shower doors, glasses, coffee pots, etc.

Although harmless, most people don't appreciate a white film on these household items. Many customers install a water softener unit.  In terms of cleaning hard water spots, there are several cleaning products on the market made specifically for its removal. A "green" alternative is warm vinegar. Soaking in vinegar can help dissolve the spots. Make sure you rinse the items carefully after the vinegar "bath" before using them. This method is less practical for shower doors. In the case of shower doors, prevention is the best medicine. Wipe down the doors with a sponge or towel after every shower.

Q: What is the level of fluoride in the water?

There is naturally-occuring fluoride groundwater. In the Capitola-Soquel area, the average amount is 0.22 milligrams per liter (mg/L) and in the Aptos-Rio Del Mar-La Selva Beach area, the average amount is 0.13 mg/L.

The District does not add any additional fluoride to the water.

Q: Why does my water look dirty, have sediment and/or particles in it?

Some possible causes of problems with water which appears dirty, has an unusual color, or sediment/particles include:

  • Sediments or pipe materials from breaks in water mains or hydrants. Water mains in the distribution system can fail due to age, corrosion, high pressure surges, or damage by construction work. Hydrants can also be broken off by vehicles.
  • High flows can occur in water mains due to fire fighting, water system tests, or maintenance. Unusual high-flow conditions can stir up sediment or scale from water mains.
  • Construction activities: the customer's service connection from the distribution main to the water meter is sometimes disturbed by construction activities of contractors or other utilities.
  • Aging galvanized plumbing: rust particles or scale from galvanized steel home plumbing can also produce reddish-brown water or rust particles, particularly noticeable when a tap is first turned on.

Since there are many causes of dirty water, the District investigates each complaint carefully. Please be prepared to answer the following questions when reporting this problem to 831.475.8500:

  • What is the location of the premises where the dirty water occurred?
  • When was the dirty water first detected?
  • What does the water look like? Does it have color?
  • Are both the cold and hot water dirty?
  • Is the water dirty at all faucets?
  • Are the particles large, small, or colored; does the water look milky or contain air?
  • Have you had plumbing work done recently on either hot or cold water lines?

The answers to these questions will assist us in finding the cause of the dirty water and may also suggest corrective steps to take. District Customer Service Representatives respond to calls regarding water which appears to be dirty, colored or has foreign particles, within one business day.