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Why Does My Water Taste Like Metal?

By: Craig Smith
Last Updated:
Why Does My Water Taste Like Metal?

One of the more common questions that people ask about their drinking water when it doesn’t taste good is why does my water taste metallic?

If you are experiencing a similar problem, then this is definitely something that you want to find the root cause of because when tap water tastes metallic, you may actually have a high metal content in your water.

This is something that will not only cause your water to taste poorly but can also lead to some health issues if not corrected.

Here I will explain to you why your tap water has a metallic taste, why that should concern you, and what steps you can take to eliminate heavy metals from your water supply.

The latter includes purchasing a water filter that will remove or significantly reduce the metal content in your home’s water.        

Why Does My Water Taste Like Metal?

It will probably surprise you as to all of the ways that heavy metals can end up in your household water and subsequently impact the taste of that water. 

In order for a substance to be considered a heavy metal it must have five times the specific gravity of water. 

Some of the more common causes of trace heavy metals being found in water include:

Naturally Occurring

All metals can be described as inorganic substances that are found naturally occurring in some geological rock formations. The trouble is they don’t always stay in place.

They can be dislodged through the natural erosion that occurs with geological formations as groundwater moves to a surface water source.

They can also be leached out of these formations as water percolates down through the ground until it ends up in an aquifer.

These heavy metals eventually find their way into your well or local water system and then into your home and that often leads to water tasting metallic. 

This is because they contaminate the surface water that’s used as a reservoir for your city water supply or the aquifer that your well water is sourced from. In high concentrations metals and metalloids can easily cause water to have a metal taste. 

Pollution

toxic-sign

As is the case with many water impurities, the waste that’s generated from industrial processes and electric power generation is a major source of metals that are found in drinking water.

These can come down to the earth when it rains, can result from the improper disposal of industrial waste, or may even be directly dumped into water supplies.

Once the metals that are generated by industrial processes end up in soil or surface water, they stand a good chance of eventually ending up in the water that you consume daily.

Some pesticides and herbicides that are used in farming also contain metals that will eventually end up in water sources.

Corrosion & Leaching of Metal Plumbing Pipe

Pipe

Although most of the plumbing lines in homes these days are mostly made of rigid PVC pipe, that was not always the case. For many years copper was used as the primary material of choice for home water lines and before that, it was water pipes that were made of lead.

So, if you have an older home, there is a good chance that the source of the metals that are being found in your water is your plumbing.

Low water pH will significantly impact both copper and lead pipes by causing them to break down and corrode and some of this metal that comes off of the pipes, as a result, will end up in the water that you drink.

Copper pipes have even been known to ever so slightly erode just from the force of the water passing through them. I have witnessed this firsthand in my many years in the swimming pool industry as I replaced the eroded copper cores in pool heaters regularly.

Unidentifiable Sources

Keep in mind that you may never be able to identify the source of the trace metals that are being found in your water but that point becomes moot as long as you can eliminate them and get your water tasting good again.

Potential Health Risks of Metallic Water

Here are some of the most harmful heavy metals that are commonly found in water and the potential negative impact they can have on your health.

Lead

Lead

Lead often gets into tap water because it’s the substance that plumbing pipes in very old homes are made out of. It can also come from naturally occurring sources and industrial processes.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) maximum acceptable concentration for lead in water is 15 parts per billion (PPB). That small number is a good indication of how concerning a condition that puts lead into your drinking water is. 

There is even talk of taking this number down to zero.

Low-level lead poisoning can result in abdominal pain, constipation, fatigue, headaches, irritability, appetite loss, memory issues, weakness, and pain or tingling in the extremities

Higher levels of lead consumption can cause anemia, brain disorders, damaged blood cells, kidney problems, nervous system issues, and high blood pressure.

Lead is especially harmful to children as it can impact their physical development and it can cause pregnancy issues too.

Arsenic

arsenic

This is one of the most toxic of all of the metals that is commonly found in water. It’s found naturally occurring in soils and rocks in large amounts and is used in many metal and electric-related industries along with being used as an ingredient in pesticides and herbicides.

It’s mandated that city water is tested for its this substance but there are no such mandates for well water. So, if your home’s water is sourced from a well, you should strongly consider testing your well water for arsenic and other harmful impurities.

Common health issues associated with low-level arsenic consumption include skin discoloration, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea.

Higher levels of arsenic consumption are linked to lung, reproductive, heart, liver, and immune & nervous system disorders and also diabetes. Arsenic is also thought to be a cause of such cancers as lung, bladder, skin, liver, kidney, and prostate cancer.

Chromium

chromium

This metal (more specifically an ionic derivative called chromium-6 or hexavalent chromium) became well-known for its impact on health because it was the subject of the movie Erin Brockovich. 

A movie that Julia Roberts starred in and subsequently won an academy award for best actress for that performance.  

It comes from naturally occurring sources as well as being associated with such industrial and other processes as electric power plant cooling, steel manufacturing, mining, electroplating, and textile pigmentation. Lead was also used for many years as the main paint additive.

Ingesting hexavalent chromium can damage the stomach, intestines, kidneys, liver, male reproductive organs, and contribute to some severe forms of pneumonia. Lung, mouth, intestinal, nasal, and sinus cancers all have links to the consumption of excess chromium too. 

Copper

copper

Copper is another common metal found in tap water that often comes from your plumbing pipes. This can be due to low pH or eroding of the pipes by moving water as was mentioned.

Other ways it can contaminate water come from industrial processes and other sources such as electrical wire manufacturing, plumbing supply manufacturing, roofing waste, electroplating, and through the corrosion of improperly disposed of electronics and industrial machinery.

Very seldom is it found naturally occurring in high concentrations.  

Health issues associated with ingesting too much copper include such minor illnesses as vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps to go along with more severe illnesses such as liver and kidney disease.

It is another metal that’s found in water that is thought to have a significant impact on children’s health and growth.

Manganese  

Manganese

This is another common substance where water tastes like metal when it’s present in high concentrations. It’s often found in tap water because it’s used in so many industrial processes and in the manufacturing of  many products.

Even though in lesser amounts it’s an essential nutrient, it’s still a heavy metal of concern. That’s because it’s found in tap water more often than other metals and has been linked to moderate to very severe nervous system disorders.

Other Harmful Metals in Found in Drinking Water

Nickel, aluminum, cadmium (not commonly found but extremely toxic), mercury, iron, cobalt, magnesium, molybdenum, selenium. Many of which have no beneficial effects on your body and can cause a large variety of minor to severe health issues.

How Can I Remove the Taste of Metal from My Water?

Before you can remove the traces of metal that are causing your water to have a poor taste, you first have to find out what those metals are that are causing the problem.

This is done by testing your home’s water. More specifically, using a test kit that can detect some of the more common metals found in water such as lead, copper, arsenic, iron, and chromium.  

That way you can find a removal method that targets the specific types of metals that you found were present in your drinking water to better be able to get rid of them.

You will also want to have your water tested for pH level in case the source of the metals in your water are coming from the deterioration of the iron pipes or other metallic pipes in your older home.

Low pH makes your water more acidic and this leaches metals out of piping at a much faster rate.

You will most likely not be able to test accurately for metals yourself or test for all of the potentially harmful metals that may be present in your tap water.

So, the best way to test your own water is to take a sample of it and then send it to a lab to have your water professionally tested.

I recommend that if you are going to take the time to do this, you don’t just test your water for the presence of harmful metals but test it for many other contaminants too.

My preferred tests for doing this are those made by a company called Tap Score.

Many of their tests will detect the presence of over 200 common water impurities. They also have tests that are specifically made for those that are on a municipal water supply and those that want to test well water.

Water Filters That Can Remove Metal

Fortunately, you will have a wide variety of choices when it comes to removing harmful metals from the water that you drink.

This includes both point-of-use water filters such as under-sink, countertop, and pitcher-style water filters and whole home water filtration systems.   

Among the best filtration devices for removing heavy metals are reverse osmosis systems (RO).

reverse-osmosis

RO systems that are used for the removal of metals should have an activated carbon pre-filter placed in the system before the reverse osmosis stage to maximize performance.

Filtration systems that use KDF (Kinetic Degradation Fluxion) filter media or a KDF filtration stage also work well for eliminating heavy metals.

kdf

This is because they use an oxidation/reduction process that turns water-soluble metal cations into larger insoluble atoms that can then be easily filtered out.

Some sophisticated activated carbon filters can remove heavy metals too as well as the ion exchange process that many water softeners use.

Neither works as well as reverse osmosis filtration or KDF filter media for this task.

There are also water filtration devices that are made to filter out some specific metals that are more likely to be found in well water. This includes such ion exchange devices as iron filters and lead filters.  

You Don’t Have to Put up With Metallic Tasting Water

There probably is nothing that you take into your body more each day than the water that you drink. That means it’s definitely something that you want to taste good.

With all of the many ways that you can remove heavy metals from the water that you drink, there simply is no reason to put up with the bad taste that metal content in water promotes and risk the health issues that heavy metals can cause.

Many water filtration systems that filter out metals are also very affordable and will remove other harmful contaminants too.

So, don’t take chances if you test your water and find out there are unacceptable amounts of harmful metals found in it. Be proactive and purchase a good reverse osmosis filter system or other types of filtration device that can remove metals from your water.  

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AUTHOR
Craig Smith
Craig got his start in water working in the swimming pool and spa industry. Water treatment would grow into his main career but he ended up working in the pool industry for over 26 years where much of his time was spent balancing the water in customer's swimming pools and installing water filtration equipment. Craig offers an abundance of water treatment knowledge after helping homeowners get pure water for 26 years.

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