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Why Is My Water Yellow?

By: Craig Smith
Last Updated:
Why Is My Water Yellow?

Every once in a while, the water in your home may take on a colored tint and cause you to panic a little bit or even freak out. 

Such is often the case if your water turns yellow.

An occurrence that’s more common with tap water than you might think. When your water turns yellow it may also be a minor problem that will quickly correct itself or something more serious and long term that you will have to take action to resolve yourself.

No matter what the case, I want to assure you that in most instances having yellowish water in your home is a situation that can be easily corrected.

Most likely this will be done by eliminating the source of the problem or filtering out the contaminants that are making your water yellow.  

This is also a problem that I can help you with. Thanks to the experience I gained in my 26-years trying to keep swimming pool water crystal clear and the extensive research that I have done on this subject.

In this article, I will discuss what causes water to turn yellow, how to correct that condition, and if water filtration is the solution, what methods work best to eliminate yellow-tinted water.

Why Is My Water Yellow?

I will start by saying that when your water turns yellow or takes on any type of tint, it’s best to avoid drinking it until you find out why. Having yellow water does not necessarily mean that your home’s water isn’t safe to drink but be cautious and switch to store-bought water just in case.

It may also be the case where you will not be able to positively identify what’s causing your tap water to turn yellow but rest assured you can still correct this problem and make your water appealing to drink and use again.

The first step I would take if I had yellow water and my water is supplied by the city is to give my municipal water treatment department a call to determine if this is a system-wide problem. Of course, you will not have this luxury if you have well water coming into your home.

If you have well water or you were told by your city water supplier that they are not aware of any system-wide problems that are causing yellow water, then the next step to determine why your water has turned yellow is to test your home’s water.

This will alert you to any contaminants in your water that are known to cause yellowish tap water. Unfortunately, many water impurities can cause your water to be yellow.

That means a DIY home water test kit will most likely not get you the results you are looking for.

That’s why professional lab testing is much preferred in this case. This type of testing covers a much broader spectrum of impurities in water than self-test kits do.

tap-score

My preferred test kits are those made by a company called Tap Score. That’s because their tests typically can identify a large number of water contaminants and they also make separate tests for city water and well water testing.    

yellow-water

Tap Score even has a test that’s specifically designed just to test yellow water to find out what’s causing it. This test will tell you the calcium, copper, hardness, iron, lead, manganese, magnesium, tannins, and zinc levels in your water along with its pH.

Get a TapScore Yellow Water Test Here

Causes of Yellow Tap Water

Here are the main causes for yellow water when you are supplied by city water and when you have a well:

City Water Supplies

You should be aware that if you are on city water and your tap water takes on a yellow water colour, then these are the most common causes of water that’s the color yellow. .

  1. Broken Water Main

You will often hear your local water company put out an advisory to boil water when a water main pipe has burst. That’s because in the case of burst pipes, organic material and other contaminants can get into the water supply through the break in the pipe.

Many times, this will also cause the now contaminated water to take on a yellow color or a brownish tint that is so light it appears to be yellow. This should clear up on its own after the water main has been repaired and the pipes have been flushed.

  1. City Water Systems Are Being Flushed Out

As part of the routine maintenance on your local municipal water supply lines to keep them clean and functioning properly, periodic flushing of the entire water system is required. This is normally done by temporarily increasing the water pressure in the city water lines.

This can dislodge rust from older metal pipes and also disrupt organic matter that is growing inside of pipes.

Both of which can lead to your city-supplied water causing discolored water. Once again, this is only a temporary condition that should clear itself up rather quickly once the flushing has been completed.   

  1. Rusted Pipes or Hot Water Tank

People often associate rust in water being reddish but sometimes it causes water to take on a yellow tint too.

If you have an older home with lead or galvanized steel pipes and they are starting to corrode and break down, then this can be the source of your yellowish-looking water.

When a water heater gets old, they will also start to rust and once this gets bad enough it could start to change your water to a yellow color.

This will only impact your hot water supply, so if it only happens when a hot water tap is turned on, you know what the problem is. Look elsewhere for a solution to the yellowish water that’s coming from your cold water faucets.

Flushing your water lines out or draining the tank on your rusty water heater can resolve these issues a majority of the time. If not, it’s best to call a professional plumber for help. 

Well Water Supply

If your home is supplied by well water, then you most likely have to approach this problem much differently than with yellowish city water. 

That’s because it will most likely not resolve itself on its own or by flushing your pipes out. You will have to take proactive steps to get rid of the water impurities that are causing the problem to get clean drinking water.

  1. Tannins (sometimes referred to as ‘humic acid’)
tannins

If the water in your home comes from a well and at some point, turns yellow, these are the most likely cause of that poor drinking water quality.

Tannins are caused by water runoff picking that passes through peat or soil that has a large quantity of decaying organic matter in it. They are harmless but make your drinking water look unfit to consume.

If you drive by a polluted water source such as a lake or stream that has taken on a yellow color, Tannins are the reason for this in most cases. 

  1. Elevated Levels of Iron and Manganese

These are two heavy metals that tend to cause your drinking water supply to take on a yellow tint when they are present in higher-than-normal amounts. This happens when these two metals combine with organic matter and become what is known as colloidal.      

  1. Iron-Related Bacteria

Iron-oxidizing bacteria can impact your water in many different ways. These are bacteria that are very commonly found in soil and water.

They are not known to cause disease or not be safe to drink but they hurt water aesthetically. This includes turning it yellow and causing it to take on a distinct foul odor.

How Do You Fix Yellow Tap Water?

To eliminate the yellow color of your water, you first have to identify the source of the problem.

If you have water that’s supplied from a city water source and it has turned yellow, then you have to call your municipal water company and ask if they are flushing the pipes or there is a city-wide yellow water problem.

If not, then you will have to take steps on your own to find the source of your yellow water problem.

With well water, it gets a bit more complex and you are more likely to encounter yellow water problems when this is your water source.

As was mentioned above, a good place to start is having your water tested for contaminants that can cause it to change to a yellow color.

Once you have identified what impurities are tinting your water yellow, then you can purchase a whole-home water filtration system, point-of-use water filter, or other water treatment device that will help eliminate them.

Which Water Filters Are Best for Yellow Tap Water?

If you are on a well water supply, here is how you can clear up the yellow water causing problems mentioned above:

Tannin Removal

Whole House Water Filter

If you test your well water and find out tannins are your problem, then purchasing a water filtration system such as a point-of-entry water filter (whole-house) or a point-of-use filter (such as countertop and under-sink water filters) with an activated carbon filtration stage will take care of this problem.

To Eliminate Elevated Levels of Iron and Manganese

iron-filter

There are two ways to remove iron and manganese from your water if they are causing it to to be yellow. A good salt-based water softener that uses an ion-exchange process may do the trick.

If not, a dedicated iron filter for well water can eliminate high concentrations of iron and manganese.

To Kill Iron-Related Bacteria

Normally, a quality reverse osmosis system can handle bacteria removal but that’s not the case with nuisance iron-oxidizing bacteria. That’s because they will clog up the membranes in these too fast.

Aquasana EQ Well UV

So, it’s best to use a combination of chlorine injection followed in the water line by a whole-house filter with an activated carbon stage such as the Aquasana Rhino (pictured above) to significantly reduce your tap water’s now increased chlorine level.   

Don’t Panic If Your Water Turns Yellow

For the most part, yellow water is not a serious issue or a health concern. It also will either resolve itself on its own or you will have many filtration options that can clear your water up for you.

So, there is no need to panic at the first sign that your water is coming out of the tap yellow. Still, you must err to the side of caution and drink bottled water.

Do this until you have found the source of your yellow water problem or have purchased a water filter that turns your water clear again. Either way, your yellow-tinted water should not be a condition that is causing you concern for very long.

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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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