Discoloured "Dirty" Water


'Dirty' water is a change in the appearance or the colour of your water - usually to a brown or yellow. Sudden increase in the rate or direction of water flow in the mains can stir up sediment.  This becomes suspended in the water making it appear dirty. Discolouration is caused by trace materials in the water, such as iron or manganese.

When these materials enter the water supply system they are in extremely low levels; generally, dirty water is harmless and the water is safe to use and is not hazardous to health, although it may appear unpleasant.

Residents living in areas furthest away from the nearest reservoir, or at the end of a street, may experience discolouration more frequently than others. This is because the water has further to travel and this allows heavier particles to settle out of the water and become visible. Weekenders or untenanted houses in any area may also experience discolouration when first turning on a tap after a period of time without using water at the home. 

Dirty water can be the result of planned or unplanned scouring and/or galvanised pipes in older homes.

From Scouring
Dirty water most often occurs when flushing of the mains, known as scouring occurs.  Scouring is the cleaning of the inside of water mains by sending a rapid flow of water through the main under high pressure.  During this process the build-up of sediment will be dislodged.  Some discolouration of the water supply may occur after mains flushing in the immediate area, this will quickly disperse after running a tap for a short period of time.

If you experience dirty, or discoloured water after a scheduled clean, try running the outside tap for 1 to 5 minutes until the water clears.  And avoid doing laundry.

Council will notify residents of any planned scouring. For details on the project, maintenance and emergency works scheduled in your area:

From Galvanised Pipes
Corrosion may occur in older homes with galvanised pipes, causing the water to look orange or brown. Discolouration will occur more often in houses with galvanised water pipes. Galvanised pipes are no longer used in homes, with copper - or more recently polyethylene pipes have become the norm.

Anyone who experiences regular water discolouration and has galvanised water pipes in their home may consider replacing them and should seek further advice and assistance from a licensed plumber.

Any rectification works for galvanised pipes are at the customers expense.


Water that is milky or white in colour is the result of small air bubbles within the water. This is usually due to air becoming trapped in the pipes - perhaps after the repair of a broken water main. This water is harmless and if left in a container on the bench, the air will quickly dissipate, and the water will become clear. It will not stain your washing.


Discolouration of the water supply by materials such as iron and/or manganese may cause a rust coloured stain on your light coloured clothing and linen while washing. If you notice a discolouration in the water from your household taps, it is recommended you do not wash clothing and linens in discoloured water due to the risk of stains.

If discoloured water is present, residents should delay washing clothes. If this is not possible, Council recommend:

  • running some water into the machine to check the water colour before washing clothes; and
  • checking the water colour before the washing machine reaches the rinse cycle – as it is at this stage that clothes can be stained.

If your load of washing is stained from dirty water, you should keep the washing completely wet, and not hang it out. The stain only becomes permanent if the laundry is allowed to dry. If you have a nappy stain remover then the affected washing should be soaked and washed as directed, this can often remove the stains once the water has been cleared.

Some washing powders cause the pH level of the water in the washing machine to increase, and this has the effect of causing manganese or iron in the water to come out of solution and to stain the washing. Also, powders high in phosphorus can also have the same effect.  A good quality liquid dishwashing detergent can also help remove dirty water stains

If your property, including clothes, household furniture or fittings, has been damaged by a dirty water (water discolouration) event, Council will consider on a case by case basis, requests to clean, replace or repair the damaged items.  Details on how to make a claim and the terms and conditions of damaged items due to a dirty water event are detailed in POL/26030 Water Supply Services Policy.

What should I do if I notice dirty water?

If you notice water discolouration in your home, we suggest you wait an hour or two then check that the water from your front tap (nearest to the water meter) is clear. If it is clear, go to the tap at the furthest point from your water meter (usually the garden tap in the backyard) and run the water for a few minutes until it also runs clear. 

If the water coming into your front tap is not clear contact Council and we can arrange flushing of the water mains in the local area. While flushing is being undertaken, customers can experience very dirty water, however this will clear shortly afterwards.

Council has approximately 300 kilometres of water mains, 9 water pump stations and 12 water reservoirs, so we are unable to monitor them all at the same time, so we do rely on residents to advise us of any severe or ongoing discolouration to the water supply in order to take action in the immediate area.