Water Discolouration

What makes the water discoloured? Is discoloured water safe to drink, cook with, bathe in, or wash clothes or dishes?

Change in water colour normally occurs when the natural sediment is disturbed within the pipes. Sometimes it can cause water to go brown, reddish colour, white or cloudy or have black specs.

If your water is unsafe to drink or use Council will issue a “Boil Water Alert”

However, we do not recommend that you drink, bathe or cook with discoloured water that appears, tastes or smells objectionable.

It’s better not to use household appliances, such as your dishwasher or washing machine due to possible staining or discolouration of clothes.


Discolouration can happen for a number of reasons:

  • Naturally occurring sediment in our pipes can be disturbed, usually because there’s a sudden increase in water flow such as during a burst or high demand during the drier months.  
  • A water main has burst, and to repair it we need to shut off water and then start it again, which disturbs the sediment in our pipes.
  • We’re doing repairs or upgrades to our network.
  • Water is flowing in the opposite direction through the network.
  • Water has been drawn at a fast rate from a water hydrant.
  • A valve in the network has unexpectedly shut off or open water supply.
  • A faulty water meter.

Most of the time Council is aware of the fault in the network and we can manage any discolouration before it reaches our customers (change network configuration, flush etc.).

Unfortunately, given the amount of mains we look after, we don’t always know there’s an issue with water discolouration, and we rely on our customers to report these incidents. We then track and map these calls to try and identify a cause and get it fixed.


Who do I contact to report water discolouration (or any other fault)?

Please report water discolouration to our Water & Waste Water team on 02 6036 0100 or after hours on 0408 691 637 and provide details including:

  • Your name
  • Address
  • Description of the water colour
  • How long it has been discoloured

You may also be asked to answer some specific questions in relation to the issue. The more detail you can provide us the faster we can fix the problem.


What can I do when water discolouration happens at my house or work? Can I do anything to help clear discoloured water?

The important thing is not to worry – we have skilled staff who are working on fixing faults as soon as possible. We appreciate your patience throughout a water discolouration event while we find and fix the cause. It might help initially to run the tap closest to the meter (usually front garden tap) for three minutes to clear the water and prevent discolouration from going further into the property. You can collect the water and use it elsewhere such as on the garden.

Generally discoloured water clears with normal water use. If you’ve done this and it’s still discoloured, have a look at our website or social media platform, or give us a call 02 6036 0100 for updates about what’s going on.


How long does water discolouration last?

It is really hard to estimate how long water discolouration could last due to the complexity of the water network. Usually discolouration will pass within a few hours once the cause has been found and fixed. Have a look at our website or social media platform, or give us a call on 02 6036 0100 for up to date information.