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CityLink Seattle

FAQ: Why is my water discolored (and what can I do about it)?

A: There are a few possible reasons why your water is discolored. 

Discolored-WaterNo one is pleased to turn on their tap and see yellow, orange, reddish, or brown water come out. The problem is sometimes seen after periods of low water use or as a result of sediment in your hot water tank. Sudden discoloration may be due to some activity that has disturbed the direction or rate of flow in the City water main, such as the use of a fire hydrant or water main valve in your area.

Fortunately, the discoloration doesn’t usually last long, and there are things you can do to help clear it up.

  • If it has been a while since you’ve used the water:
    Let it run. It should clear after flushing the faucet briefly.
  • If the discoloration only occurs with hot water:
    Flush your hot water tank. Flushing your hot water tank may help by clearing out the sediment in the bottom of the tank. (Note: Hot water increases the rate of corrosion in plumbing. You may want to consult a plumber for safety precautions.)
  • If the discoloration came on suddenly:
    Don’t worry, the water is still safe. However, the water may be unappealing, so we recommend that you wait until it clears before drinking it. The water should clear on its own.  Try running the cold water for a few minutes to see if it is clearing or still discolored. If the water doesn’t clear, let it sit for 1 to 2 hours and then run the cold tap again. Sometimes it might take longer for the water to clear. If your water remains discolored for an extended period of time, please contact the Operations Response Center at (206) 386-1800.

Click to learn more about discolored water.

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