Why does my water sometimes look brown or yellow on first draw?

The internal plumbing of your house is likely the culprit if discolored water appears only for a minute or two after you turn on the tap. Many houses have galvanized iron pipes, when the zinc coating on the inside of galvanized iron pipe wears thin, the water becomes discolored as it comes in contact with bare iron. The longer the water sits in the pipes, the worse the discoloration will be. That is why this problem is most noticeable the first time you turn on the tap in the morning. If only a few taps are affected, only a portion of your internal plumbing has galvanized pipe.

After running your tap for a few minutes, clean water from the water main will replace the discolored water. If the discoloration bothers you, however, flush the tap until the water becomes clear and save the water for iron-loving plants. 

Why is my water constantly brown or yellow?
Light yellow to dark brown water is typically caused by a disturbance of pipeline sediments in the water main.

If the water’s speed becomes great enough, iron and manganese sediment lying on the bottom of the mains may get stirred up, resulting in discolored water. Any of the following circumstances may have created flow reversals or increased speeds in the water mains causing sediment to be disturbed:

  • The discolored water may be due to planned cleaning of the water main to remove pipeline sediments in your area.
  • A nearby water hydrant may have been knocked over due to a vehicle collision or maybe in use.
  • There may be some pipeline repair work (or construction activity) in the area and some valves may have been closed for this work.
  • Valve turning, routine maintenance, or main breaks.
  • Extremely high system demands or the start-up or shutdown of water treatment facilities.

Despite its appearance, this does not indicate that the water is unsafe or that the integrity of the water main has been compromised. A disinfectant residual is maintained at all times to ensure that the water is safe for household use, including cooking and drinking.