NMB Water Crisis: Your water is back on, but it’s brown

As water supply slowly returns to normal across Nelson Mandela Bay due to a dedicated team that worked around the clock for three days to restore the burst Churchill Pipeline, there have been a number of  people asking about the discoloured tap water coming out of their pipes and whether it is safe to drink.

Brown, red, orange, or yellow water is predominantly caused by rust in the water. The different colors can be attributed to varying chemical oxidation states of the iron and by varying concentrations of the rust in the water.

Under pressure in the mains, air can become trapped causing water to have a milky white appearance when drawn from the tap. This often happens following repairs to fractured water mains. If your water is milky, allow it to stand for a few minutes and it should clear from the bottom up.

There are two major sources that can cause water to be rusty, namely the water mains or the water pipes in your house, apartment, or business.

Due to the rerouting of water from areas that were not affected by the burst pipeline, as well as the recharging of the system now that the pipeline has been fixed, there has been a lot of unusual flow of water through the mains.

This causes sediment in the pipes to become disturbed and temporarily suspended in the water causing a brown, red, orange, or yellow color. This type of disturbance usually lasts for approximately two to four hours after which time the sediment will settle out and the water will clear.

This discolored water is not a health threat. If you, your child, or your pet happen to drink some of the discolored water, it will not make you sick.

However, as the rust can stain clothing, it is best to wait several hours for the water to clear before doing any laundry.

Also, try not to use any hot water as you may draw this rusty water into your geyser, which may have to be flushed out later.

If you were doing laundry when the water became discolored, rewash the laundry later when the water clears. Use a rust stain remover or regular detergent.

DO NOT USE CHLORINE BLEACH. Chlorine reacts with iron and can form a permanent stain.

The following are some common indications that the problem is coming from the water distribution system:

  • The water was clear earlier but suddenly became discolored.
  • Only the cold water is discolored.
  • The water is discolored at all of the water faucets on the property and does not clear or improve after the water has been run for several minutes.

Some common indications that the problem is coming from the customer’s plumbing include:

  • The water is discolored every morning or when first used after several hours of disuse.
  • The water clears after it has run for a few minutes.
  • The discoloration is only at one or several faucets, but not all of them.
  • The discoloration is only in the hot water.