Tap water have an earthy taste? Here’s what that is

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – Part of staying cool through the summer is to stay hydrated, but Sacramento residents may notice something off about the water coming out of their faucets.

“Typically, we’d see these kinds of complaints or start to receive these kinds of complaints at the end of the summer and the beginning of fall. Because of the hot and dry conditions we’re enduring right now, we’re starting to see them much earlier than we normally would,” said Sacramento Water Quality Superintendent Mark Severeid.

Severeid says the earthy or musty taste happens every year and stems from a bacteria byproduct called geosmin which can be found in the city’s two main water sources.

“The Sacramento River and the American River and we get about 80% of our water from those two rivers,” Severeid explained. “Unfortunately the treatment processes don’t remove geosmin, the taste and odor-causing compound. They’re not designed to remove it from the water.”

Even though it’s not a pleasant treat for the tastebuds, geosmin is not harmful to humans and can be masked by chilling water or using fresh lemon.

But bacteria in the rivers isn’t the main concern this summer.

“This is one of the driest years on record,” said Brett Ewart, senior engineer for the city of Sacramento.

After seeing the dire conditions of Folsom Lake, Ewart said water conservation is the top priority, and the city of Sacramento’s Department of Utilities is starting with the lower American River, which is too warm and too low this season.

“We might pump 40 to 50,000 acre-feet — that’s a typical unit for like a year from the lower American River, treat it, and distribute it to customers,” Ewart explained. “This year we think we can drop close to say 25 or 27,000 by reducing diversion from the lower American River. More customers will be receiving groundwater or Sacramento River water rather than the water treated at the Fairbairn Water Treatment Plant.”

Ewart says it’s imperative that people follow the water restrictions set in place throughout the city this summer, and residents whose drinking water has an off-color or is making them sick should report it to Sacramento’s Water Quality Division at 916-808-5011.

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