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drinking water taste and odor

Preferences about taste and odor in drinking water vary widely.

However, some people may notice differences in City drinking water depending on several factors, including water source, time of year and temperature. 

Below are several frequently asked questions about City drinking water:


The City of Sacramento produces drinking water from two sources, surface water, such as the American and Sacramento rivers, and ground water wells that pump water from an underground layer of rock. 

Some customers may notice a change in taste when they receive treated water from a different source.

Why does my water taste or smell "earthy" or "musty"?

The City of Sacramento in late summer typically receives questions from customers about an "earthy" or "musty" taste and odor in their drinking water.

Before being treated, most drinking water in Sacramento is collected from the American and Sacramento rivers and more organic material is present in late summer.

The taste and odor are caused by those organic materials, which are not toxic or harmful.

People can detect one of those naturally occurring compounds, called Geosmin, at extremely low concentrations. Geosmin is also the compound that makes the air smell earthy after it rains.

The City's treatment process neutralizes the bacteria responsible for creating these compounds, but does not remove the compounds themselves.

  • WHAT TO DO: The water is safe to drink but if people find the taste unpleasant they can add lemon juice or chill their tap water before drinking.

Why does my water have a chlorine taste or smell? 

The City's treatment processes uses chlorine to neutralize harmful pathogens -- such as bacteria and parasites.

A small amount of chlorine in drinking water also helps to ensure the water remains clean as it travels in pipes to homes and businesses. 

Perception of a chlorine taste or odor can vary from person to person. It is also based on factors such as changes in source water or temperature. 

Chlorine dissipates over time and taste and odor are less pronounced in chilled water.

Chlorine levels are monitored 365 days a year.

  • WHAT TO DO: Chlorine taste and odor can be reduced by filling a pitcher with water and letting it sit. You can also put the pitcher in the refrigerator. 

Why is my water sometimes cloudy?

Typically, dissolved oxygen or air bubbles in your water can cause cloudy-looking water. There is no health risk. 
  • WHAT TO DO: Let your water sit so the air bubbles dissipate.