The drinking water taste test

Most of us take drinking water for granted, and it’s rare that we give a thought to the quality of the stuff that comes out of our taps. By tasting your water and knowing what to taste for, you can determine what’s really in it – and what to do about it.

A “rotten egg” aftertaste indicates the presence of sulphur in the water, while a slightly alkaline, chemical aftertaste may mean it contains high concentrations of chlorine. A metallic taste, meanwhile, is likely to be to do with your plumbing – it may come from washing machines or other appliances plumbed in close to drinking water taps. Similarly, a “rubbery” taste can come from rubber washers.

An earthy or musty taste and smell can be down to peaty land in your local area, which the water passes through before it gets to your taps. Bacteria and algae in rivers and reservoirs can also make water taste like this. Your local water treatment works is supposed to get rid of this, but they don’t always do it thoroughly – although it may be down to your taps. See if washing the inside and outside of the tap with a mild household disinfectant gets rid of the taste.

While not harmful in themselves – chlorine is added by water companies as a disinfectant for example – these flavours can be unpleasant and there’s no need to let them spoil a perfectly good glass of water. You can reduce the chlorine taste somewhat by letting a jug stand in the fridge overnight, but a better solution is to use a water filter to remove the contaminants altogether.

Finally, if you really are concerned about the quality of your drinking water you should always inform your supplier as soon as possible. Though thankfully very rare in this country, contamination can occur – in particular watch out for a “petrol” taste that can indicate serious oil contamination.

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