Brown water

Brown water (water with a brown, yellow or muddy appearance) can be caused by sediment and naturally occurring organic matter in the water main, or may be due to rust from old Galvanised Wrought Iron (GWI) internal piping. Sediment can be cleared by flushing the local water main, while brown water caused by rusting iron piping can be managed by flushing internal taps or seeking advice from a reputable, licensed plumber.

How to identify the cause?

To determine if the water discolouration is from internal piping or sediment from the water supply main, take two clean white plastic buckets (clean ice-cream containers are ideal) and fill one from the front garden tap and the second from the back garden tap.

If the front tap sample is brown/yellow in colour (when first drawn) then the pipe at the front tap could be GWI. Run this tap (at full flow) for about 2 minutes, then collect another sample in the white bucket. If the water eventually clears then the pipe is probably GWI and the quality of water supplied via the main is satisfactory.

If the sample taken from the back garden tap has a higher level of discolouration or sediment, it is most likely that rusting internal GWI piping is causing the problem. To confirm this, turn a tap on full for a few minutes. If the water clears, the colour or sediment is being caused by the piping.

Generally, the rusted piping will also impart an unpleasant taste on the water, particularly in tea and coffee, and could even lead to a reduction in a property's water pressure and flow. This is due to the fittings and pipes becoming choked with rust flakes and particles. Rusted GWI piping can also leave stains on washing.

The best solution to alleviate this problem is to replace the old pipes with new alternative material pipes. A licensed plumber can advise on the best course to take.

If the water cannot be cleared by turning a tap on full for a few minutes, or if the sample from the front garden tap continues to be brown/yellow (subject to the test above), the problem lies outside of the property with the water supply system. This can occur with courts or dead-end streets.

In most cases the problem will only exist for a short time. However if the problem persists, contact South East Water for investigation and rectification.

Note: Some customers who have recently replaced their internal piping with an alternative material may still have some small sections made from GWI that were too hard to access, such as elbows, joints or piping in concrete slabs or walls.