The Santa Clara Valley Water District is working to minimize what some residents in north, east, and south San Jose, Calif., may identify as a “dirt-like” taste or odor in their tap water. The water is safe to drink and meets all California drinking water standards; the earthy smell and taste are an aesthetic issue.
Because of the drought, there is less water coming into reservoirs, so water levels in the reservoirs are very low. The shallower water warms up more easily, especially with warm weather, and that promotes more algae growth. These conditions are also occurring in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, negatively affecting the water the county imports. Some algae produce compounds that cause the taste and odor that people can detect even at very low levels.
These taste and odor compounds are at high levels this year due to the drought, and the “dirt-like” taste or odor may last for a few weeks until the weather gets colder. The water district is focused on reducing the levels of these compounds in the drinking water by removing them at the water treatment plants.
In the meantime, chilling tap water before drinking is a good way to make taste or smell issues less noticeable. It is not necessary to boil water as the water is safe to drink and meets all state and federal public health standards.
As long as the drought continues, the district may continue to experience episodes of taste and odor issues with its water. The water district will strive to improve the taste and smell of the water.
Source: Santa Clara Valley Water District