If Your Water Tastes Like This, Stop Drinking It, Experts Say

Get your water tested before continuing to drink it if it has this taste.

It's often assumed that the quality of the water coming out of your sink is safe to drink, but unfortunately, that's not always the case. And since you're consuming H20 every day—at least, we hope so—you want to be sure it's only doing your body good and not harm. But how do you know your water is safe to drink? According to experts, there are a few signs that your water could be contaminated, including the taste. To see what signals that you should get your water tested before continuing to drink it, read on.

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If your water tastes metallic, it could be contaminated.

woman drinking water at kitchen.
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Experts say that water should lack any flavor, so any notable taste could be a signal that something is off. However, Environmental Testing and Research Laboratories (ETR Labs) of Leominster, Massachusetts specifically notes that a metallic or bitter taste is a surefire sign that you should get your water tested for various chemicals. "If your water has a metallic or bitter taste, there's a high chance it may contain harmful substances, including but not limited to: medications, pesticides, and industrial chemicals," according to ETR Labs.

The most common metallic culprits found in water tend to be iron, lead, zinc, magnesium, or copper. While some of these are harmless in small doses, trace amounts of others can be toxic. "Usually, the causes might be from the water filtration system or from old rusting pipes. The second reason might be low pH in water," said Wayne Anthony, a water quality expert and founder of Water Filter Data. He says it's important to identify the cause of strange-tasting water and address it as soon as possible.

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You should also examine how your water looks and smells.

Close up of young man pouring fresh water from kitchen sink. Home interior.
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Taste isn't the only thing you should pay attention to when it comes to the quality of your water. ETR Labs suggests looking out for cloudiness in your water's appearance, the presence of sediment, strange colors, and a chlorine or sulfur scent. "Clean drinking water is always clear, no sediments, transparent, no scent, and especially lacks any taste," said Anthony.

"Changes in the taste or odor of your water should always be a sign to investigate further," says Michael Goldman, the president of water cooler company Aquaverve. He suggests talking with your water supplier, municipality, or local health department to see if they have an explanation for the changes in your water.

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You should also get your water tested if anyone in your household gets ill with no other known cause.

woman lying on couch with stomach cramps
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Senior scientist Chris Myers of Environmental Laboratories Inc. in Indiana says you should have your water tested any time "something is off," either to your eyes, nose, or mouth. He also notes that if a family member falls ill suddenly, especially with intestinal distress, it's worth getting your water tested.

Myers points out that testing "allows you to make informed decisions about water treatment solutions to reduce or eliminate your water contamination challenges" to help keep your family safe.

There are potential long-term health effects from drinking contaminated water, too.

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It's not just a stomachache you need to look out for. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to chemicals via drinking water can result in various short and long-term health effects.

"Exposure to high doses of chemicals can lead to skin discoloration or more severe problems such as nervous system or organ damage and developmental or reproductive effects," according to the EPA. The agency notes that smaller doses over a long period of time could lead to chronic, long-term conditions, including cancer.

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