Taste and Odor

Occasionally you might notice a taste or odor in your water that isn’t normally there. What does it mean?

Taste and Odor Sources

Drinking water for Salt Lake County comes from various ground and surface water sources. Drinking water captured in local reservoirs from snowmelt and rainfall can naturally develop tastes and odors. The most common of these in our area are a chlorinous or "swimming pool" odor, and a musty or "earthy" taste and/or odor.

Types of Tastes and Odors

Chlorine must be added to surface water during the treatment process as a disinfectant against any potential disease-causing organisms. There are also significant public health advantages in maintaining a residual amount of chlorine all the way to customers’ taps. Some individuals are more sensitive to chlorine than others and can detect a chlorinous or medicinal taste or odor in the water at these low levels, especially when the water source has been recently changed.

Musty or earthy
An earthy or musty smell, particularly in warmer water, may be the result of an algal bloom in the surface water supply. Algae thrive at different times of the year in reservoirs. Although Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District’s treatment plants are able to remove the algae, some of their metabolites may be left behind. The most common metabolite in our water supply is geosmin. Even though geosmin is harmless, the human senses of taste and smell are extremely sensitive to it and some individuals can detect it in water at concentrations as low as 5 parts per trillion.

Other common odors you may occasionally notice in your tap water are fishy, grassy or marshy odors. These are also typically caused by a variety of compounds produced by different types of algae.

Monitoring and Treatment

We take samples on a regular basis to measure the concentration of taste- and odor-causing compounds.

Water treatment plants typically utilize chemicals or adsorbents such as powdered activated carbon, potassium permanganate, or ozone to control taste and odor problems so that the water meets taste and odor standards outlined by State and Federal regulations.

Be assured that in spite of occasional variations in taste or odor, your water meets the highest standards for drinking water. Please call the Jordan Valley Water Treatment plant at 801-446-2000 for more information about your water quality or send us an email by using our contact form by selecting "Water Quality" as the subject.