Help and advice

Tastes and smells

Tastes and smells

Clean, clear and great tasting

Our sense of taste and smell has developed over time to let us know if there is something not quite right with the food we eat and water we drink.

How water tastes is a very personal thing and your view about what tastes or smells good and bad will influence what you think about the water we provide to you.

To most people, pure water with nothing else in it does not taste nice - it tastes ‘flat’. Typically, water with mineral content tastes a lot better; water which is slightly alkaline tastes sweeter, and slightly acidic water tastes bitter.

The water we provide to you has to pass many tests, including taste and odour tests, to make sure there is nothing wrong but there isn’t a ‘niceness’ test. Once the water is piped to your home in tip top condition, a number of things can affect the smell or taste of the water, for example the plumbing system in the home.

The information below can help you understand if the issue you are experiencing is being caused by the water supply system, or by something happening within your home. The following advice will help you keep your water in excellent condition.

We have prepared some information on specific issues to help you understand the problem and the solution in more detail. Please click on any of the documents below to read more:

Is this a recent or sudden change to your water, or have you recently moved house?

We have over 30 treatment works supplying the area we serve. Some use river water, some reservoir and some take water from the aquifers in the ground. All of the water we supply is treated to be a higher standard, than the standards we are asked to meet by our regulators.

As our waters come from different places and take different journeys to get to you, you may notice differences if you have moved house or if we have changed the supply to your area.

These small differences are perfectly normal as we can and do change supplies from time to time to manage our stocks and also to allow us to maintain the water supply system.

If you have moved house or come back from holiday and the house has stood empty for some time then the water will be stale and you may notice a metallic or musty taste or smell. Run the cold taps to flush the system to clear the old water away.

If the house is in a different area you may find there is a chlorine taste or smell as the levels change from area to area. The chlorine level also changes seasonally, and we manage this to try to keep the customer experience of the water the same all year round, but there is variation and some customers are sensitive to these small changes. Slight changes in chlorine are perfectly normal as there will be small changes from time to time.

If you have moved house and flushed old water away and still find the taste different, this could be due to the supply coming from a different source or route to your new home. You will find over time that your taste adjusts to your new water supply and you become used to this new taste.

Could plumbing be causing a change in taste or smell?

In our experience, a lot of customers report issues to us and we find the problem came from within the home, rather than the water supply.

If the answer to any of the following questions is yes, it is highly likely the plumbing is causing the issue:

Have you had a new kitchen installed?
Have you had a new tap/sink fitted?
Have you plumbed in a washing machine or dishwasher?
Have you had a leak and replaced any water pipes under the kitchen sink?

To keep your water in excellent condition we recommend:

• Plumbed in appliances, such as washing machines or dishwashers, have a non-return valve fitted to stop backflow.
• Approved plastic hose connections and seals to stop reactions causing problems (look for the kitemark or BS6920).
• ‘Filling loops’ on combi boilers are protected by a double non-return valve to stop backflow.
• Any filters, softeners or scale eliminators are fitted after the drinking water tap.
• You check fuel or oil tanks stored on site as leaks (new and old) can leach chemicals through plastic water pipes.

Taste and smells

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    Antiseptic, medical or TCP smells or tastes

    This taste or smell is often described as medicinal, antiseptic, mouthwash or disinfectant. It can be described as having a chemical taste.


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    Bad drains, fishy or bad egg smells or tastes

    These tastes or smells are often caused by the sink waste pipes but can seem to be present in the water supply.


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    Chlorine smells or tastes

    The taste and smell of chlorine is often described as like bleach or a swimming pool.


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    Earthy, musty or stale smells or tastes

    This taste is often described as stale, peaty or like compost.


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    Metallic or bitter smells or tastes

    This taste or smell is often described as being metallic, bitter, inky or like blood.


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    Petrol or diesel smells or tastes

    This taste is often described as being like fuel, solvents, white spirit or creosote.



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