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What's in my water?

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Curious to know what’s in your tap water? Here’s everything you need to know.

What does my water contain?

Tauranga’s water supply contains the following:

Fluoride 

Council will be adding fluoride to Tauranga’s water supply from September 2024, following a negotiated directive from the Ministry of Health. 

More information on fluoride

Silica

Is present in all natural water. Silica leaches out of volcanic rocks and soils and our aquifer fed source waters have a higher silica level than many New Zealand rivers with about 35 to 50 mg/l of reactive silica. Silica at these levels is safe for individuals of all ages to drink. Silica can form deposits on glass shower walls, kettles and toilets that look like white cloudy lines. This happens when water evaporates, increasing the silica concentration, and often occurs when water is heated. To prevent silica deposits, wipe down wet surfaces immediately after use. Silica scale can sometimes be removed by scouring the surface with a suitable cleaning product.

Natural taste and odour

Our spring-fed water has a slight natural smell due to plants and algae growing in the streams. Our purification/treatment process removes most of this odour and it’s rarely detected in cold water. But if you are accustomed to the taste and smell of drinking water elsewhere, you may notice a difference. Carbon filters can be used to remove any taste/odour or you can try keeping a jug of tap water in the fridge to minimise any issue.

Air bubbles

These harmless bubbles make the water look cloudy or white when it flows out of your taps. It occurs when air is trapped in the water mains or during summer months when there’s an increase in water demand. Allow the water to stand for a few minutes and the air bubbles will disappear from the bottom of the glass upwards. If the water remains cloudy, contact council.

Chlorine

A small amount of chlorine is added to Tauranga’s drinking water supply to ensure the water is kept safe on its journey from the treatment plants through the pipe network to your tap. Most people don’t notice any taste or smell but if you do, you can use a water filter to remove it. Or keep a jug of tap water in the fridge with the lid off.

View our water quality and testing reports

Potential water issues

There are several things that can affect the quality of water that comes out of your taps:

Why Pāpāmoa East water currently tastes and smells the way it does.

Some residents in Pāpāmoa East have contacted us to say that their water has a muddy/earthy taste and smell, and they have associated that with the water having dirt in it. The reason for the taste is actually due to the presence of two naturally occurring, harmless compounds in the source water, geosmin and 2-Methylisoborneol (MIB).

Geosmin and MIB compounds have an earthy taste and odour. Human noses and tastebuds can detect geosmin and MIB at extremely low concentrations, but they are not harmful at levels present in our water. Geosmin and MIB compounds are commonly found in surface water supplies such as rivers and lakes. They are generally more prominent in warmer months and some residents have contacted us to tell us that there has been a change in the smell and taste of the water as the weather warmed up.

Geosmin and MIB cannot be removed from water using normal treatment processes. Since becoming aware of the issue in December 2023 we have begun to dose the water with Powdered Activated Carbon at the inlet of the water treatment plant, which absorbs the geosmin and MIB. The activated carbon is then removed from the water in the remaining treatment process. At the present we’re fine tuning the activated carbon dosing process to try and further reduce the taste and smell issues.

Geosmin and MIB can be detected at very low concentrations, and certain people are more sensitive to it than others. Chilling the water and adding ice cubes has helped some people notice a reduction in the taste and smell of geosmin and MIB.

We know that the water at times is not pleasant to drink, but geosmin and MIB is not harmful to people or animals, and our water is regularly tested to ensure that it meets Taumata Arowai’s quality assurance rules and the New Zealand drinking water standards.

What are geosmin and MIB?

Geosmin and 2-Methylisoborneol (MIB) are naturally occurring compounds present in our source waters that have an earthy/musty taste and odour. An increase in geosmin and MIB typically happens during the summer and goes away again when the weather cools down.

What causes increased levels of geosmin and MIB?

Some kinds of algae and/or bacteria present in rivers and lakes naturally produce geosmin and MIB. An increase in this production typically happens during the warmer months.

What are the effects of geosmin and MIB?

Geosmin and MIB do not pose a public health risk, but their presence can cause concern about the quality of drinking water. Utilities around the country may receive high numbers of customer complaints whenever geosmin or MIB is present in their water supply. Although these compounds are harmless, the human senses of taste and smell are extremely sensitive to them and can detect them in the water at concentrations as low as five parts per trillion (nanograms per litre). This is equivalent to 1 teaspoonful in 200 Olympic swimming pools of water.

What can be done about geosmin and MIB?

Council has begun to monitor for geosmin and MIB in the Waiãri drinking water supply. Activated carbon is effective in reducing taste and odour issues, and we have recently started to add it to the treatment process in response to the presence of these compounds in the Waiāri source water. We are taking additional steps to improve the Powered Activated Carbon dosing system at the Waiãri Treatment Plant. Operating staff perform periodic odour tests to attempt to detect unusual odours at various treatment stages in the plant. If any unpleasant tastes or odours are detected in the filtered or finished water, the carbon dosage can be increased to remove these taste and odour compounds, that may be entering the plant.

Can I do anything to make my water taste better?

Chilling the water and adding ice cubes has helped some people notice a reduction in the taste and smell of geosmin and MIB. We know that the water at times is not pleasant to drink, but geosmin and MIB is not harmful to people or animals, and our water is regularly tested to ensure that it meets Taumata Arowai’s quality assurance rules and the New Zealand drinking water standards.

Plumbosolvency

If water is left sitting for several hours in your household plumbing fittings, small amounts of heavy metals from these fittings can end up in your water. Heavy metals commonly dissolved in drinking water include lead, nickel, cadmium and copper. To avoid consuming these metals, we recommend flushing your drinking water taps (about one large glass or 500ml of water) each morning or if you’ve been away from home for a long period of time.

Discoloured water

Sediment in pipes can sometimes be disturbed during annual water main scouring or fire hydrant flushing or when we experience a large water pipe break. This can result in orange or brown-coloured tap water. To fix this, turn your outside taps on for several minutes to flush any sediment (or white air bubbles) out of the system. Once it becomes clear, check inside cold taps before trying hot taps. View current water shutdowns.

Black specks

If you see black specks in your water, this is a sign your hose and pipe fittings are worn and breaking down. Contact your plumber to organise replacement.

Grit in your toilet

This is another maintenance issue and generally indicates a problem with your internal water pipes. Contact your plumber for advice.

Yellow or green coloured water

This can occur following high rainfall events when the dissolved organics in the water increase significantly. On occasions the organics produce a yellow or greenish tinge to the water.

Want to know more about drinking water standards?

Taumata Arowai’s Drinking Water Standards for New Zealand 2022 and their Drinking Water Quality Assurance Rules 2022 outline the criteria for determining whether a water supply is safe. We regularly monitor and test our water supply to make sure we meet these standards and rules.

Do you need help with a water issue?

Contact us today.

Tauranga City Council, Private Bag 12022, Tauranga, 3143, New Zealand |Terms of use|Privacy statement|Site map

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