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Copper pipe corrosion

Copper pipe corrosion

Copper pipes can be affected by corrosion, resulting in the release of copper into your drinking water affecting its quality.

More than 90% of all Australian buildings use copper pipes and fittings for their internal plumbing. Copper corrosion is a worldwide problem. It can discolour water and its cause is unclear.

Is copper harmful?

Copper is not harmful to healthy adults, unless it is consumed in high quantities over a period of time. The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) state that the level of copper in drinking water should be less than two milligrams per litre. This is equivalent to approximately 5ml in an Olympic size swimming pool.

North East Water is committed to providing high quality drinking water. Our extensive monitoring program ensures that water complies with the Safe Drinking Water Act 2003 and the ADWG.

Water left standing or without flow in household pipes for long periods of time can cause high copper levels.

How can I tell if copper levels in my water are elevated?

  • Cloudy, blue or blue-green water coming from the cold water tap.
  • Low levels of copper usually leave a green/blue stain on taps, pipes, hand basins, showers or toilets. There is no bitter or metallic taste and this water is still safe to drink.
  • High levels of copper usually leave a metallic or unpleasant bitter taste. This water may not be safe to drink. Advice on the condition of your pipes should be sought from your plumber.

How can I check for copper pipe corrosion?

You will need: A white ice-cream container.

Run two or three litres of water, at full flow, into the container.

Let it stand for a few seconds.

If the water appears blue or cloudy blue, or has blue particles present, elevated copper levels may be present.

What can I do about it?


  • Turn the tap on at full pressure for 30 seconds.
  • Re-test the water using a white container.
  • Keep flushing the tap until the water is clear.


  • Contact a licensed plumber for an assessment.
  • In some cases, you may need to consider replacing the affected pipe or fittings.

Other impacts of copper corrosion?

Copper corrosion can also lead to ‘pitting’, which involves water leaking through small pin-sized holes in the pipe.

North East Water is responsible for maintaining the quality and safety of the water supply up until your water meter. The construction and maintenance of plumbing within your property (after the water meter) is the responsibility of the property owner.