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Water quality FAQ

Water quality FAQ

Everything you need to know about water quality.

What is safe drinking water?

Safe drinking water is free of harmful concentrations of chemicals or pathogenic microorganisms. The Safe Drinking Water Act 2003 places obligations on North East Water and other Victorian Water Corporations to provide safe, good quality drinking water.

How do I know that my drinking water is safe to drink?

Contaminated water may not look, taste, or smell different to safe drinking water. This is why monitoring and testing of water is so important. The Safe Drinking Water Regulations 2015 require all Victorian Water Corporations to implement a monitoring program to ensure a safe drinking water supply and protect public health. Each year, we conduct over 50,000 tests at over 550 sites for nearly 300 parameters. We conduct daily operational testing and continuous online monitoring at our water treatment plants and our water storage tanks. In addition to this, compliance sampling and analysis is also conducted by an accredited independent laboratory. All of this data is closely monitored by our Drinking Water Quality team.

What happens when E. coli is detected in drinking water?

All E.coli detections are reported to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) as required under the Safe Drinking Water Regulations 2015. The response to an E.coli detection varies depending on site, system and sampling results. A boil water advisory may be issued in consultation with DHHS.

Why can I taste and/or smell chlorine in my drinking water?

Chlorine is added to drinking water to kill microorganisms (i.e. E. coli) that may be present. It is important that chlorine residual is maintained in the drinking water leaving the plant to prevent microorganisms from regrowing in the distribution system. Some people may detect this chlorine residual through smell or taste. The chlorine concentration is generally very low (less than 1 part per million) and can be reduced further by letting the water sit in the fridge in an open jug for a short period prior to consumption.

Is fluoride added to my drinking water?

Fluoride is currently added to drinking water supplies at Wodonga (including Baranduda, Ebden, Kiewa, Tangambalanga, Killara, Bonegilla, Barnawartha, Chiltern and Springhurst), Wangaratta (including Glenrowan), Yarrawonga (including Bundalong, St. James, Tungamah, Devenish and Goorambat) and Benalla. Fluoride is added to drinking water as directed by the Victorian Government and endorsed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). The Department of Health and Human Services is the responsible authority in regards to information about fluoridation of water supplies in Victoria. More information can be found on the Department of Health and Human Services website or through their water fluoridation information line 1800 651 723.

Is aluminium monitored in my drinking water?

Aluminium based salts are used to aid the removal of particles in conjunction with filtration which also removes residual aluminium. North East Water tests for aluminium levels in drinking water and monitors results closely.

What is turbidity?

Turbidity is a measurement of the light scattering property of water. It is caused by the presence of fine suspended matter such as clay and silt and can result in the water having a muddy or milky appearance. Turbidity can shield microorganisms from disinfection so it is important that turbidity is low in drinking water. Turbidity reduction most commonly occurs via coagulation, clarification and filtration water treatment processes.

What should I do if my water is dirty?

Water can become discoloured for a number of reasons, including the disturbance of sediments within water mains due to water main breaks. Our distribution systems are flushed routinely as part of our preventative maintenance program. Discoloured water can also arise due to the condition of private service pipes or internal plumbing, particularly in older properties. If your water is dirty, we suggest that you run at least two taps (such as your garden taps) for a few minutes until the water clears – dirty water can be reused on the garden. If the water does not clear up within a reasonable amount of time, then we suggest that you call North East Water on 1300 361 622 for assistance.

What should I do if my water is milky coloured or has air in it?

A milky or white appearance may indicate the presence of air in your water – similar to the air created by a tap with a diffuser fitted. This air is harmless and will usually settle out if left to stand in a jug or container. We suggest that you run at least two taps (such as your garden taps) for a few minutes until the water runs clear – water can be reused on the garden. If the water does not clear up within a reasonable amount of time, then we suggest that you call North East Water on 1300 361 622 for assistance.

Why does my water taste or smell earthy or musty at times?

Geosmin and 2-Methylisoborneol (MIB) are two commonly occurring natural substances found in water sources that are likely to affect the taste and odour of our drinking water. These organic compounds have a very strong, earthy taste and odour. The compounds can be produced by certain types of algae, cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), bacteria and sometimes protozoa, and can be smelled at very low concentrations (in the parts-per-trillion range). The compounds are generally present in drinking water but below noticeable levels. Unfortunately, traditional treatment processes do not fully remove these taste and odour compounds.

Geosmin and MIB can become an aesthetic issue for customers when concentrations are greater than 10 nanograms (one millionth of a milligram) per litre. Some of North East Water’s supply sources are more prone to Geosmin and MIB and are therefore monitored regularly. It is important to remember that while Geosmin and MIB can cause objectionable taste and odour, the water is safe to drink.

Do algae blooms affect my drinking water?

Some algae can produce taste, odour and toxic compounds. Blue-green algae are naturally occurring bacteria found in waterways and storages. Warm, slow flowing water and increased nutrient concentrations provide optimum conditions for algae to grow and cause blooms. North East Water has treatment barriers and processes in place to remove algae cells and chemical compounds. For more information, see the Fact Sheet.

What causes blue staining of baths and basins?

Blue or bluish-green staining is often an indicator of elevated copper levels and is often caused by age and corrosion in customers' pipes. North East Water monitors for copper levels and has consistently low copper results in all systems. Advice on customers' pipe condition should be sought from your plumber.

Information on copper pipe corrosion can be found here.

What causes pink staining of baths and basins?

Pink stains can sometimes occur in warm, moist conditions and are produced by airborne bacteria which can colonise and grow on surfaces such as tiles, shower heads, toilet bowls and basins. These bacteria, which produce a pink pigment, occur naturally in the environment and do not come from the mains water supply. They are a common domestic problem and frequent cleaning of a surface that is prone to pink staining with a chlorine-based disinfectant will remove and control the problem. In addition, keeping affected surfaces wiped down and dry, and regularly washing of shower curtains, will minimise the problem.

What is water hardness and how does it affect my dishwasher?

Water 'hardness' is a measure of calcium and magnesium salts in water. Hardness can affect the performance of dishwashers and is often referred to by dishwasher manufacturers. For more information on water hardness and your dishwasher, see this fact sheet

Is the water in my rain water tank safe to drink?

The quality of water in rain water tanks can be highly variable. More information on rain water tanks and drinking water is available at the Department of Health and Human Services website.

Is it safe to use tap water in my fish tank or pond?

Fish and other aquatic organisms are sensitive to chlorine in their environment. Treated drinking water should not be directly added to your aquarium or pond without prior treatment to remove chlorine. Further advice can be sought from your local pet shop.

What are the water characteristics for beer brewing?

The natural presence of ions in drinking water can affect the beer brewing process. By understanding these characteristics, brewers can improve and fine-tune the brewing process. For a summary of key parameters, see this fact sheet.

Want further information?

Call our water quality team on 1300 361 622 for further information.