Water Quality FAQ

A limited number of District customers have recently called about discoloration in the water.

Why is my water dark brown?

Brown water results from an increase of iron and manganese, both of which are naturally occurring in groundwater and may settle in the pipes and pose no health risks. Due to the drought, the District is relying on groundwater which is very hard and contains a number of minerals. Sometimes when the minerals travel through the system the water becomes discolored.  These changes in appearance tend to occur when wells have been taken offline temporarily for maintenance or repair, or immediately following unforeseen power outages or power surges.

What can I do to fix this?

Don’t run or use any water for 1 to 2 hours to allow the sediment to settle out.  After 1 to 2 hours turn on your hose halfway (so it flows at a lower 10-15 gallons per minute) and put the water on your plants or lawn for a couple of minutes until the water runs clear.  This will help keep sediment from being pulled indoors.  If the water has not cleared up, please call the District at (805) 964-6761 for further assistance.  If water is clear, turn off the hose, and then turn on the inside faucets, flush toilets, etc. until the water inside runs clear. If you do not have a hose or outdoor spigot, wait an hour for sediment to settle and flush by turning on your indoor faucets. 

Is the water safe to drink?

Yes, the water meets all State and Federal primary (health) drinking water standards.  That said, we know our customers expect better and we agree. As soon as an issue develops in the system our operators work to isolate the problem and correct it, even if it means flushing the distribution line or taking a well offline.

How do you know it is safe?

In order to ensure that tap water is safe to drink, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) strictly regulate water provided by public water systems. Our State-Certified water treatment facilities monitor your water quality around-the-clock, and the District conducts thousands of tests each year using automated test equipment that continually analyzes water at different steps in the treatment process. Testing is conducted in our own laboratory and by independent state-certified laboratories.  Analysis of the District’s water quality testing is reported in the annual Consumer Confidence Report, which is available online and mailed to customers each spring.  In the case of iron and manganese, the State and Federal government regulate them as a secondary standard, meaning that they do not present a health risk so much as a cosmetic issue.   

What can I do about my ruined laundry?

Various commercial rust remover products such as RoVer®, Rit Rust Remover®, Iron-Out®, Miracle-Rid-Iron®, or Whink® can be used to remove any stains from clothing or fabric that result from the iron and manganese in the water.  If your property was damaged as a result of iron or manganese rust in your water, the District may reimburse you for costs associated with that damage.  To submit a claim for property damage related to iron or manganese rust, please contact District customer service for a claim form.  Please include with the claim form photos of the damage and any receipts or invoices you may have to establish the value of the damaged property.  Additionally, the District may ask you to bring in the damaged item so please hold on to it and do not throw it away.

Why didn’t the District notify me?

Unlike an outage for service or repair, the filter failure and the power outage were not planned.  There was no way for the District to notify customers in advance in these instances.


So is brown water normal now?

No. While being reliant on groundwater (vs. Lake Cachuma water) makes these types of problems likelier to occur, they are not considered normal. The District policy is to flush the line until the water clears.  This typically requires turning on the faucets in your home and running the water for five to ten minutes until it is clear.  However, as the drought has gone on and the groundwater table has declined, water quality concerns are likely to be an issue until the end of the drought. We understand the inconvenience to customers, and appreciate your patience during this drought emergency.

For more information on water quality issues related to groundwater, click here