Earthy or Musty

If your water tastes or smells earthy or musty, this could be caused by algae bacteria or other organic matter in the river or reservoir where your water comes from. You can find out more information below on why this is happening and what you can to to tackle the strange taste or smell.

  • Water that has an earthy or musty taste and/or smell could be caused by: 

    • Water passing through peaty land (typically moorlands)

    • Harmless bacteria and algae naturally present in lakes, reservoirs and rivers

    The concentrations found of these naturally occurring compounds are not harmful to health.  

    Our water treatment works are designed to remove the organic material that causes these tastes.

  • Sometimes a musty or earthy taste and/or smell is due to a household cause such as: 

    • Water left standing in your household pipes for a long period of time

    • Organisms that can grow on washers, inside your pipes and inside your taps

    • Certain pipework material or hot and cold pipes running adjacently can cause an abnormal increase in bacterial growth 

    • Blocked waste pipework, which can cause smells from your sink plughole which only appear when you run the tap

    Did you know that taps are a common area for bacteria to build up and may in turn influence your water taste and smell?


    • If it’s first thing in the morning or water has been standing in your pipes for several hours or more, try filling a washing-up bowl with water to draw fresh water through the pipe – why not use the water in the bowl for watering plants? You should notice a slight change in the temperature of your water when the water has been cleared from your system.

    • Try using a mild household disinfectant to wash outside and inside your drinking water tap. Don’t forget to let it run a little before you use it again, to rinse out the disinfectant.

    • Fill a glass or jug with water, move to another room and check whether the smell is still present from the water.  If there is now no smell, then check the plughole for any blockages.

    • Make sure that all your fittings are Water Regs UK approved, which are tested to ensure that they do not cause taste, smells or encourage bacterial growth. 

Does your water taste/smell earthy or musty?

Watch WaterSafe's video to find out how you can tackle the taste and smell of earthy or musty tap water.