Why Is My Tap Water Cloudy, Not Clear?

Are you getting cloudy, milky-looking water coming out of your tap? This is a common problem. Let’s troubleshoot it.

There could be a number of things happening with your water, but with some patience it should be easy enough to figure out what’s happening, or at least rule out some things before calling in outside help.

If the water coming out of your faucet appears cloudy, the first thing you should do is run some into a clear glass and let it sit. Over the next minute or two, observe what happens. Does the milky, opaque look clear from the bottom up, leaving you with a perfectly clear glass of water? This means that the lack of clarity was caused by air and it’s totally healthy and fine to drink. This is the most common cause of cloudy water and while it’s annoying, it’s nothing to worry about.

If the water doesn’t clear or the contents starts to settle to the bottom of the glass then you have sediment in the water. This may or may not be something you want to drink, and you should explore water filtering. If you are concerned with the source of the sediment, then you should consider water testing as well.

If you are in an area where there is drilling for oil or natural gas then your water might contain methane. Methane has no smell so it’s not easy to detect, but it is flammable so you definitely do not want it in your water. Luckily, this is relatively rare and localized to areas where it’s often a known issue. Water that contains methane needs to be aerated before it’s used in a household. We’d recommend consulting a profession for advice on this procedure.

For the most part, cloudy tap water is nothing to worry about. If you are concerned and the problem doesn’t fix itself quickly (especially by letting the glass sit), then speaking with a plumber is always a good option. In the case of sediment in the water you can purchase a filter or filtration system for your home, but ideally you’d be able to figure out the source of the sediment as well as addressing the water quality before consumption.

To clear up any confusion, cloudiness in water is often referred to as turbidity, but specifically generally concerns itself with particulate in the water, not air that will quickly dissipate. Turbidity is measured in Formazin Turbidity Units (FTU) or the ISO equivalent of FNU (Formazin Nephelometric Units). In the US home should have an NTU lower than 1.0 while processing plants must maintain a rating at or below 0.3 NTU in 95% of test samples. The World Health Organization advises on a NTU measurement of under 5.0 but recommends ideal conditions of under 1.0 NTU.