Dry conditions could cause an ‘earthy’ taste in drinking water. Here’s what you can do about it

The City recently has received calls from people about an “earthy” taste and odor to their drinking water.

Utilities staff say it’s a common — and harmless — occurrence.

Before being treated, most drinking water in Sacramento is collected from the American and Sacramento rivers and more organic material is present during dry summer months.

“The taste and odor are caused by those organic materials, which are not toxic or harmful,” said City Water Quality Superintendent Mark Severeid. “People can detect one of those naturally occurring compounds, called Geosmin, at extremely low concentrations. Geosmin is also the compound that makes the air smell earthy after it rains.”

The water is safe to drink but if people find the taste unpleasant they can add lemon juice or chill their tap water before drinking.

People can also contact City customer service if they have questions or concerns about their drinking water.

“We typically receive these calls in late summer or early fall but due to the dry conditions, river levels are lower and water temperatures are higher sooner than usual — causing more organic materials — so it’s not too surprising to get these calls now,” said Severeid.

Staff expect that future upgrades and expansions will enable City of Sacramento water treatment plants to remove taste- and odor-causing materials.

“Our ultimate goal is to provide the best tasting drinking water, regardless of the time of year,” said Pravani Vandeyar, the City’s drinking water manager.

People can find more information at the City’s water quality website or see how drinking water is produced in the video below.

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