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The taste, odour and appearance of your drinking water may vary at different times of the year due to events such as spring runoff. A change in the appearance of your drinking water does not mean it is unsafe to drink. On this page, find answers to common drinking water questions about taste, odour and appearance. If you have any other questions about the taste, smell or odour of your water please call 311.

Why does my water smell musty or have an unusual odour?

If the musty odours occurs only at one faucet, the odour is related to something at or near the faucet. Try cleaning the drain, this often removes the odours. Please note unusual tastes or odours are aesthetic in nature and do not pose a health risk. In Calgary, our source water can experience elevated levels of geosmin, a harmless, naturally occurring compound, in the water in the late summer and early fall.  This can produce a temporary, earthy or musty change to the taste and odour of your water, but it remains safe to drink and continues to meet all guidelines set by provincial and federal health standards. Geosmin is harmless and does not require further treatment from a health standpoint, but the human nose is extremely sensitive to geosmin, which can be detected by some people at very low levels (as low as 5 parts per trillion). If you’re sensitive to the changes, we recommend keeping a pitcher of water with lemon slices in the fridge or using an activated charcoal filter (e.g. Brita filter) that will help absorb the geosmin, which affects the smell and taste.
Any differences in taste and odour will generally diminish into the fall as concentration levels of geosmin decrease in the source waters.

Sean Chu

Sean Chu arrived in Calgary from Taiwan in 1985 speaking not a word of English, and within 7 years he was a sworn officer with the Calgary Police Service. From that point on Sean worked with the Calgary Police Service as on Officer for 21 years in a number of roles until 2013.

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