Brown or discolored water? Boil water advisories? Here’s what you should know

Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 6:52 PM CST
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Turning on your faucet to get a drink of tap water or running your bath water and seeing brown or discolored water can be unsettling, but experts say it’s a natural occurrence.

Lucas Gregory, Ph.D., Assistant Director with the Texas Water Resources Institute at Texas A&M University, says the brown water is nothing to really be concerned about.

“Discolored water is not terribly uncommon,” said Gregory. “I mean, things happen periodically that causes those discolorations, so it’s not anything to be overly alarmed about.”

Gregory says the best course of action is to be patient and follow local water providers’ directions.

“Conserving water and allowing our supplies to catch back up is going to help resolve a lot of those problems,” said Gregory. “Just because we’ll be able to flush that system out and get any soil or other contaminants out of that system that may be causing that discolored water.”

Both the cities of College Station and Bryan say things like low water levels and rust sediments in the pipes are some of the main factors contributing to water discoloration.

Jayson Barfknecht, Public Works Director for the City of Bryan, says the discoloration could result from pumping over a million gallons of water an hour out to meet the demands of residents in the city.

“That increase in velocity in the pipes has probably stirred up some of the sediments and folks may see some discolored water,” said Barfknecht. “Over time, that will return to normal as the water usage goes back down and the sediment settles back out into the pipes.”

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Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator for the City of College Station, says the city has maintained pressure, and disinfectants are in place to keep water safe. She says the water comes out of the ground at 118 degrees Fahrenheit and is then cooled down to about 85 degrees. She says as the temperatures rise and more leaks occur, you may see more discolored water until the system is flushed.

“We expect, as things thaw out and as we see more leaks, that were going to get some more reports of discolored water,” said Nations. “So when we can start flushing to remove that, we’ll do that.”

Both Bryan and College Station cities say if you have discolored water for an extended period of time, you should contact your service provider.

Bryan and College Station officials say conserving water is helping restock their systems. Still, they are urging everyone to continue only using water for emergencies. Although other areas across the Brazos Valley are experiencing water boil advisories, officials say both cities are far from needing to do that.

“We have multiple wells that we don’t run all the time, but the smaller systems maybe don’t have as much backup, and so if they lose power to one of those or they only have one storage tank or something, you lose pressure to that system,” said Nations.

Nations says everyone should follow instructions provided by their utility company.

“If you pay your water bill to someone that is not College Station or not Bryan, pay attention to those instructions from those water utility providers. When they get information from the state when they can lift their boil water, they will communicate that to you,” said Nations

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