Identifying Water Problems

Many water problems are easily identifiable because of their smell, habit of staining or inability to raise a lather (hardness). Other problems require the water to be analyzed in order to pinpoint the issue, such as bacteria, pH levels, and arsenic and other heavy metals.

The following chart gives some clues that you can use to try to determine what your water issues may be.



Issue is:


-red or brown stains on fixtures and clothing

-metallic taste

-build-up in pipes, resulting in corrosion and/or reduced pressure



-iron is dissolved in water and can appear colourless until it is exposed to air, which oxidizes it and settles it into pipes, etc.

-Chemical-free or greensand iron filters

-water softener

(Your water’s other properties will determine which option is right for you)

-black staining

-build-up in pipes, resulting in corrosion and/or reduced pressure



-is visually undetectable in water until it settles

-more difficult to oxidize than iron

-Chemical-free or greensand iron filters



-inability to work up a soap lather


-accelerates corrosion

-restricts flow

-reduces efficiency of water heaters


-is visually undetectable until it settles as calcium and mineral buildup on skin and surfaces

Water Softener

(ion exchange)

-chemical taste and odour common in municipal water systems

-colour and texture problems after washing hair

-skin sensitivity

-presence of trihalomethane


-chlorine residue has been linked to cancer

Activated Carbon Filtration

-visible particles in water

-excessive wear on valves, faucets and pumps


-inert impurities in the water such as sand, dust and grit

Whole-house or single-tap filtration

-possible gastro-intestinal illness

-rotting smell


-undetectable except by laboratory analysis

-can be fecal or total (non-fecal) coliform

-can be confused with sulphur

-ultra-violet sterilization

-chlorine injection

-ozone treatment

-flat (in low concentrations) or salty taste

-highly corrosive, resulting in premature failure of fixtures such as dishwashers, washing machines etc.

Sodium (Salt Water)

-under-counter reverse osmosis (R.O.) filtration for drinking water

-whole-house R.O. filtration

-obnoxious rotten egg smell

-highly corrosive

-inflammable and poisonous in high levels



-oxidation filtration

-chlorine injection

-greensand filter or

-activated carbon filtration, depending on concentrations


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