When is Brisbane’s water going to stop tasting ‘bloody disgusting’?

"I've been staunchly anti-bottle my whole life … But… This….. Urghhh. It makes me gag."

This comment from Anabell on a Brisbane community Facebook page sums up how many are feeling about the city's water at the moment.

"Tastes like crap," wrote another poster.

"It's just awful! Haven't had a decent cup of tea in the last two weeks," said Itsy.

Others describe it as tasting "muddy", "mouldy", "mildewy" and "bloody disgusting". 

Residents in parts of Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan and Redland City have reported awful-tasting water in recent weeks. So what's going on?

Why does Brisbane water taste like dirt right now?

As disgraced pop sensation Milli Vanilli once crooned: "blame it on the rain". 

Or more specifically, "recent weather conditions, including rainfall followed by warm temperatures, high levels of sunlight, and calm waters," according to Seqwater, Queensland's bulk water supply authority.

Those conditions have led to an increase in two naturally occurring organic compounds, MIB and Geosmin, in the raw water supply entering the Mount Crosby Water Treatment Plant. 

And those compounds cause the earthy taste.

Emeritus Professor Jurg Keller of the University of Queensland's Australian Centre for Water and Environmental Biotechnology says: "These are compounds that create naturally a strong sensory response in our noses/palates even at very low concentrations (typically only a few nanograms).

"The actual sensory response is that earthy smell."

So is the water dirty? The bad taste could be here for a few more weeks.(ABC News: Alice Pavlovic)

Professor Keller says no.

"These compounds are not 'dirt' and don't come from dirt either.

"They are actually produced by algae and/or photosynthetic bacteria, which is why they tend to be more prevalent during summer with more sunlight and higher water temperatures."

So why are some people reporting dirty-looking water to go along with the bad taste?

"If there is a tinge of colour in the water as well, then that may be caused by other compounds, like humic substances, that do actually originate from organic/plant matter breaking down, and hence more 'dirt-like' substances," Professor Keller explains.

"But they do not cause the taste or smell, they just cause that brownish colour in the water.

"They are not dangerous either, and in many ways similar to the tannins we have typically in some rivers or lakes which have catchments with high vegetation cover, for example Noosa River or Brown Lake on Straddie."

Is the water safe to drink?

It may taste like the dank stuff at the bottom of your vegetable crisper, but it's not going to hurt you. 

"Both MIB and Geosmin are safe to drink and are not harmful," Seqwater said in a statement.

"Drinking water is constantly monitored and continues to meet the stringent health requirements of the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines."

When will this nightmare end?

In a matter of weeks, says Seqwater, which is moving water around the south-east Queensland water grid.

"Seqwater is taking steps to reduce the change as much as possible, by moving water around the SEQ Water Grid and making additional releases from Wivenhoe Dam.

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"The additional releases … are minor and flowing downstream to the Mount Crosby Water Treatment Plant, to help 'turnover' the raw water and lower the compound levels.

"The water will return to its usual taste and odour, however, it may take a few weeks, depending on weather conditions."

Professor Keller agrees that it could take a while.

"It will take some time to diminish as these compounds are likely continuously still produced in different reservoirs and dams.

"It will also depend on many other factors, like storms that can turn over the water in the dams rapidly that may help, or make the situation worse, depending on what's the status of the water column at the time."

Is there anything I can do to make it taste less gross? Seqwater suggests chilling the water to mask the taste.(ABC News: Alice Pavlovic)

Seqwater suggests cooling it down, though some on social media say this just makes it taste like "chilled mud".

It also says to try adding a slice of lemon or another fruit. 

Social media users have suggested adding lime cordial or just drinking gin instead (not recommended for children).

Others say water filters can help.

"Some water filters that contain activated carbon will be able to reduce these compounds somewhat, but it depends on how well the removal capacity is still in these filters," Professor Keller says.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

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