Water Quality Concerns

The Public Utilities Department strives to provide Athens-Clarke County with the highest quality of clean, safe drinking water. Every year, the Water Resources Center's laboratory conducts thousands of tests to ensure the water leaving the J.G. Beacham Drinking Water Treatment Plant complies with all state and federal drinking water guidelines.

Despite our best efforts, there are rare occasions when the water entering your home does not meet the utility's or your expectations. For example, routine fire hydrant flushing, a water main break, or the repair of a damaged fire hydrant can result in discolored water at the faucet. If the water entering your home does not meet your expectations, please see below for possible answers and DIY solutions to many water issues. It is important to note that though aesthetically unappealing, these water quality concerns do not pose a health threat.  

If the solutions below do not resolve your water quality issue, please alert the utility to the problem and allow us to correct the issue.  Contact information is available at bottom of the page.  

What should I do if I have...

  1. Discolored Water
  2. Cloudy Water
  3. Chlorine Smell
  4. Pink Slime
  5. Sulfur Smell

Discolored Cold & Hot Water

If your both your cold and hot water contains a brown, red, orange, or yellow tint, an increase in minerals or other sediments in the water pipes is typically the cause. Sediment in water pipes can be disturbed in several ways including routine flushing of fire hydrants, a surge in water flow through the pipes, or repairs to a damaged hydrant or water line.  The work may disturb sediment and result in discolored water for customers.

What Should I Do?

Discolored water is not harmful, though it does look unappealing and could have an unpleasant taste. Customers who experience discolored water should run cold water for up to 30 minutes to help remove it from their lines.  Using discolored water to wash clothes can result in staining and is not advised. Those who continue to experience discolored water after running cold water should contact the Athens-Clarke County Public Utilities Department at 706-613-3495.

Discolored, brown water coming from a faucet

Discolored Hot Water

If you experience discolored water when running the hot faucet only, the likely cause is a build-up of sentiment in your water heater tank.  

Another cause could be a corroding sacrificial anode rod in the water heater.  The rod is made of magnesium, aluminum, or zinc/aluminum mix.  It is designed to slow down corrosion and rusting in water heaters and extend its life. However, once the magnesium or aluminum from your anode is dissolved, the steel walls of your water heater will start to rust.  Rust-colored water and a metallic taste in the water can suggest it is time to replace this rod, which typically lasts for three to five years.

What Should I Do?

It is recommended homeowners flush the water heater tank once a year.  This process removes sediment from the tank to improve clarity and reduce the chances of stagnant water that can create odors.  Homeowners can flush their own water heater with a screwdriver, bucket, and hose.  See how to flush a water heater


Cloudy water, taste, smell, or general drinking water quality questions:
Drinking Water Treatment Plant

To report discolored water or questions:
Water & Sewer Division
Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Drinking Water Treatment Plant

Water Sampling & Testing
ACC Extension Office
For information about water sampling, please call Laura Ney at (404) 617-7209.