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chlorine in the water

By astrojax - 1 February 2010 26

is it just me, or is there an increased level of chlorine in the tap water recently?  

i give my ‘matoes and zucchini a watering can full of water from the back tap most mornings, and have recently acquired a stand-alone evaporative cooler which i fill using a bucket from the kitchen tap – in the past couple of weeks i have a heightened sense of the chlorine smell emanating from the filling of these vessels.

i wonder, is it something to do with the dry and my sense of smell, or has anyone else noticed – or do you know for a fact about – any increase in the chlorine levels in canberra’s water supply?

What’s Your opinion?

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26 Responses to
chlorine in the water
cleo 8:20 pm 01 Feb 10

I boil all my drinking water, especially with the lack of rain, also re-use drinking bottles

housebound 6:17 pm 01 Feb 10

Water quality depends a bit on where you are on the distribution line. Some people are unlucky enough to be in some strange place in the reticulation network (eg in a dead end) – they seem to have more instances of dirty (brown or black) water. This gives the brown-tinged washing, the brown bathwater, and the stained porcelain. These incidents are interspersed with clear, highly chlorinated water

Those (luck us) who are lucky enough to be somewhere else on the network have wonderful, clear, and relatively chlorine-free water. The only time we had the swimming-pool-smell was straight after the fires. I suspect we are so fa down the line, but still get a decent flushing through the mains, that the bad stuff has all dissipated before it gets to us.

Short story – we have great water, our friends don’t.

astrojax 5:02 pm 01 Feb 10

thanks bluebone, very useful.

also excellent advice re the permanent water bottle at my desk – i am a proslytiser for that. i have a bombay sapphire bottle that i kid myself actually turns the [chlorinated] tap water pouring forth into real gin. some days, i wish!

Gungahlin Al 4:50 pm 01 Feb 10

Dan, although I used to be a director on a water supply board, I’m not an expert in the processes themselves, plus it was 10 years ago.

You can tend to taste the activated carbon when it has to be used to help clear out blue-green algae. The carbon in your smaller filters is generally solid, whereas I think the carbon used in treatment plants is powdered. So a very small bit gets through, but that’s far better than the algae going untreated.

As for spirits filtering, I find the charcoal/carbon taste definitely comes through into the spirits, with quite differing tastes resulting from the type used. Hence why I always hated Beenleigh Rum (tasted like ash) and why the very dense redgum charcoal used in Bundy Red making it my new favourite drop…

Leon 4:35 pm 01 Feb 10

Chlorine in the water means that someone cares about its quality. That’s important in a country like Australia where you can get giardia from drinking town water – as happened to me once in Bateman’s Bay.

A simple way to get rid the chlorine smell is to leave it in a bottle in the fridge overnight.

BlueBone 3:55 pm 01 Feb 10

Danman is correct about activated carbon being used as a filter, in fact it is often used in the cartridge type water filters people install in their kitchen. He is also correct about chlorine being used to clean reservoirs and suburban pipe networks. Chlorine can be used to decontaminate reservoirs, but this is rarely required in Canberra.

Chlorine is added to our drinking water at the treatment plants at Stromlo and Googong as a disinfectant. It can react with naturally occurring organic substances in the water to produce chloramines and it can also exist as ‘free chlorine’. Occasionally there will be a higher residue than normal of free chlorine and this can detected in the smell and taste. If you fill a clear glass container and leave it in sunlight the free chlorine will completely dissipate. Levels of chloramine and free chlorine are routinely monitored and action is taken if the concentrations are unacceptable.

I worked in the water quality testing laboratory for many years and was involved in all aspects of sampling and testing water. I am often amazed by the rubbish I hear being spouted by the misinformed, possibly led by manufacturers of “pure” water systems and bottled water producers. Relax folks, this isn’t the 3rd world and your water supply is safe! Get yourself a permanent bottle and just fill it up from the tap rather than contributing to the waste in plastic bottles and incurring unnecessary expense. You have already paid for clean, safe water to be delivered to your house so why get it shipped from all over the country in a plastic bottle?

ACTEWAGL publish an annual report on water quality and the latest version can be found at

GardeningGirl 3:39 pm 01 Feb 10

The quality of Canberra’s water hasn’t been what it was for years (dirty water, strange smells, metallic flavour). I posted about a year ago about the strange black ring in my loo. Some days it reappeared within only a few hours of cleaning. One day last week I noticed a smell and I found it interesting that the same smell was present in a public building in the parliamentary triangle and in our house way out in the suburbs, as we obviously don’t get our water from the same reservoir.
A couple of days ago I noticed the chlorine smell.

sloppery 3:34 pm 01 Feb 10

I drink tap water every day, and haven’t noticed any change in taste at all.

Katietonia 3:01 pm 01 Feb 10

.. and my workmates mocked me when I told them I didn’t drink our tap water… at least I am not the only one.

Danman 2:47 pm 01 Feb 10

I have it on good authority that the chlorine you smell is as a result of regular cleaning of local suburban reservoirs. It has nothing to do with the levels of the dams pr any other mitigating factors.

Al, I thought activated carbon aka charcoal filter by nature is a purifier, and would only add to the LACK of taste in water. I was under the assumption that they have been using it to filter fine spirits for years.

happy to be corrected.

jay 12:29 pm 01 Feb 10

Glad ASTROJAX brought this up … I am down from Sydney (here 4 days a week in Parliament) and when I got in to the hotel last night to brush my teeth, I couldn’t believe the taste of chlorine!

Monster of the Deep 11:08 am 01 Feb 10

Drinking Canberra tap water makes the back of my throat sore and the fumes of the chlorine as you raise the glass to your mouth are really off-putting. Buying bottled water gets pretty expensive after a while – I might chase up a benchtop filter like Gungahlin Al suggests!

niftydog 10:51 am 01 Feb 10

Chlorine levels change all the time. The only time I’ve heard directly about it was during a Chief Stanhope talkback session following the 2003 fires. But you didn’t need His Chiefliness telling you they’d increased the chlorine dose because it was pretty obvious. It seems to me as if the levels have stayed pretty high ever since then.

troll-sniffer 10:42 am 01 Feb 10

Low dam water levels normally mean a potential for increased chlorine in the water supply. At the same time, I think some of the water treatment in the ACT must be done on a localised basis because last year we had definite chlorine increase in my suburb, while others didn’t seem to get the same.

Certainly at the moment my suburb’s water is fine. If you still notice increased chlorine smell in a couple of months check with ACTEWAGL.

Gungahlin Al 10:26 am 01 Feb 10

We have a built-in filter in the kitchen so it isn’t something I’ve noticed.

But I wouldn’t be surprised. With such low rainfalls over hot weather, the load on the treatment plant gets much higher, they have to dose it a little higher. There is also the issue of blue-green algae blooms that occur in the conditions, which requires use of activated carbon – this also affects the taste adversely.

If you can’t fit an in-sink filter, just stump up for one of those Sunbeam benchtop filters. For about $80 they do a great job – used one for many years.

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