Have you noticed a rusty orange color in your tap water? It might also have a metallic taste, or it might look perfectly clear and still taste metallic. These are all signs that there is rust in your water. Testing your water for rust is a good idea because it will tell you the level of strain that your plumbing fixtures might be under, based on the severity of concentration.

The issue of iron in tap water is more common in rural areas that are not connected to a municipal reservoir. This is because municipalities treat their water with chlorine. The chlorine has the ability to break down rust, as it does bacteria and other harmful contaminants

So, what’s the big deal?

The reason why you should be worried about rust in your water is because it can damage your plumbing fixtures and stain your clothing. A typical scenario might involve rust containing water that travels trough the pipes repeatedly for a period of time. Eventually, due to the significant rust exposure, the pipes will start to oxidize and corrode. While all of this is going on, it is not uncommon for blockages in pipes to occur, often presenting as a red, brown or yellow sludge that obstructs the flow. When this happens, it is because there are bacteria that are using the iron in the water and pipes as a food source. All of this sets the stage for ruptures and bursts in the pipes because of pressure from blockages on pipes that are already structurally weakened by corrosion.

If you suspect that you might have some iron contamination in your water, a good first step would be to get it professionally tested. One big advantage of testing is that it allows for differentiation between the soluble ferrous variety of iron and the insoluble ferric variety. Most tests will also include pH readings and indicators about dissolved oxygen content. In some cases, if the iron levels are relatively modest (3ppm or less), and the pH level is not too high, a standard water softener can remove the iron. For concentrations above 3ppm, you must resort to an iron filter. If you are dealing with insoluble ferric iron, the iron particulate gets removed from the water by passing through a bed of minerals that filter it away. If you are dealing with dissolved ferric iron, the water must be oxidized prior to entering the mineral bed. Mineral bed filtration is very expensive and requires a lot of extra water to be pushed through it constantly. A more economical option would be to introduce chlorine, but this is dangerous because it is easy to oversaturate aquifers will it and cause unintended harm to surrounding vegetation.

It’s all about detection

Regardless of the level of concentration, testing is always good to see what you are up against. Pipe bursts can always be prevented. Do not get caught off guard with a long-term problem that you will be scrambling to fix. If you can determine the source of contamination early enough, you might be able to dodge the bullet entirely. You will not know unless you test.

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