Why Your Tap Water Might Be Tasting a Little Different, and What You Can Do About It

The city has a refreshing explanation for why the water tastes different. Photo by Stuart Rankin.

We’ve heard from several readers in recent days about a change in the taste of their tap water. This apparently is a widespread issue, and one that the New York City Department of Environmental Protection recently addressed.

It turns out that the city has shifted its water sources this month to replace century-old valves along the Catskill aqueduct. While that’s happening, the city will rely on other water sources.

“The Catskill Aqueduct usually supplies about 40 percent of the city’s drinking water,” the DEP wrote. “While it is out of service for the next 70 days, New York City will rely on additional water from our other two Water Supply systems, the Delaware System and the Croton System.”

A shift in reservoir use caused a similar issue last year.

The water system in New York is a marvel, and it’s pretty complicated too. Different reservoirs supply different parts of the city during the day and night, depending partly on demand. And the taste can change depending on the season.

“Colder temperatures in autumn cause water within our reservoirs to circulate from top to bottom, which can make the water taste different,” the DEP wrote. “The dropping temperatures also cause aquatic plants to produce organic compounds that can temporarily change the taste of the water. These harmless compounds are the same ones that give beets and corn their earthy flavor. As the deep cold of winter sets in, they typically go away.”

“Those who notice the difference can try chilling their water or adding ice cubes to improve its taste,” the DEP suggests.

DEP scientists also apparently test the water on a daily basis and making adjustments to make sure it’s high quality.

The big question now: given that New York water apparently makes our bagels so good, is this change impacting your everything bagel with chives? If so, it’s a national emergency.

NEWS | 44 comments | permalink
    1. Kim says:

      We use a Brita to filter our water. Of course my son says mom — the water in NYC is among the best in the US why are you filtering it?? Welp…it’s for times like this. We also keep the pitcher in the refrigerator so it’s cold.

      • Johnny says:

        I have long held the same view as your son, but maybe you’re onto something here.

      • Terry says:

        I’m on W. 79th and also filter my water and keep it in the fridge– but it’s been tasting/smelling weird (organic/dirty) for the past few weeks. I really notice a strong muddy and chlorinated smell in the hot water when washing dishes. Didn’t have this problem a year ago when others were complaining about the water supply, and it was attributed to “upwelling” or something in the reservoirs. What’s the deal this year?

      • JerryV says:

        Kim, Your son is correct, up to a point. Much of the time, we have pure, almost distilled water, flowing in from upstate reservoirs. But high rise buildings have roof tanks which can impart their own “distinkt” flavors. Water is pumped up to these tanks and then flows down by gravity to apartments within the building.

    2. Mark Moore says:

      Just put a pitcher of water in your fridge overnight. That will also dissolve off the chlorine residual the city adds as a disinfectant, which in the summer you can sometimes smell or taste.

      • Hurting for so many says:

        Is there anything we need to ‘have to do’ today which can possibly be ‘akin’ to just simply……living, loving, and
        celebrating the once known…..cherished life of an UWS….idder? So much to be proud of…..yet SO little to be able to unaffraidively so simply any longer embrace

        • nemo paradise says:

          Trying to figure out why the comments editor decided to print this contribution, which clearly was written during a severe acid flashback.

          • Madd Donna says:

            Exactly what I thought and yet, the West Side Rag has not posted many of my comments. Who’s minding the store??

    3. Lucy says:

      The smell of the chives should block out any smell differences.

    4. Jo Statton says:

      I put a lot of ice in my water which helps until it melts.

    5. 57yearsontheUWS says:

      Thanks very much for solving this mystery! I was on the verge of contacting our building manager to ask why our water is tasting like earth. It’s not bad, just notable and, yes, keeping it in the fridge makes it taste normal. Well done WSR. Indispensable as usual.

    6. Marianne says:

      The taste in water is not to be taken lightly. I’ve tasted it in two different households. It tastes like mold. Bad. I purchase mountain valley spring water. My only luxury. A filter is not good enough to filter out all the pharmaceuticals etc but better than nothing I guess.

      • From W.110th St says:

        Exactly. It was sickeningly modly smelling/tasting.
        Last night it was obvsly loaded up with chlorine.

        • Sabrina R. says:

          Same here. Even with the Brita it still tasted moldy/metalic. So we switched to bottled water for the time being, at least for 70 days, per the article.

    7. rchjms says:

      Water has zero to do with our bagel’s flavor, btw. It’s the starter and proofing, and boiling in water before baking, that is the hallmark of a NY bagel. Water is water.

      • Pat says:

        I was surprised that no one came up with the taste perception of rust, as in water from rusty pipes.
        Glad to get the explanation—and glad as always for the Rag!

    8. Janice says:

      Good to know. And yes, the water has been tasting HORRIBLE lately. I thought it was me. Glad this is only temporary.

    9. Vivian Chill says:

      Not only does the water taste bad but I could not figure out why my refrigerator smells moldy. It must be my water filter!

      Please notify us when we return to the terrific NYC water that visitors often comment on and we brag about.

    10. Nancy Shear says:

      Delaware! That’s scary. I grew up in Philadelphia where the taste of the water was so awful that we had to make iced tea to be able to stay hydrated! I hope that water came from the Schuylkill River and not the Delaware, and that New York’s wonderful water will be restored!

      • Coxswain says:

        Nancy, I spent 4 years rowing on the Schuylkill. You definitely don’t want to be drinking that either.

      • Terry says:

        NYC’s drinking water is (partially) from the Delaware Aqueduct (NY State), not the Delaware River (between NJ/PA). That said, it has been tasting foul lately. Hopefully it’ll return to its normal innocuous flavor soon (before 70+ days)!

    11. Ruby in Manhattan says:

      Our water has tasted awful for several weeks now. We use a PUR filter system and keep the pitcher in the fridge.

    12. Laura D says:

      Our water (West 73rd St) not only tastes ‘different’ it is also more viscous in texture and quite unpleasant to drink. It’s one step away from gel-like, yuk. I noticed this a short while ago and was wondering why this was happening and if it was safe… Delaware? hmmm. I hope DEP is testing our area.

    13. Erica says:

      I started to notice that it tastes like “dirt” two weeks ago. Would have been nice if the city did a PSA. But where do you think ice comes from? Not sure that’s a solution. 😉 And I do put mine in the fridge, but it still tastes like “dirt.” I sure hope it’s “only 70 days.”

      • Ella says:

        Erica, I have the same taste experience that you are having “dirt” on West 60th Street. What really annoys me is how it affects the taste of my tea. Not nearly as noticeable in my coffee.

      • RS says:

        Same here in the West 70s–water tasting like “dirt” is how I described it too for the past week or so. Even with a Brita and cold I still taste it. Looking forward to that 70 day period being over so I can enjoy the best water in the world again.

    14. Michael B Davis says:

      Love your last paragraph. So funny!

    15. DH says:

      I haven’t noticed a difference in taste, but I HAVE noticed a disturbing change in color.
      I filled up my tub on Sat. and was horrified to see that it looked gray and yellow, and there’s nothing wrong with the pipes in my building. (75th/Amst.) I took a photo, which I can send to you by text but don’t know how to do it. Will try to figure it out.

    16. Alice says:

      I have been noticing the nasty taste! I usually drink cold water with lemon which drowns out the muddy taste a little, but I hope this is resolved soon. We have enough problems to deal with this days…

    17. Mxyzptlk says:

      I thought it was from the humpback whale in the Hudson

    18. Teacup says:

      Many thanks for clarifying! I’m buying water till the water improves flavor snd smell. Our situation even with covid doesn’t come close to what people suffered during WWII in Europe so I’m grateful I can buy water and the toilets and sewers still work… AND Liquor stores are considered essential and delivery brings me everything I could possibly want or need! Thank you to those who make it possible and this too shall pass! Happy holidays!!

    19. Laura M says:

      Interesting content. Thank you for sharing. A little disheartening to see the workarounds. I use eSpring to filter and purify my water so the source doesn’t matter. Clean, great tasting water every time.

    20. Amy Soffer says:

      I live on 23rd st and the water tastes awful. I’ve been boiling it and it helps. It’s also been much cloudier lately.

      • Madeline Gleich says:

        Riverside Drive and 97th Street. Cold water is often warm sometimes for 5 or 6 minutes. I run it fully to cool it down and am overwhelmed by a chlorine odor that has never existed before.

        Does anyone use a reverse osmosis filter?

    21. Margot Townsend says:

      We were concerned that the water was safe to drink.
      Thanks for your research.

    22. UWS_lifer says:

      Good thing I gave up drinking water months ago…It’s just whiskey for me now.:)

    23. mike UWS says:

      Yes the COLD water is affected by a moldering aftertaste. Hot water not so much. Thought it was our building’s reservoir. Tip: A water purifier is essential for and other city potable water issues; one of the best and economical options is AlexaPure pitcher system which we use does the job well. Eliminates microbes, outgasing and rust (and in this case whatever is causing the current problem) aftertaste, contaminants, flouride, chlorine and lead and some other metals. Stay well all (spring is almost upon us).. 😀

    24. BW says:

      ZERO water filter is far better than Brita. Water becomes pure.

    25. zig says:

      addition of two shots of red label do the trick

      with twist of lemon

    26. Bob R. says:

      Number of residents in Greenpoint have experienced greenish-blue water for several weeks. Inquiries to 311 and NYCDEP have been useless. Can anyone explain?

    27. David says:

      It has a slight taste of mold. Yuk.

    28. Tony says:

      I’m in the Riverdale area of the Bronx and our water tastes very moldy. It happened last year as well, but should this still be happening? I thought the reservoir source was switched last year and the problem had been solved.

    29. Sunny says:

      Boiling, filtering and chilling it doesn’t help at all. I even taste it through my coffee!