Why does my tap water smell?

I first noticed this last year, and again just recently. My tap water seems to have this pungent, chemical-like smell. The crazy thing is that the water at my office also smells the same. I live in NJ and work in NY, so I’m guessing there must be some additive to the water creating this smell. Any ideas?


Presumably, it always had chlorine in it. This is more of a sudden change in smell at both locations.

Does your water system get their source water from a lake or reservoir? Those “turn over” once or twice a year when the temperature differential between the water at the top and the water at the bottom causes mixing. The mixing brings up organic matter and also encourages algae.

The treatment plant has to deal with this. The chlorine smell could either be a result of their higher chlorination or the interaction of the chlorine with the organic matter in the water.

Not necessarily. In my city (Cary, NC) they use chloramine 11 months of the year and straight chlorine in March. It is apparently required by law to make the switch. I suppose the chlorine kills some nasties that the chloramine doesn’t but is more harsh on the pipes. They usually send out a notice reminding us of this.

Interesting. This must be it. I’ll have to do a bit more research.

Yes, but they may have had to increase the amount of it recently, due to some problem like giardia.

And now you know the reason bottled water took off. Any smell added to water is going to affect the taste. Bottled water is consistent (even if many of them are consistently bad and taste like tap water: I’m looking at you Dasani and anything that says “Spring” on it.)

If the OP is in NYC/NJ area, they get their water from lakes in upstate New York.

If the water smells at this time of year, it’s from the snowmelt running into the lakes (carrying whatever was on top of the snow), or from purifiers (mostly powdered charcoal) added in the water treatment plant to try to reduce the smell.

If the water smells funny toward the end of summer (August-early September), that’s from the algae bloom in the lakes.

In either case, the water is still safe to drink, it just smells. Putting a pitcher into the refrigerator to chill will reduce the smell. And some home purifiers can reduce the smell.

Thanks. This helps. I’ve still been drinking it, but now I feel better about it.