What Causes Discoloration in My Water?

organic matter in waterTannins in drinking water are caused by natural decaying of organic matter. Leaves or pine needles in the gutters are generally the cause in a rainwater collection system.  A faint yellowing of water generally occurs at .5 parts per million or PPMs with .5 – 2.0 PPMs looking like the color of ginger ale, and 3.0 – 5.0 PPMs would take on the appearance of dark tea. The tannins may cause a yellow color of the water, yellow staining on fixtures, and yellow staining in laundry.

Although aesthetically displeasing, tannins generally pose no real health risk, but may affect the performance of the UV system by not allowing the UV light to penetrate thoroughly through the water column.

Therefore, it is very important to minimize tannins before storage of collected rainwater. Organic matter must be kept from accumulating in gutters, down spouts, and screen baskets. Gutter screens are an effective method of prevention of organics in gutters and down spouts. Both gutter screens and screen baskets should be inspected and cleaned as needed to prevent tannins from occurring. Since the discoloration is in solution, removal can be difficult and expensive. Ozone, ion exchange, and activated carbon can help with removal of tannins to some degree. If you do end up with tannins in your water, it is best to drain the cisterns, rinse and start collection again, however the best solution is diligence in maintenance.

Ken Blair
A rainwater collection systems designer and consultant, Ken has designed and installed residential and commercial systems, primarily in the northwest United States for more than 10 years and, in 2014, began consulting and managing builds in other states. Ken is an accredited ARCSA Professional Designer / Installer and Life Member, the Northwest Regional ARCSA representative and advisor to its education committee and is available to speak about Rainwater Collection Systems design and builds.

Ken is a United States Navy veteran, having served on active duty during the Vietnam War era. He attained the rate of E-4 Machinist Mate.

A career entrepreneur, Ken created a new business focus with a commercial dive company in Hawaii in the mid 1980′s to respond to and clean up oil spills, oil spill equipment training, service and maintenance for the oil co-op service industry. Ken is passionate about having a positive impact on the environment and is also a founding director of BANK-ON-RAIN (2011-2014), whose mission is to create grassroots solutions for rainwater collection for consumption and agriculture in developing areas of the planet.

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