Drinking Water Guide

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​​1. ​How can I evaluate and reduce my Ann Arbor water bill? 

1A. Have you looked online to see your water usage history to identify where and when your water usage may be higher?  

  • Yes, I want to interpret my online water consumption results and get some general guidelines on how to save water.
  • No, I need help to see my online water consumption rate. Here’s how to log into your own water consumption data. Before you begin, write down your water account number as listed on your water bill. Then, log into the city’s Web site at www.a2gov.org and select “My Property Information” from the “Living In’ heading. Enter your address. Select the water tab option and key in your water account number. You are now able to see your water bill account and track your daily, monthly, and annual water usage in several formats. To look for reasons and suggested remedies for typical higher water use, please go to 1B.
  • ​If you don’t have access to a computer at home or need more assistance, please call the Customer Service Center at 734.794.6333 during weekday business hours. An account representative will be able to help you to review your water usage report. ​

1B. I notice increases in my online water usage tracking.

A typical residence uses 10 units of water (or 7480 gallons) per person every three months for each quarterly billing cycle. This is about 83 gallons of water per person per day. This number is an average; your water use may be higher or lower than this depending on your usage pattern. Residential water consumption typically shows higher water usage in the warm months and lower water usage in the colder months. This is because in the Winter we are not watering lawns or running air conditioners.

Are you seeing a sudden or continuous spike in water use? A faucet leak of just one drop a second wastes 2,400 gallons in a year! Check and fix any pipe, faucet, or appliance that has leaks or drips. Not sure where to start? Look at your water meter to see if the flow indicator meter is moving even if all the water taps are turned off. If the meter is steadily moving, this indicates water is running somewhere and is possibly a leak. Look for faucet drips and listen for running water sounds from the refrigerator ice-maker, toilets, hot water heater, humidifiers, outside faucets and sprinklers. 

According to the New Resources Group, a 'running' toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water a day! Here’s how to check toilets for leaks. First, remove the lid of the water tank located ​​behind the toilet. Then, add six to ten drops of vegetable dye (sold in the baking aisle) or use a vegetable dye tablet (such as colored egg dyes) to the water in the tank​. Wait 15 minutes to see if any dye leaks into the toilet bowl, indicating a leak. You then need to fix the toilet leak. How-to steps for fixing leaks and other water conservation tips are provided in a Do-it-Yourself Home Water Audit Kit that is available from the Customer Service Center on the first floor of City Hall for $2.​

If you notice seasonal water use during specific periods, reflect what activities you may have arise during these months. Higher water use typically arises with filling pools, washing cars, and operating water-cooled air conditioners or humidifiers. House guests, holiday visitors, and other types of special events may also boost your water usage.

Do you notice more water usage in the warm weather? Outdoor irrigation, watering lawns and gardens, can double your water usage. Reducing outdoor irrigation doesn’t need to mean a dead landscape! Look for several outdoor water-saving tips and other conservation suggestions in Question #6.    

2. My water appears cloudy straight from the tap but becomes clear after sitting in a glass for a few minutes​​. Why?

This phenomenon is known as “flashing” and occurs because air (Oxygen) is more soluble in cold water. When water from cold outdoor pipes is poured into a glass inside a warm home, the tiny captured air bubbles are quickly released. The air is just flashing out of the cold water.

3. My water appears discolored from th​​e tap

​The City of Ann Arbo​r performs annual fire hydrant inspection and system maintenance. This is done by flushing water through selected area hydrants during the spring and early summer. During this process, you may observe a fire hydrant with water coming out of the side opening.

On occasion, the water in the areas of flushing may temporarily have an reddish/orange rusty appearance. The hydrant flushing can disturb iron sediment in the water pipes and cause the discoloration. The water is safe to drink. If this occurs, please run your cold water at the tap closest to your water meter for several minutes to clear your lines. You should also flush your toilets once or twice. The water should run clear within a few minutes but may last until the evening​. 

Please don't run warm water, as this forces the discolored water into the water heater, mixing it with clear stored water. If you do get rusty water in your hot water heater, drain the hot water heater per the manufacturer's instructions. If your laundry becomes discolored from the use of rusty water, products like “Rover" can help remove temporary laundry coloration. 

If you have any questions or concerns regarding hydrant flushing, please call the City at 734.794.6320.

4. I am noticing a change in your water pressure at the tap​. Lower pressure?—see 4A.  Higher pressure?—see 4B.   No water?—see 4C.

4A. Lower water pressure: Is the water pressure problem at all fixtures in the home/business?

  • No. If the water pressure is not lower at all of the taps, then the problem is probably associated with the fixture(s) where the pressure is low. There is likely some debris inside the pipes that may have been dislodged and is plugging the screen at the end of the fixture.  On most fixtures this screen is easily removed by unscrewing the cap at the end of the fixture, or in the case of a shower head, unscrewing the head. Once the fixture is removed and you have located the screen, clean and flush the screen to remove any debris. If some of the debris seems hard and is difficult to remove, soak the screen in vinegar for 15 minutes to dissolve the scale. Then,​ rinse it thoroughly and reinstall.
  • Yes. If the water pressure is lower at all fixtures then the problem is most likely associated with the city water system or with the water meter that services your home/business.  Contact the Water Treatment Plant at 734.994.2840 to report this problem. Staff should be able to tell you if this is a problem in the general area that we already know about and are working on. If it's not a problem that is being worked on, they may need to schedule an appointment to investigate a possible problem with your meter.

4B. Higher water pressure.

If the water pressure is higher than normal, contact the Water Treatment Plant at 734.994.2840 to report this problem. If your home/business is served by a pressure reducing valve, this valve may have failed or require repair or replacement. Staff can schedule this work for you.

4C. No water at all coming out of the tap? 

Has anyone been working on your plumbing recently? First thing to check is if your water valves are open. This is a common mistake for handy people as well as novices! If your water valves are open, next check to see if you have water coming out of your tap from a fixture at the lowest elevation in your home/building. If you have some water flowing from any tap (even a drip counts) then when your water pressure returns, the water is typically safe to use.  However, please call the Water Treatment Plant at 734.994.2840 to report this situation. This helps the city identify the limits of a potential pressure problem, or if a boil water notice might be warranted, and the extent of the city that is impacted.

If you do not have any water trickling from any tap in your house, call the Water Treatment Plant at 734.994.2840 to report this situation. This helps the city identify the limits of the problem and if a boil water notice is warranted, the extent of the city that is impacted.

5. I am noticing a taste or odor in my tap water.

Taste and odor can be affected by many things. The most common causes are:

Chlorine: Ann Arbor’s Water Treatment Plant uses ozone as the primary disinfectant and chloramines as a secondary disinfectant. These disinfectants are used as an alternative to chlorine treatment because they have less by-products than chlorine. In addition, chloramines have less odor than chlorine, and ozone is odorless.  Ozone is also used to reduce odors commonly detected in tap water.  However, many of the surrounding communities, including Pittsfield Township and the City of Ypsilanti, use chlorine to disinfect their water. As such, you may detect a chlorine smell when dining out or visiting friends in these communities.

What can I do? Leave a glass or pitcher of water sitting uncovered in your refrigerator or on your counter. The chlorine will dissipate in just a couple of hours.  

Algae: Algae can make your water taste musty, earthy, or grassy. The algae that produce these smells are found in Huron River, the city’s primary’s drinking water source. These algae tend to flourish in late summer.  The city treats its water with ozone, which is a disinfectant that also is one of the most effective treatment methods for taste and odor. 

What can I do? A point of use filter on your faucet or water pitcher may alleviate this problem.

Metal: Metallic taste can come from dissolved copper or iron in pipes.

What can I do? Check your plumbing for corroding pipes and replace them.

Bad tasting ice cubes: The taste may come from the ice cube trays or packaged food in your freezer. The odors from these items can be absorbed by the ice cubes. While unpleasant, these odors are not harmful.

What can I do?  You may try defrosting and cleaning out your freezer and ice cube trays. Most sources of taste and odor problems in drinking water should not make you sick or affect the safety of your drinking water.  However, if you notice a sudden change in the taste or odor of your water, you should report it to the city at 734.994.2840 as a precaution. 

6.  I am looking for ways to conserve wate​​r and reduce my bill.

A typical residence uses 10 units of water (or 7480 gallons) per person every three months for each quarterly billing cycle. This is about 83 gallons of water per person per day, including the water used for irrigating outdoor landscaping in the summer. Residential water consumption is typically higher during warmer months and lower in the colder months. Watering lawns and using air conditioners can increase water use.

Simple conservation behaviors can save dozens of gallons of water every day: 

  • Turn off the tap while brushing teeth
  • Take shorter showers
  • Run dishwashers and laundry machines only when full
  • Water your lawn only when necessary​

Outdoor irrigation— watering lawns and gardens— can easily double your water usage during the warmer months. Reducing outdoor irrigation doesn’t need to mean a dead landscape! First, control your lawn watering by adjusting the frequency that your automatic sprinkler system turns on. You can also turn off the automatic timer on your sprinkler and manually run your sprinklers as needed. The MSU extension service has identified that applying an inch of water every week-to-ten days is adequate for maintaining a green lawn under normal summer weather. Use a water gauge or empty tuna fish can to measure the natural rain water each week and then also measure the amount of water distributed by your sprinkler. Turn off the hoses when the gauge reaches an inch. Other water conservation choices include reducing lawn areas, planting native species, and applying mulch around plantings.  During a heat wave, it is possible to stop watering a lawn completely and allow the grass to go dormant. Dormant grass will rebound to green lushness when the cooler weather and rains return in the fall. If you don't want to do this approach for your entire lawn area, you can test a section of your lawn in a less-visible area.

Indoors: consider replacing your older toilet with a low-flow model. Low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators quickly reimburse you for their cost through water savings. Check EPA’s online water utility auditing pages, including suggestions for WaterWise and EnergyStar appliance options to save water, energy, and money: http://www.epa.gov/watersense/.    

Save money on your stormwater bill rate by using rain barrels, installing a rain garden, taking an online RiverSafe Home tutorial, etc. See water-saving stormwater credit details at www.a2gov.org/storm 

More water conservation tips are provided in the Do-it-Yourself Home Water Audit Kit available from the Customer Service and Payment Center on the first floor of City Hall for $2.

Have you noticed a big increase in your water bill recently? Suggestions to explain water usage spikes, ways to test for leaks, and suggestions for making minor plumbing leak repairs are provided in Question 1.

7. What is backflow protection and how​ does it affect me? 

Imagine this scenario: A woman sprays a commercial weed killer on her lawn by using a hose attachment. Afterwards she disconnects the applicator and takes a drink of water from the hose. A short time later she is admitted to the emergency room with symptoms of poisoning. What happened? At some time while the woman was spraying the weed killer, water pressure dropped, which resulted in the poison being sucked back into the hose. Later, when she drank from the hose, the poison inside was released with the water.

How do you protect yourself from backflow situations? First, keep all hoses and faucets away from direct contact with possible contaminants. Never submerge hoses​ in buckets, pools, tubs, or sinks. In the event of loss of water pressure, you need an air gap; otherwise, the hose will act like a straw and suck the liquid backwards.

Second, protect yourself by installing inexpensive backflow protection devices on all hoses and threaded faucets in your home. These devices are available at hardware and home improvement stores for about $4-10 each. Backflow vacuum breakers provide safety valves that prevent liquids from flowing backwards into a hose or faucet.

Specialized backflow prevention devices are available for more elaborate installations such as built-in lawn irrigation sprinklers, hot water boilers, in-ground swimming pools, heat exchangers, active solar heating systems, private wells. Devices are also available for specialized commercial locations such as dry cleaners, car washes, laboratories, and manufacturers. Backflow devices ensure that potentially contaminated water cannot be drawn back into the public water supply from a business or residence in the event of a negative water main pressure situation. If you receive a letter from the Water Utility informing you that a device is due for certification and inspection, please respond as quickly as possible. ​Proper maintenance of backflow prevention devices requires a periodic certification, followed by a City of Ann Arbor inspection. ​For more information on specialized backflow requirements, contact either a plumber certified on backflow prevention devices, or the City of Ann Arbor Customer Service Center at 734.794.6333.

8. Other water questions not a​​ddressed?

Other topics, such as boil water emergency actions, hardness, sodium, and turbidity are addressed on the City of Ann Arbor’s Water Treatment Plant Web page FAQ

Please contact Customer Service by e-mail [email protected] or phone 734.794.6333 or send a Citizen Service Request via this Web link here.

​9. Why are my rubber plumbing com​ponents dissolving? Why am I finding black rubber particles in my water?​​​

Ann Arbor uses chloramines as the disinfectant that keeps water safe to drink all the way to people's homes. Chloramines are not compatible with some types of rubber and will cause them to dissolve. Local plumbers and plumbing supply shops are typically aware of this compatibility issue. Rubber components labeled as chloramine-compatible will resist this degradation. ​​

10. When opening a buildin​​g after long absence, what precautions can I take to optimize my building's water quality?

​Business owners should ensure that any existing water fountain and water bottle filling station filters are replaced regularly and​ maintained according to manufacturer instructions.​


Third party water testing

Do I need to have my water t​​ested by a third party vendor?

The City of Ann Arbor performs thousands of tests a year to ensure your drinking water is of the highest quality and safety. You can see the results of those tests each year in our Water Quality Report. In addition, if customers feel there is something wrong with their water, the City of Ann Arbor will test it for free. If a customer wishes to have their water tested by a third party, they are free to do so. However, they should check if the tester is an accredited drinking water facility, otherwise the accuracy and validity of the test is suspect. 

A vendor is trying to sell me a ​home treatment device, do I need one?

The City of Ann Arbor employs the latest technology and applies decades of experience to ensure our customers drinking water is of the highest quality. If there is something specific to be achieved, a home filter systems might be warranted, for taste, for example. In the end, the purchase of home filter systems are a personal choice. City staff, who are not motivated by profit or sales, are available to offer advice or assistance on any drinking water issue.

If I have a question about my dr​inking water, can I have it tested by the City?

We encourage any customers who have a question about water quality to contact us. More than likely, we can answer the question without testing (we know our system quite well). If warranted, we will conduct water testing to find answers.