Dear PoP – Major Water Problems

“Dear PoP,

A question to PoPville about how to deal with WASA. Attached is a pic, taken on a *good* day, of our bathtub filled with disgusting water courtesy of WASA. We contacted them a year ago and they came out and tested to make sure it was “safe” to drink (they claim it is). Their instruction to us was to “flush” the lines every day by running all the water at full blast for 10-15 minutes. It just seems to me that an entity which charges me to buy clean water shouldn’t be allowed to tell me I have to buy 100 times more of their product to get it in usable condition. Additionally, the sediment is now causing costly damage to our appliances and tankless water heater. My question is whether there is any chance of having WASA install a whole house water filter on our house, and whether they are required by law to provide us with water that is not dirt brown?”

Hmm, WASA – now My DC Water – has definitely become more responsive. They are particularly responsive on twitter @mydcwater. They can also be reached by phone at 202-612-3440. I know just this Sat. they responded to a twitter query sent to me about the taste of chlorinated water.

But back to the question at hand: Has anyone else experienced brown water like this? If so, how did you resolve it?

20 Comment

  • Are the pipes in the house new? I used to get some pretty yukky looking water before I replaced the pipes in my house. I had old galvanized steel plumbing which was causing the problem (though not this bad); I would have to flush the pipes for a while after a weekend away to get it to run clear. I have since replaced the pipes and the water always runs clear.

  • Curious – What about your neighbors? Is this problem specific to your house?

  • Is there construction in the area?

  • yes, check your pipes. They’re probably galvanized and in need of changing, so a whole house filter wouldn’t help that.

    How old is your house? Did your inspector not notice the water was brown or is this a new problem?

  • OP here. We’re the only ones I know of (not neighbors), it is not a new problem but it ebbs and flows, WASA told us we were at the very end of the line, whatever that means. THe pipes in the house are copper.

  • If no other neighbors experience this, and your plumbing in the house is all copper, it seems the only thing left that it could be is the source pipe going from the street into your house. If you’re lucky, it’s the part that DC is responsible for. Maybe if you got a plumber to get a camera down your pipe it would show roots and dirt coming through the pipe.

  • We have the same problem, though not as bad. We have to run our kitchen faucet for a minute or two before the water becomes clear. This only happens in the kitchen, not in the bathroom (and I have no idea why). We had such a terrible time getting WASA to decide whether a busted pipe in our yard was on our property or the city’s that I have trouble imagining they’d help us with the brown water problem. But I would love to know how to get them to do something about it.

  • PoP and readers,

    The customer who wrote in about the problem above contacted us directly just now, and we are working to resolve the issue. Needless to say, we do not want our customers receiving discolored water.

    To Adrienne at 3:12, or anyone else who may have similar questions, please call our Drinking Water Division at (202) 612-3440. Our experts in that division will help you.

    We would also encourage you to visit our water quality FAQ at

    Alan Heymann
    Director, Public Affairs
    District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water)

  • Yes, thanks to Alan and his team for the quick reply! I will let PoPville knows how it turns out….

  • You have had brown water for over a year and have not escalated this?

    I would contact the top people to let them know that this is unacceptable. In the meantime, can you file a complaint with a public health or housing agency? Can you call the local DC news stations and start making a fuss about this?

  • Contact DC Public Service Comission at

    Trust me, these guys will get your problem go away, whether it is water or gas or electric related. Just call them and wait. We had number of issues with different properties and these guys just took care of every single issue.

  • Contact DC Public Service Comission at

  • Make sure you flush, clean and rinse your tankless hot water system more frequently than recommended. That much crud in your water can really wear on it.

  • Even though calling DC Water is a good start, everyone needs to get in the habit of filing an online complaint with the DC Public Utility Commission.

    The PUC is the way we hold utilities accountable and most of DC’s utilities do the least possible. When you complain to the utilities directly, the PUC has no idea how big or bad a problem is. When you file with the PUC, the utility actually has to face the PUC and the PUC’s decisions have teeth. Utilities like to tell the PUC that all their customers are happy and that there aren’t any problems.

    Just a tip for all you out there struggling with bad service.

  • A follow-up FYI for those who suggested contacting the DC Public Service Commission (PSC). The PSC governs investor-owned utilities in the District for electric, gas and telephone.

    Unlike these other utilities, DC Water does not have stockholders and does not make a profit. We are an independent government agency, and our programs and services are ratepayer funded.

    DC Water is governed by a 22-member Board of Directors from the District and the suburban jurisdictions we serve. The DC board members set our water and sewer rates. We are subject to oversight hearings by the DC Council at least twice a year, in the Committee on Public Works and Transportation.

    Please feel free to contact us directly with any concerns or complaints — our customers own the place, so we want to make sure they’re happy.

    Alan Heymann
    DC Water

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