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Seeing tea-colored drinking water? It is natural color from the forest.

News Article
Some Portland-area residents may be noticing a harmless discoloration from fine organic matter from the forest floor in the Bull Run Watershed.

Residents around the Portland-area may be seeing a slight, tea-like color in the water. This yellow tint is a lingering result of the heavy rains in early November. This is a harmless discoloration from fine organic matter from the Bull Run Watershed. We are closely watching color levels and are seeing it decrease each day.  

Is the water safe to drink?

Yes, the water is safe to drink. If you are seeing a yellow, tea-colored tint in your tap water, it is temporary and we’re hoping will clear in a few days.

If you have discolored water that is not a yellow tint, please report it to the Water Quality Line. Water that is brown or darker than a tint – closer to coffee than a tea color – may be caused by something else happening in your neighborhood.

What is causing the color in the water?

This color is a normal occurrence in our system as our water supply originates in the Bull Run Watershed near Mt. Hood. Before the water is treated and enters the distribution system, it can take on a tint from organic materials that are washed into the streams and the reservoirs in the watershed, particularly after a heavy rain like we had in early November. Drinking water from the Bull Run is not filtered, which is why the color from the forest can be seen in tap water or staining the filters in your business or home.

The color you see is produced by tannins in organic material, much the same as the color you find in an ordinary cup of tea. There is nothing harmful to your health from these tannins. The color affects only the appearance of the water, and not the quality.


Water Quality Line

Ask drinking water quality and pressure questions.
phone number503-823-7525Monday - Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Interpretation services available.