It might not taste great, city officials say, but it’s still safe to drink.
“We realize that it’s unpleasant,” Carlos Eliason, the city’s utilities spokesperson, told CNN. “The earthy taste that some of our customers are experiencing is harmless and can be neutralized by adding some lemon or putting it in the refrigerator.”
After more than a decade of extreme drought, it’s not unusual for Sacramento’s water to taste a little off. It just doesn’t usually start to taste funky until the late summer or early fall, when water levels are at their lowest.
It’s not clear how high the geosmin concentration will get in the coming months, as lakes and reservoirs continue to dry up. But given the trends, it will likely increase.
Future improvements and expansions to Sacramento’s water treatment plants could eliminate such compounds.
“We’re evaluating different treatment technologies to adapt to some of these (dry) conditions,” Eliason said, adding that the city is expanding research programs at water treatment facilities to monitor the effects of climate change as well as investing in groundwater infrastructure instead of relying on rivers. “Our goal is always to provide high quality, good-tasting drinking water and we want to do that as much as possible.”
Lake Oroville — the state’s second-largest reservoir — is on the Feather River, which feeds into the Sacramento River and delivers water to Sacramento residents. Meanwhile, Folsom Lake, which feeds the Lower American River and is another one of the city’s primary surface water reservoirs, is also seeing tragically low water levels. The river is also a critical habitat for salmon and steelhead fish.
“We do not come to this decision easily,” Erik Ekdahl, deputy director of the division of water rights, said in a news release. “We are asking people to reduce their water use, and we recognize this can create hardships. However, it’s imperative that we manage the water we still have carefully as we prepare for months, perhaps even years, of drought conditions.”
“Effects like the change in taste in drinking water serve as an important reminder that the city and our partners have to be good stewards of our resources as these dry conditions continue throughout Sacramento, the region, and the state,” Eliason said.