Residents of the Mother City may have noticed a strange taste and smell coming from their water recently, and although this is understandably disturbing for many, it is in fact due to a harmless natural organism called geosmin.

This organic compound has a distinct earthy flavour and aroma produced by certain bacteria, and is the same organism responsible for the earthy taste of beets and the familiar scent that fills the air when rain falls after an extended dry spell.

According to a statement by the municipality, the taste some residents may be detecting is due to the higher-than-usual levels of geosmin in the raw water coming from one of the city’s main dams, Theewaterskloof.

This means water coming from the Blackheath water treatment plant to the central and south-eastern parts of the City is being affected by a rain smell, also known as “petrichor”.

“It must be emphasised that geosmin poses no threat to human health,” Xanthea Limberg, the mayoral committee member for water and sanitation informed News24.

This kind of bacteria is often found in water during warmer weather and usually cannot be tasted.

The water coming from the Theewaterskloof dam is currently being dosed with powdered activated carbon to reduce the effects of the geosmin, but the City suspects it may be a while before the taste and smell completely disappears.

At the same time, residents in Robertson were recently exposed to dirty water that ran from their taps due to an operational problem that occurred at one of the reservoirs.

The problem has been rectified and the municipality is currently scouring the system to get rid of the dirty water. Residents have been advised not to drink the tap water in Robertson until the system is 100% clean.


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