‘It’s not normal but it’s safe’: Calgary councillor explains why our tap water smells, tastes funky

If you’ve been wondering why Calgary’s tap water smells and tastes different lately, you’re not alone.

Ward 1 Coun. Ward Sutherland said he started getting calls from neighbours and constituents almost three weeks ago complaining that the city’s water tasted and smelled strange, like pond water.

“It’s quite interesting,” Sutherland said. “This is the first time, especially in northwest Calgary, that this has happened — to my knowledge anyway — in the past 20 years.”

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He said upon investigating, the City of Calgary’s water services department determined the earthy smell and taste was due to an increase in algae.

“Due to our unusually warm weather — dry weather — there’s been much more algae that has formed on the water in the reservoir, and within that algae, there’s a compound that’s called geosmin,” Sutherland said.

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“For some reason, and what’s really fascinating is, as human beings we can smell and taste 12 parts per trillion in the water of this.

“There’s no way to filter it even more than it is,” Sutherland continued. “That’s why we’re smelling it and we can taste it.”

He said with time it will go away, and stressed there is zero harm to humans.

“It’s completely harmless. Unfortunately, as humans we can taste it, we can smell it – but there’s no risk.

“We’re assuming as this cold weather is occurring that it will start reducing because, of course, it’s not warm anymore — but it will have to flush through.

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“Obviously people are wondering and asking… ’Am I going to get sick? Is something wrong here? What’s going on?’ We want to reassure everybody that this geosmin is totally safe and it’s natural. It’s just really one of those bizarre things.”

“It’s not normal but it’s safe,” he continued.

If you’re sick of the funky smelling and tasting tap water Ward said there is a course of action you can take.

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“If you do get any kind of filter/charcoal system it will filter out that taste completely if it bothers you,” he said.

“Geosmin — that’s not a word I will forget for the rest of my life — and that is a compound that’s in the algae.”

With files from Tracy Nagai

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