Brown water coming out of your shower, or any other plumbing fixture in your house, will probably cause alarm. While the water looks disgusting, the cause of the brown water may be simple to correct and restore the clear water in your house. The brown water poses no threat to your health.
Iron enters the water supply when rain water dissolves the iron or when construction moves dirt around and introduces fresh sources of iron directly to a water source. Iron is always found in tap water, but it usually is at levels that make it harmless and unnoticeable. A high concentration of iron will lead to the tap water turning brown, including in your shower.
Drinking or using the brown water for cooking does not pose any health risks, according to the Illinois Department of Health. In fact, iron is essential for your survival since it facilitates the transportation of oxygen in your blood stream. The increased amount of iron in the water will stain clothing, so washing your clothes before the water clears up can lead to more problems. The iron will also stain toilets, bathtubs and showers, meaning cutting your shower short may save you some scrubbing later.
If you get your water from a well, the source of iron could be from disruptions to the soil around the well's location. Another source of iron in tap water is from rusting pipes. The water will dissolve the rust on the inside of the pipes, including the iron, leading to the iron increase. Sometimes an increase in water pressure in the pipes, which occurs when you shut off the water and then turn it back on rapidly, will lead to more iron coming off the inside of the pipes. The city's water pipes may be to blame for the increase in iron, but you must contact the city to confirm it as the source.
Clearing the Water
Running the cold water in your house for 20 minutes or more will clear out the rust if the source is your pipes or well. If the city's water pipes are causing the increase in iron, you will need to have the city turn on a nearby fire hydrant to flush the increased iron from the system. If flushing the system in your house does not work and the city's pipes are not the source, you will need to install a filter or water softener in your house's plumbing to get rid of the extra iron.