Drought impacts water taste in Quad Cities

The summer drought continues to have an effect — this time, on the taste of your water. Nearly 100 customers have called Moline’s Water Treatment Facility in recent weeks after noticing a different taste or smell to their tap water.

“Treating Mississippi River water is very challenging. The river is actually alive, and it’s constantly changing. Mother nature rules,” said Moline Utilities General Manager Greg Swanson.

This summer, Mother Nature’s rule included nearly perfect conditions for algae to grow. The river was warm, the water was clear and there was plenty of food.

“All those things combined to make an unusual condition in the Mississippi River watershed ecosystem — an increased amount of algae and plant life, and we’re dealing with the die-off of that now,” said Swanson.

With river levels still low, that extra algae is extra concentrated.

“It produces taste and odor compounds, and they’re very powerful taste and odor compounds, so very, very low concentrations, our sensitive customers can pick up on it very early on,” explained Swanson.

And although the worst of the drought was months ago, water treatment plants up and down the Mississippi are dealing with the fallout now. That’s because Autumn means all the extra vegetation is dying off, and the area has finally seen some rain as well.

“That’s washed water into the river, flushed some algae and other material from the backwaters of the river, and now, that’s in the mainstream,” said Swanson.

To return the water to its usual taste, treatment facility workers in Moline are using a double dose of powder-activated carbon. Swanson said the water leaving the plant Tuesday was aesthetically three times better than last week, but it may still take awhile for customers to notice.

“It may take the water one day if they’re located close to the plant, if they’re in the farther reaches of our system it may take a week before the water leaving our plant today flows from the taps of their home or business,” said Swanson.

In the meantime, Quad City residents can run the faucet with ease — the water is perfectly safe.

“I’m drinking the water myself each and every day, and I feel very good about it,” said Swanson.

Click here for more news from Moline East Rock Island County

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