Sugar Land water might smell, taste differently in the coming weeks; Here’s why, authorities say

A stock image of a drinking fountain. (Pixabay.com, Pixabay.com)

SUGAR LAND, Texas – Sugar Land water might smell and taste a bit different starting on March 1.

💧The City of Sugar Land's Free Chlorine Conversion of the main water system begins TODAY March 1, and will return to...

Posted by The City of Sugar Land, Texas – City Government on Tuesday, March 1, 2022

In a video public service announcement posted to its social media channels, a woman is shown sniffing a glass of tap water, giving a face and then drinking the water with a smile.

“The water is safe and clean! But it might smell and taste different from March 1-29,” the video says.

But why?

A notice from Sugar Land on its website points to a big flush-out of sorts. The current system uses disinfectants called chloramines to treat drinking water. Chloramines, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, are most commonly formed when ammonia is added to chlorine to treat drinking water. Chloramines provide longer-lasting disinfection as the water moves through pipes to consumers.

However, as Sugar Land noted, “Prolonged use of chloramine coupled with other factors that can affect water quality, such as high temperatures, may result in the growth and/or persistence of organic matter within the pipes of the distribution system. Though harmless when consumed by humans, this organic matter can introduce unwanted taste and odor, and hinder the ability to maintain an adequate disinfectant residual. A temporary conversion to free chlorine, partnered with flushing activities, clears distribution pipes of this organic matter and improves the quality of your water overall.”

Free chlorine is a disinfectant used in drinking water to inactivate bacteria and viruses. It is typically used for water systems sourced from groundwater. The City of Sugar Land said it uses free chlorine as a disinfectant in its RiverPark, Greatwood, and New Territory water systems.

Who will see this change?

See a map of the areas that might see a change here.

Will my water be safe?

Sugar Land said the water “will be safe for people and animals to drink, for cooking and bathing, watering the garden, and for all other common uses. However, people and businesses that normally take special precautions to remove chloramines from tap water, such as dialysis centers, medical facilities, and aquatic pet owners, should confirm whether pretreatment adjustments are necessary during the temporary switch from chloramines to free chlorine.”

The city added it is standard industry practice to periodically convert chloramines back to free chlorine to improve and maintain the highest water quality standards. In addition, the city said the EPA and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality support this process as a “necessary and effective measure for maintaining water quality.”

The city added it will implement directional flushing, combined with routine water quality monitoring to maintain the highest water quality for customers during the conversion.

Will I notice a difference?

Sugar Land said generally, there are no noticeable changes in water quality as a result of the temporary conversion. “However, some individuals may notice taste and odor changes and a slight discoloration to the water, primarily during the transition period. Noticeable water quality changes associated with conversions are normally short-lived and are not public health risks,” according to the city’s website.

When will it end?

At the conclusion of the conversion period, which will occur on March 29, Sugar Land will convert its disinfection process back to chloramines.

If you have questions about the process, call 311 or 281-275-2900, or email: 311@sugarlandtx.gov.

Sugar Land and its water

In recent years, Sugar Land has been lauded for its water, dubbed one of the best-tasting in America.

An increase in water prices in Sugar Land occurred in early 2020.


About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.