FAQ: Changes in the Taste & Smell of Water in Bakersfield

In the coming days and weeks, some of Cal Water’s customers in Bakersfield may experience a change in the way their tap water tastes or smells as the result of temporary conditions at one of our primary sources of water supply: Lake Isabella. However, your water continues to meet all state and federal water quality standards, and this situation has not impacted the safety of our customers’ drinking water.

What is happening at Lake Isabella?

Because of the rain we received this year, additional nutrients were washed into Lake Isabella. When combined with the higher temperatures and longer days in the summer, some algae blooms have appeared in Lake Isabella.

Why are the algae blooms affecting water in Bakersfield?

One of our primary water supply sources in Bakersfield is the Kern River, which originates from Lake Isabella. Compounds from the algae blooms that affect the way water tastes or smells can stay in the water as it travels down the River to our treatment facilities in Bakersfield. When the water comes out of the tap, it can have an earthy smell or taste.

Is the water safe to drink?

The algae blooms have not impacted the safety of our customers’ drinking water. It is possible that none of our customers experience any changes at all, and those that do will only notice a change in the way their water tastes or smells.

How does Cal Water know the water is safe?

We regularly test our water — both before and after it is treated at our facilities — to ensure that it meets every single state and federal water quality standard. We have tested the water to ensure it does not contain any toxins from the algae blooms. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and test the water to protect the health and safety of our customers.

How long will this situation last?

Algae blooms in Lake Isabella are a normal, natural seasonal occurrence that are directly tied to the weather. Customers that do experience a change in the taste or smell of their water will see these dissipate as we move from summer into fall.

Is this the toxic algae other communities have had to deal with?

All of the tests that we have completed at our treatment facilities have shown that the water does not contain any cyanotoxins, which is what some other communities across the country have had to deal with. We will continue testing the water to ensure it meets all state and federal water quality standards.

Is Cal Water doing anything to address the issue?

Where possible, we will increase our use of groundwater so that we can reduce the amount of water we need to use from the Kern River. This will help to decrease the number of customers who experience changes to the way their drinking water tastes or smells.

Is there anything customers can do to alleviate any issues with the way their water tastes or smells?

In the past, we’ve found that using lemon slices in a glass or pitcher of water, letting the water sit for a few minutes, and refrigerating the water all help to alleviate any taste or odor issues.

Who can customers call if they have concerns about their water quality?

If any of our customers have concerns about their water quality, they should call our Customer Center in Bakersfield at (661) 837-7200. We will be happy to investigate the issue and do everything we can to address the situation.