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San Diegans taste and smell something in the water

Some San Diegans say their water has been tasting funny lately and it’s not their imagination. There is something in the water but the city says it’s not harmful.

Banker's Hill resident Jean Diedrich first noticed her water tasted funny last Wednesday. She told KPBS it tasted "like dirt or must," adding that it didn’t look or feel any different, but it smelled bad. She said while neighbors discussed it among themselves and asked the property manager about it, all they could do was guess what could be wrong with their water and whether it was safe.

"Our property manager seems to think there was some issue with the water intake line from the city, but I never received anything official about that," said Diedrich.

Meanwhile, just down the street at Barrio Star restaurant and bar, general manager Michael Simpson said locals aren't just coming in for his Mexican soul food these days. "It’s been mentioned by the customers they’re coming to drink water," he said, adding they do have great tasting water because they have a quality filtration system. "This lady came in yesterday and she said, ‘Oh, my God a good glass of water it feels so good!'" he said.


Simpson said he keeps hearing customers complain about the taste and smell of what's coming out of their home faucets, saying, "A lot of customers that live in the area — regulars from the restaurant — have mentioned that the water tastes like dirt, that it has this aftertaste that is really ugly."

The City of San Diego said the change in taste and smell is caused by an organic compound called MIB that is not toxic or harmful. The issue is happening in the Alvarado Water Treatment Plant, which provides water mainly to the central section of the city. The problem is expected to resolve itself in a few days.

Diedrich said her water is back to normal now, but she wishes the city would have communicated better with her community. "That’s always the problem, right, is letting people know real information so that they don’t make up stories and get concerned," she said. "In this day and age I think it’s easy to send out notifications, I do think that they should have stepped up."

The city said while they did not send out formal notifications they have been responding to emails and calls. They sent a statement to KPBS saying, "The City’s robust water quality monitoring and testing program continues to show our drinking water meets all state and federal standards for the protection of human health. The City monitors the water 24 hours a day and regular manual tests are performed by plant operators and the water quality lab."

Any questions or concerns about water quality, including taste and odor issues, can be directed to the City’s Water Quality Lab at or 619-668-3232.

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