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If your tap water tastes of salt, the flavour likely results from high concentrations of chloride ions or sulphates that have leached into your water supply.
Chloride ions can stem from industrial waste or agricultural run-off. Or, if you live in a coastal area, it could be that seawater has entered into your local supply. Sulphates occur naturally as rainwater passes through the earth, dissolving magnesium sulphate and sodium sulphate directly into groundwater, subsequently introducing them to your water supply. Alternatively, industrial and shale waste can be the source, alongside the breakdown of sulphide ores.
Given potential health issues, we recommend testing your supply to confirm the source of the flavour.
What causes my water to taste like salt?
Tap water contains as many as 316 contaminants, which is why consumers often report an earthy, metallic, or even a salty taste in the water supply.
The most common cause of a taste of salt is an elevated concentration of chloride ions. Sodium, potassium and calcium chlorides are used in several industrial processes and can leach from rocks into the water via weathering and rainwater runoff. The ions then enter your water supply and result in a saline taste.
If you live in a coastal region, the briny flavour may just be the presence of seawater in your local supply. Either way, chloride ions corrode pipework and mark stainless steel, potentially destroying your plumbing network and reacting with your sink—which is cause for concern.
The second cause of a saline taste could be elevated levels of sulphates in your water supply. Magnesium sulphate and sodium sulphate occur naturally in rocks and so can enter groundwater after extended periods of rainfall.
However, sulphates can also enter your supply through industrial waste and fertiliser run-off, meaning you must always check the source of a salty taste in your tap water.
What should I do if my water tastes like salt?
A saltiness in your tap water is not only unpleasant, but it can also lead to health issues such as diarrhoea. Moreover, the presence of chloride ions will corrode your plumbing network, potentially leading to further complications.
So, even if you live in a coastal region where the problem may only be seawater, it is vital you identify the source of contamination and correct the problem quickly.
If you install a water-softener at home and then detect a briny flavour in your tap water, it could be the device has been fitted incorrectly, or is broken. Check the installation of the softener and assess each component to ensure nothing has malfunctioned.
If you still have an issue or don’t use a water-softener: speak with your neighbours to see if their water tastes the same. If yes, the UK Drinking Water Inspectorate advises you to contact your water supplier immediately—you can find emergency contact details either on your water bill or on your water supplier’s website.
Authorities permit up to 200mg/litre of sodium in UK tap water. So, your supplier should ask that you send a sample of your tap water, or they will organise testing of your local supply, both to confirm the levels of sulphates or chlorides and pinpoint the source of contamination.
If your supplier fails to take the necessary corrective actions or is unable to identify the source of the issue, you can get in touch with the Consumer Council for Water, which is an independent body monitoring the water industry across England and Wales. They will be able to advise on follow-up steps and suggest further actions you can take.