Drinking water quality

Water quality testing

MidCoast Water Services has a comprehensive testing regime to ensure that water quality meets the required standards.

We use standards set out in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, which are based on drinking water guidelines developed by the World Health Organisation. We also cooperate with NSW Health in our management of water quality. Testing is carried out regularly at water supply sources such as rivers and weirs, storage areas such as dams and reservoirs and from customers' garden taps.

This testing regime helps to build up a history of water quality and identify any problems within the system. Common tests include E. coliand total coliforms bacteria, pH, temperature, colour, turbidity, fluoride, chlorine, aluminium, iron, manganese, disinfection byproducts and hardness.

Water quality results in the table below contain a summary of water testing done at customers' taps during the last 12 months, updated quarterly.

Water quality test results summary - 1 October 2020 to 30 September 2021

Water tested at customers' taps

Water Quality Parameter E. coli Turbidity pH
Australian Drinking Water Guidelines criteria At least 98% samples contain no E. coli bacteria Less than 5 NTU 6.5-9.2* pH units
Water Supply System % of results complying % of results complying / average result % of results complying / average result
Manning 100% 100%  / 0.13 100% / 7.69
Tea Gardens 100% 100% / 0.08 100% / 7.65
Bulahdelah 100% 100% / 0.18 100% / 7.75
Stroud 100% 100% / 0.28 100% / 7.87
Gloucester 100% 100% / 0.20 100% / 8.15
North Karuah 100% 100% / 0.89 100% / 8.11
Criteria based on health or aesthetic related value Health Aesthetic Aesthetic

NTU - nephelometric turbidity units                        

* Aesthetic guideline of pH  = 6.5 - 8.5. A value up to 9.2 may be tolerated, provided monitoring indicates no deterioration in microbiological quality as stated in Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.  

If guidelines for E. coli and total coliforms bacteria are not met MidCoast Water Services will issue a boil water alert to affected customers. Find out about boil water alerts below in Water quality issues.

Average hardness level per supply

 Total hardness units   Manning   Bulahdelah   Stroud   Gloucester   Tea Gardens   North Karuah 
 mg/L CaCO3/L(ppm)  61  40  54  30  47  71
 mmol/L  0.61  0.4  0.54  0.3  0.47  0.71
 German degrees  8.54  5.6  7.56  4.2  6.58  9.94
 French degrees  15.25  10  13.5  7.5  11.75  17.75

Managing water quality

To ensure we continue to deliver high quality drinking water to our communities we have adopted a Drinking Water Quality Management System (DWQMS).

This system documents our approach to managing water quality from the catchment to the tap.

It shows our commitment to providing safe and reliable drinking water and covers how we manage the quality of water from the catchments, through to our storages, treatment and distribution processes to ensure quality at our customers' taps.

The system has been developed with the involvement of NSW Health and documents our comprehensive management system to ensure the water we supply is maintained both to protect public health and meet regulatory requirements.

The system demonstrates both the operational and monitoring practices we use, and also provides an analysis of water testing results and an assessment of long term trends in drinking water quality. This document was revised in June 2018.

Drinking Water Quality Management System - Revised June 2018(PDF, 5MB)

DMQM Summary Document(PDF, 2MB)

Water quality issues

Boil Water Alerts

If contamination by a pathogen such as bacteria or protozoa occurs, a boil water alert will be issued to affected customers.

What is a boil water alert?
MidCoast Water Services will issue a boil water alert when water quality testing indicates potential contamination of the drinking water supply by a pathogen such as cryptosporidium, giardia or pathogenic bacteria, which can’t survive high temperatures.
It means that everyone in the potentially contaminated supply should boil their household water before use to make it safe. The boil water alert will remain in place until water quality results from the laboratory are back to normal.
How long should I boil the water?
NSW Health recommends bringing the water to a rolling boil, such as with an automatic kettle, allowing it to cool and storing it in a clean container with a lid and refrigerating it.
What should I use boiled water for?
Any water that may be consumed by a person or pet should be boiled before use. This includes water used for: drinking (including water used for making infants formula, coffee, cordial etc.), cooking, washing uncooked foods (such as seafood or salads), making ice, pet’s drinking water, washing hands, cleaning teeth and gargling.
For children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems extra care can be taken by boiling water used for face washing, washing toys, and cleaning utensils. 
How should I wash my hands during a boil water alert?
Vigorous handwashing with soap and your tap water is safe for basic personal hygiene. However, if you are washing your hands to prepare food, you should use soap and boiled (then cooled) water or bottled water.
What about water we don’t consume, do we have to boil that?
No. Dishes should be washed in hot soapy water or in a dishwasher if your dishwasher has a hot setting. Dishes should be allowed to thoroughly air dry. Water can be used for bathing and showering if care is taken not to get any in your eyes, nose or mouth, or on any unhealed wounds. Water can be used for washing clothes. Water can be used for outdoor purposes such as watering the garden or cleaning vehicles. 
Can I top up my swimming pool during a boil water alert?
No, it is not advised to fill or top up your pool or spa during a boil water alert. NSW Health has particular instructions here
My home has a town water top up rainwater tank. Will it be ok?
Tanks with town water top up are generally not connected to taps you would use for drinking water; however if you are in doubt see the NSW Health instructions for disinfecting your tank here
What about schools and childcare centres?
Schools and childcare centres will be notified, and where practical bottled water will be supplied; however children should take boiled or bottled water with them to school as well.
NSW Health has information for schools here 
Will cafes and restaurants be affected?
Establishments will be able to operate as long as they can meet food safety requirements.  NSW Health has specific information here
I drank some water before I knew about the boil water alert, will I be ok?
There is a small chance that drinking contaminated water will make you ill. If you have any symptoms go and see your doctor.
How will I know when my water is safe to drink again?
Regular updates will be posted on our website home page and we will inform the local media.
Where can I go for more information?
Contact MidCoast Council on 1300 133 455.


Copper and rust in drinking water

Green copper stains on taps and in sinks and tubs

Copper pipe corrosion is generally responsible for the green/blue stains left on plumbing fixtures and in sinks and tubs in some homes. Internal corrosion of household copper pipes causes low levels of copper to leach into the domestic plumbing system, resulting in staining to these areas. This is more common from taps that are not used regularly and is more noticeable on white surfaces (eg in a white bath). Replacing leaking tap washers and regular flushing of house lines can reduce this problem.

In more severe cases tap water can have a cloudy blue-green appearance, sometimes containing blue-green particles, with an unpleasant, bitter taste. This can be an indication of higher levels of copper in the drinking water. Blue-green water must not be consumed and should be flushed for at least 30 seconds until completely clear, clean water appears.

Drinking water left to stagnate for long periods of time in household copper pipes is often the main cause of elevated levels of copper.  

Brown stains on clothes washing and in sinks and tubs

Rusty, brown coloured water from domestic taps can often be an indication of corroded galvanised pipework often found in older homes before the use of copper. Discoloured water can be most common first thing in the morning after no water has been used throughout the night, or after an extended unoccupied period.

Regular flushing of house lines can reduce this problem, but eventually badly corroded pipework will require replacement.

TIP: if you notice signs of copper or galvanised pipe corrosion in your home, running the tap for a short period (30 seconds) each morning can be an effective way of reducing levels of copper and other metals. If you have been away on holidays and there has been little or no water usage, flushing of house lines on your return can be helpful, especially if a tap at the back of the house is used away from the water meter (to draw water through the internal plumbing) and give your garden a drink while you are there.

Green copper stains and brown rust stains may be removed with applicable household descaling type cleaning products sold in most hardware or grocery outlets, e.g. CLR.

A qualified plumber can give advice on domestic pipework.


All MidCoast Water Services' drinking water schemes are monitored to ensure water quality is within the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines and do not contain elevated levels of copper or other metals.


  • Blue-green or rusty brown discolouration of the water is often caused by copper and rust from pipes within your home, rather than from the supply itself. Learn more about copper and rust in drinking water.
  • Some people will experience a white scale caused by calcium build up, often noticeable on kettles and shower screens. This can be removed by a weak acid such as vinegar. Calcium in the water relates to water hardness.

Water hardness

The 'hardness' of water is something that is of interest when it comes to new appliances. Often new washing machines or dishwashers have specific settings for various levels of water hardness. As a guide, water with less than 60mg/litre is considered 'soft', up to 200mg 'good quality', between 200mg and 500 mg 'hard' and more than 500 mg is 'very hard'.

Our Manning supply is considered 'good quality' and the Bulahdelah, Stroud, Gloucester and Tea Gardens supplies are considered 'soft'.

The actual details are provided below.

Total hardness units Manning(Manning/ Taree and Forster/ Tuncurry) Bulahdelah Stroud Gloucester Tea Gardens North Karuah
mg/L CaCO3/L (ppm) 61 40 54 30 47 71
mmol/L(millimol per litre)
0.61 0.4 0.54 0.3 0.47 0.71
German degrees 8.54 5.6 7.56 4.2 6.58 9.94
French degrees 15.25 10 13.5 7.5 11.75 17.75


For more information on the use of flouride in our water supplies, follow this link to NSW Health's fact sheet on water fluoridation in NSW

Memorandum of Understanding with NSW Health

On 19 April 2018, MidCoast Council and NSW Health renewed their Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

First signed in 2007 and re-signed in 2013, the MoU is designed to align the long-term strategic goals of both organisations in the area of public health protection.

The MoU formalises the establishment of a joint strategic group and a joint operational group, with representatives from both organisations as well as plans and protocols for dealing with events of public health significance.

The agreement covers drinking water quality management, monitoring and reporting as well as working together on emerging public health issues related to drinking water, recycled water and wastewater.

The MoU also expresses the intention of both organisations to establish common direction in the area of research and development on public health issues related to drinking water, recycled water and wastewater.

Our laboratory

The MidCoast Council water laboratory offers a range of services which are available to the general community.

Analysis and reporting on a broad range of samples can be undertaken, including the following:

  • Potable water
  • Groundwater
  • Leachate
  • Oyster and pippi flesh

Analysis can be provided for the purposes of licensing and regulatory compliance, public health and safety requirements, operational monitoring and environmental monitoring requirements.


MidCoast Water Services Laboratory offers a field sampling and analysis service for a range of sample types, including potable water, groundwater, leachate from landfills and environmental samples.

Samples can also be delivered to the laboratory either directly by clients or courier services. Advice on the storage and transportation of samples can be provided upon request.


Where certain analysis cannot be undertaken at our laboratory we can manage the outsourcing of this work. Such outsourcing is managed entirely by the Laboratory, from identifying a suitable laboratory through to data quality, turnaround times and the reporting of results.

Laboratory staff provide a written quotation and ensure that all analyses are performed to the appropriate detection limits and required time-frames before issuing a confidentiality-assured final report.

We review our performance on engagements regularly to help us monitor and improve our service to our customers.

Quality assurance

The Laboratory is accredited by NATA (12902) for technical competence in Chemical (14262) and Biological (12895) testing in accordance with ISO/IEC 17025. The laboratory employs a comprehensive quality control program covering all facets of sample preparation, analysis and reporting. The quality control programs are a significant component of our work and underpin the quality of results issued to clients.

Management system

The Laboratory's computerised system (LIMS) coordinates all sampling, validates results, monitors quality control, tracks turnaround times, and produces sample reports.

National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA)

MidCoast Water Services Laboratory is accredited by NATA.

For more information about the National Association of Testing Authorities click here 

Contact us

Our Laboratory is located at 299 Bootawa Dam Road, Bootawa. The postal address is PO Box 671 Taree NSW 2430.

We can be contacted on 1300 133 455.

What is 'dirty' water?

'Dirty' water is a change in the appearance or the colour of your water - usually to a brown or yellow.

This discolouration is caused by trace materials within the water, such as iron or manganese. When these materials enter the water supply system they are in extremely low levels, however changes to the supply as it travels through the system can cause these materials to accumulate and become visible, discolouring the water.

Where and when does dirty water usually occur?

Residents living in areas furthest away from the nearest reservoir, or at the end of a street, may experience discolouration more frequently than others.

This is because the water has further to travel and this allows heavier particles to settle out of the water and become visible.

Weekenders or untenanted houses in any area may also experience discolouration when first turning on a tap after a period of time without using water at the home.

Discolouration can also be caused by old household connections as well as certain types of pipes. For example discolouration will occur more often in houses with galvanised water pipes. Galvanised pipes are no longer used in homes, with copper - or more recently polyethylene pipes have become the norm. Anyone who experiences regular water discolouration and has galvanised water pipes in their home may consider replacing them and should seek further advice and assistance from a local plumber.

Is dirty water considered a health hazard?

We constantly test the quality of drinking water in our area to ensure it complies with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, administered by NSW Health. Generally dirty water is not a hazard to health, although it may appear unpleasant.

What if I have milky or white coloured water?

Water that is milky or white in colour is the result of small air bubbles within the water.

This is usually due to air becoming trapped in the pipes - perhaps after the repair of a broken water main.

This water is harmless and if left in a container on the bench, the air will quickly dissipate and the water will become clear. It will not stain your washing.

Does dirty water affect washing?

Discolouration of the water supply by materials such as iron and/or manganese may cause a rust coloured stain on your clothing and linen while washing.

If you notice a discolouration in the water from your household taps, don't use your washing machine until the water is clear.

If you live in an area with frequent discolouration, regularly check your water before washing by running the tap in the laundry.

What should I do if I notice dirty water?

If you notice water discolouration in your home, we suggest you wait an hour or two then check that the water from your front tap (nearest to the water meter) is clear. If it is clear, go to the tap at the furthest point from your water meter (usually the garden tap in the backyard) and run the water for a few minutes until it also runs clear. If the water coming into your front tap is not clear contact us and we can arrange flushing of the water mains in the local area. While flushing is being undertaken, customers can experience very dirty water, however this will clear shortly afterwards.

MidCoast Council has over two thousand kilometres of water mains, so we are unable to monitor them all at the same time so we do rely on residents to advise us of any severe or ongoing discolouration to the water supply in order to take action in the immediate area.