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Problems with Your Water Service

Do you have problems with rusty water? How about a question related to water pressure? Let the experts at the Ames Water and Pollution Control Department help you! Below are some answers to frequently asked questions related to the Water and Sewer Utilities. If you don't see your area of interest or need additional information, please let us know.

Rusty or Discolored Water - Rusty water is safe to drink but is objectionable because it discolors laundry and affects the flavor of some beverages (such as tea and coffee). Usually, problems with rusty water are caused by some sort of disturbance in the distribution system. If you experience rusty water, try to avoid using any water, thus limiting the amount of rust you pull into your plumbing system. Postpone doing laundry until after the problem clears up. If you have already done laundry and it is stained, do not dry it. The Water Plant has available a product that may remove the stains. When you experience rusty water, you may call the Water Plant at 515-239-5150 or Public Works at 515-239-5550 if there is no known cause. Have the following information ready when you call.

  •  When did you first notice the problem (time of day)? 
  •  Is the problem with both the hot and cold water?
  •  Are you aware if any of your neighbors are experiencing the same problem? 
  •  Are you aware of any construction work occurring in your area?


Taste or Odor Problems - It is often difficult to isolate the cause of taste or odor problems. If you experience objectionable tastes or odors, you may contact the Water Plant at 515-239-5150. The Water Plant laboratory staff may want to come out and collect a sample.

  •  When did you first notice the problem (time of day)?
  •  Is the problem with both the hot and cold water?
  •  Have you installed a new water heater recently (within past year)? 
  •  Has any plumbing work been done in the home recently? 
  •  Do you have an in-home water filter system?


Low Pressure - Water pressure varies within the city, from about 45 pounds per square inch (psi) in the west-central part of town, to around 110 psi in the south-east. The pressure variation is controlled by a great extent by elevation (i.e. the higher the ground, the lower the pressure). If you notice lower-than-normal pressure, you may contact the Water Plant at 515-239-5150 or Public Works at 515-239-5550. Try to have the following information ready when you call.

  •  How long have you experienced this problem? 
  •  Have you had any plumbing work done in the home recently? (If you have and the problem is isolated to a single faucet, check the aerator for debris.) 
  •  Are you aware of any construction work in your area or neighborhood?


No Water - The most common reason for being without water is due to a water main break. However, anytime you are without water and don't know why, please contact the Water Plant (515-239-5150), Public Works (515-239-5550), or Customer Service (515-239-5120). Be ready to answer the following questions.

  •  When did you first experience this problem?
  •  Do you live in a mobile home? If so, the responsibility for problems within the park are the responsibility of the owner or manager. You will need to contact them directly. 
  •  Do you live in an apartment? If so, you should contact the manager to learn if they are doing any plumbing work within the building. 
  •  Are you aware if any of your neighbors have the same problem?
  • Is it cold out?  If so, you may have frozen pipes.  Click here for more info: FROZEN PIPES


Water Leak - The City is responsible for leaks in the distribution system. Customers are responsible for any problems beginning at the corporation stop (where your service line connects to the water main). If you suspect a water main is broken in the distribution system, contact the Water Plant at 515-239-5150. Please provide as exact of a location as possible. To report a leaking water meter inside your home, call the Water Meter Division at 515-239-5151. It is the responsibility of the homeowner to repair water leaks coming from the shutoff valve near the water meter.

Unusually High or Low Water or Sewer Bill - For residential customers, both your water and your sewer bill is based on the water meter readings. If you believe your bill is lower than it should be, contact Utility Customer Service at 515-239-5120. If you believe your bill is higher than it should be, check these areas, then contact Utility Customer Service. 

Do you have a leaky valve on a toilet? Most high consumption problems are caused by leaks in a toilet. The Water Plant has toilet leak test dye tablets free to customers. Or, you can simply place blue food coloring in the upper tank of your toilet. Then wait approximately five minutes and see if the blue color shows up in the bowl. If it does, you have a leaking valve that should be replaced.

Possible Leak


 Toilet and flapper or ball valve

Clean valve seat or replace valve

Water level higher than overflow pipe

Gently bend arm down to lower water level below top of pipe

Check for corrosion of overflow pipe

Repair or replace if leaking

Check trip level arm and chain

Adjust if necessary


Do you have faucets that drip? Even a slow drip can waste 450 gallons of water in a month and should be repaired.

Flow restrictors can be installed in shower heads to reduce water consumption. Also, low-flow shower heads are easily accessible at home improvement stores and online.

Problems with Your Sewer Service

Septic Odor - This problem is usually noticed in the basement, although it could be throughout the house. If you notice an unexplained septic odor, contact the Public Works Utility Maintenance Division at 515-239-5550, with the following information. 

  • Where is the odor most noticeable? 
  • Do you have floor drains in the area? If so, the drain traps could be dry. Try pouring a bucket of water down the drain to find out if the odor dissipates. 
  • Is your vent pipe frozen? The vent pipe normally carries any septic odors out of the house. If the pipe is frozen shut, the odors can be forced into the house. Also, insects and small birds can build nests inside vent pipes that ultimately restrict the opening.

Sewer Backup - Sewers can back up for a number of reasons. If you experience a backup, you can contact the Public Works Utility Maintenance Division at 515-239-5550.


Last Updated: September 22, 2017


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