Water disinfecting method to change June 1-30

The City of San Angelo’s Water Utilities Department will change how it disinfects the public water supply from June 1-30.

The Water Department normally uses chloramine, a mix of ammonia and chlorine, to disinfect water. In June, the Water Department will use only chlorine, also known as “free chlorine.” The yearly temporary conversion from chloramines to free chlorine – a common practice for municipal water systems – ensures water safety in pipelines by ridding mains of residual microscopic organic particles. That yields the highest quality of drinking water.

Citizens may see more flushing of fire hydrants in June. Water lines with low flow must be flushed more often to keep free chlorinated water moving through the system.

Free chlorine is a stronger disinfectant than chloramine. Water users may note a slight change in the smell, taste and look of their water. This may include a “chlorine odor” and slight discoloration. Most symptoms should lessen after a couple of weeks; they do not affect the safety of the water.

The Water Utilities Department encourages kidney dialysis patients to talk with their equipment supplier; different equipment may have varying needs and require adjustments. The City has contacted local hospitals to alert them of the change.

Some reverse osmosis systems are not designed to work with water that has free chlorine. Owners of RO systems should check their operation manuals or system manufacturers to ensure they will not be adversely affected by the change.

The process most fish tanks have for removing chloramines from water should do the same with free chlorine and need no adjustments. Fish tank operators should confirm that with their equipment supplier. Pet stores have also been told of the conversion.

The Water Department will monitor chlorine levels and water-quality standards in the distribution system on a daily basis to ensure all regulatory standards are met.

Free chlorine FAQs

Why is our water system making these changes to our disinfection process?

 Our water system normally uses ammonia and chlorine as the main means to disinfect water.  Mixing these two chemicals forms chloramine, the most common disinfectant used in the United States for water systems that use lakes and rivers as their source. Occasionally, these systems must return to free chlorine as their disinfectant for a brief time to properly maintain the distribution system. Free chlorine works better than chloramine to control thin biofilms of organics and microbes that can build up in pipelines over time. This is common preventive maintenance used by most water systems that use chloramine as their main disinfectant.

When will this start and how long will it last?

The conversion will start June 1 and last approximately four weeks.

Will I need to do anything differently during this change?

No action is necessary.  You may drink and use your water normally.

What changes to the water quality will I notice during this period?

Initially, you may notice more of a chlorine taste and smell to your water, especially in showers and sinks. Water also may also be slightly discolored in areas with low flows in water mains. These symptoms should lessen after a couple of weeks, but may be present (though less noticeable) during the four-week span.

I have a fish tank. How will it affect my fish?

We recommend you check with your equipment supplier. The process you have in place to remove chloramines in the water should also remove free chlorine. No change or adjustment should be needed. 

I’ve heard this can affect kidney dialysis machines. Is this true?

We recommend you check with your equipment supplier. Different equipment may have different needs or adjustments.  

Will the City do anything to lessen the taste and odors we might experience during this change?

Yes, the City will implement procedures to reduce effects as much as possible. However, changes will likely occur and may persist. We will monitor free chlorine levels throughout the system each day to ensure they are at correct levels. You may also see more flushing of fire hydrants. Water lines with low flow must be flushed more often to keep free chlorinated water moving through the system. The Water Utilities Department does not like doing this during drought restrictions, but in some areas it will be required. 

Is there a possibility of free chlorine bleaching my clothes?

Free chlorine is a stronger disinfectant than chloramine. Even though it may have more of a chlorine smell, the disinfectant residuals in the system will actually be lower than they are currently. We don’t expect problems with bleaching of clothes. If you have brand-new clothes that have never been washed, you might wash them first in cold water to let their colors “set” before using a hot water wash.

Will this process improve the quality of my water once it is completed in four weeks?

Typically after a change to free chlorine and then back to chloramine, less disinfectant is needed to maintain residuals in the distribution system. So if you are sensitive to the taste and smell of chloramine, you should see an improvement in water quality after the conversion.

Is there a way to reduce or remove the chlorine taste and smell during this period?

Yes. A carbon filter is effective at removing free chlorine taste and smell, as well as chloramines. If you have an existing carbon filter on your faucet, reverse-osmosis system or cartridge under the sink, these should remove any additional taste and odor during this period. These are available at local retail stores. Some are inexpensive and easy to install.

Does the taste and odor from chlorine affect everyone the same?

No. The taste and smell of chlorine in drinking water does not affect some people at all. Others with a higher sensitivity to smells could be affected. Free chlorine can give water a “swimming pool” smell.

Whom can I contact with additional questions or concerns? Please call the Water Utilities Department at 325-657-4300 for more information.

Helpful hints

  • Check your sewer clean-out line several times a year. If there isn't a visible sign of water, then there could be a clog further up the line.
  • Don't put grease down sinks. This can clog pipes and sewer lines.
  • Check faucets (inside and outside) for leaks. Repair any leaking faucets promptly before they become bigger leaks or cause other problems. 


How do I begin water and/or sewer service at my home or business?

Contact Water Customer Service at 325-657-4323 to set up an account.

Is it OK for me to turn the water off at the meter?

We recommend homeowners don't tamper with City water meters. If you break the meter or valve, you are responsible for the cost of the repair. We suggest homeowners have a licensed plumber install a separate shut off valve for your use. 

Who do I contact when a fire hydrant is leaking, there is a water leak or sewer overflow in the street or alley, or water is coming from my meter?
Contact Water Distribution at 325-657-4295. Dispatchers are on call 7/24/365.

Who do I contact when I have a clogged sewer line?

Call a  plumber. The plumber will contact the City if there is a problem with the City line.

Water employees deserve our appreciation

On Sept. 11, the City of San Angelo experienced a significant water main break that was especially troublesome to locate and repair because of its isolated location. Two water towers were depleted, causing the water system in south San Angelo to quickly lose pressure. This loss in pressure necessitated the issuance of a citywide boil-water notice as a measure to keep citizens safe from potential water contaminants. 

Through the whole ordeal, employees from the City’s Water Utilities and Operations departments worked closely together to quickly make the necessary repairs, while ensuring all citizens still had access to water in their homes. They worked long hours away from family in what can only be described as difficult, swamp-like conditions, while at the same time working to re-pressurize the water system.  

Once the system was pressurized, samples could be taken and tested to ensure the safety of our water. These samples were submitted to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for its approval to lift the boil-water requirement. All of this was completed by Sept. 13.

Considering all these challenges, this was a quick turnaround on the repairs and a speedy return to normal operations.

Needless to say, we are very proud of the staff and their performance.

What I found most troubling were those individuals in our community who were quick to place blame on these very workers – somehow faulting them for this water main break. I can assure you all cities across the country are faced with similar circumstances at one time or another. No municipality can guarantee its water system will never experience a significant water leak. 

As an Army veteran, I know what it is to raise my right hand and swear to defend and protect this country, much like our police officers and firefighters swear to protect this fine city. So I value and have great appreciation for these officers and firefighters.  However, often, these are the only City employees who receive strong support from our community.

Our non-civil service employees deserve as much support and appreciation. As evidenced by the events of Sept. 11-13, where would we be without these dedicated and loyal employees? Without water, that’s where.

These hard-working staff members are humble and do their jobs quietly without much notice or recognition. Many of them would shy away from the notion of being called more important than any other group of employees, but during this episode they were definitely the most important servants to this community!

The City often recognizes and applauds the effort of its first-responders in the police and fire departments, but rarely are the non-civil servant employees who are also first-responders recognized. These are the same groups of employees who quickly and efficiently came to the aide of this community to ensure that no one would go without water. During storms, these same staff members are the first to respond to set up barriers at dangerous intersections, to clear hazardous debris from streets, to make immediate repairs to damaged infrastructure to restore services, and to even guide stranded motorist to safety.

For those who were critical of our public servants in Water Utilities and Operations, it’s my sincere hope you will express appreciation to these staff members – pat them on the back and tell them, “Job well done!”

Daniel Valenzuela is the city manager of the City of San Angelo. Contact him at 325-657-4241 or daniel.valenzuela@cosatx.us.

Current drought level

San Angelo is in standard conservation, which restricts outside watering to twice every seven days at no more than 1 inch per week. Watering from noon to 6 p.m. is prohibited, as is runoff of more than 150 feet down any street, gutter, alley or ditch.

Report watering violations by clicking on this link or calling 325-657-4409

Do your part; be water smart!