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Common Water FAQs

From the time your drinking water is purified at a treatment plant until it arrives at your tap, it may pick up things along the way that change the way it looks. Sometimes this happens as close as your home’s own plumbing.

Cloudy water: Water is cloudy when air gets in and makes tiny bubbles. The bubbles are harmless and will disappear if you let the water sit in a glass for a few minutes.

Dirty water: Usually when water looks dirty, it’s because of changes in the way that the water delivery system is being operated. When the direction that water flows in the pipe is changed — for maintenance work on a water main, when a fire hydrant is broken in a car accident, or there is a break in a water main — materials at the bottom of the pipes get stirred up. Usually, the water looks dirty for a short time and you shouldn’t drink it until it looks clear. One way to speed the dirty water out of your own pipes is to run cold water through all of your faucets for a few minutes. If the water is still not clear, then do the same thing again every half hour or so. The problem should go away within one to two hours. If it doesn’t, call TUD at (209) 532-5536.

Orange, red, brown or yellow water: Rust can turn water orange, red, brown or yellow. Rust gets into the water from two places — your water utility’s pipes or your own plumbing. To find out if the colored water is related to a plumbing problem on your property or your water heater, fill a large white bowl or bucket with water from the hose bib or faucet closest to the your water meter. Let the water run for two full minutes and then fill the bucket or bowl with water. If it is clear, then the problem is most likely related to the inside plumbing or water heater. If not, you should contact TUD at (209) 532-5536.

Every year TUD publishes and mails to all customers an annual water quality report. The free report gives the results of the tests it does in order to make sure your water meets federal and state drinking water regulations. The report also explains where your water comes from and includes other useful information. To see the latest TUD Water Quality Report, Click Here.

Local water suppliers employ highly trained staff to consistently monitor and test the drinking water for compliance with state and federal drinking water standards. Occasional changes to the taste and odor can come from a variety of sources that do not affect the safety of the drinking water.

Your drinking water taste could be affected by your home plumbing, the chlorine used to treat water, organic materials in the water or a change in the source of water. During the summer heat, organic materials can increase. Some water agencies use a blend of imported and local water supplies and the blend changes during times of drought. Different water supplies have different mineral composition and varying levels of hardness, which will affect taste.

A rotten egg or sulfur smell is usually caused by a dirty garbage disposal or organic matter in the drain, such as hair or soap. It can also be caused by a hot water heater not set to the proper temperature or by sewer gases entering the house through a dry p-trap. Cleaning the offending drain, flushing the hot water heater or running water in seldom-used sinks and tubs should eliminate the odor.

An earthy or musty smell or taste is often caused by algae growth in rivers and open reservoirs, which is most common during summer months. The water treatment process eliminates any harmful effects from these blooms.

Chlorine is used to neutralize pathogens like bacteria and parasites during treatment. A low level of chlorine remains to safeguard your water as it travels to your home. Water agencies that use chlorine monitor the levels constantly.

Chlorine taste is less pronounced in cold water, so keep a chilled supply in the refrigerator.

Discolored water is usually caused by the presence of rust or sediment from pipes in the water. This can occur when there are disturbances in the water distribution system, such as nearby fire hydrant use, a break in nearby water lines or system maintenance. Try clearing sediment by running the cold water tap nearest to the sidewalk until the water runs clear. If it does not clear in a few minutes, wait an hour and repeat.

Chlorine taste is less pronounced in cold water, so keep a chilled supply in the refrigerator.

In many cases, chilling the water improves taste. Place a pitcher of tap water in the refrigerator for a ready supply. Adding lemon can also improve the taste.

Common Customer Service FAQs

There are several ways you can pay your TUD bill!

  • Payments can be made by phone, 24/7 by calling our automated toll-free number at (877) 812-3498.
  • For assisted phone payments & account inquiries, call our office at (209) 532-5536.
  • To make an online payment or to set up Autopay, click here.
  • To mail a check or Money Order payment, please mail to:
    P.O. Box 980278
    West Sacramento, CA 95798

The District accepts Visa, Mastercard, Discover, e-check, checks and money orders. If sending in a payment via mail, please send checks only- no cash.  Customers may also place check payments in our secure drop box located in the parking lot at the TUD office at 18885 Nugget Blvd., Sonora.

Need assistance with your water and/or wastewater bill? 


You may be eligible for help.  Call ATCAA at (209) 533-1397 or click the following link to get more information about qualifying for the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) through ATCAA:

Signing up for an online account is easy and only takes a few minutes. To register for an online account, click here. You will need your account number and the last payment amount made on the account. You can locate these on your bill or contact Customer Service at (209) 532-5536.  If no payments have been made on your account yet, you will enter $0.00 for the last payment made.

By creating an online account, you can view and pay your bill, review your consumption history, set up auto pay, pay-by text and sign up for e-billing.

The district has various types of water meters, but the most common meter is a Neptune brand meter. Reading your meter can help you determine if you have a water leak and also see how much water consumption your home may be using. For instructions, click this link to download the Neptune-How to Read Your Meter pdf.

Depending on the services provided at your location, you will be billed a base water rate, a water consumption rate and/or a base sewer rate. Your bill will contain charges incurred for the prior 60-day period (billed in arrears).

Click here to view the current Water Rates and Sewer Rates.

Please call Customer Service at (209) 532-5536 for any billing questions.

TUD BillThe district bills each customer on a bimonthly basis (you will receive a bill every other month). See the sample for key items to view on your bill.

For questions concerning your bill, contact Customer Service at (209) 532-5536.

  • I purchased or sold a home:
    • Call our Customer Service Department at (209) 532-5536 or email us at [email protected] to make changes to your TUD account.
  • I am renting a home:
    • As a courtesy, property owners may have billing sent directly to their tenant. To accomplish this:
      • Authorize: The landlord will need to complete and sign an Owner Authorization Form.
      • Apply: Once TUD has a signed Owners Authorization Form on file, the tenant must complete and sign the Tenant Water/Sewer Agreement for Service.
      • Deposit: An $80 deposit for water service and $60 deposit for sewer service must accompany the Tenant’s Agreement for Service.
  • I am a tenant that is moving out of a home:
    • Call our Customer Service Department at (209) 532-5536 or email us with your move out date and forwarding address at [email protected]

For assistance with changes to your water/sewer service, call Customer Service at (209) 532-5536 or email [email protected].

Click here to go to TUD’s customer service forms:

If your water bill is higher than normal, it may be time to check for a leak. Leaking water causes higher than normal water bills. What can you do?

Check the easy things first:

  • Look for dripping faucets, irrigation leaks, running toilets, or a leaking water heater. Some leaks are sporadic and require a little more detective work while others may be obvious.
  • It may be helpful to check your water meter. Make sure no water is being used inside or outside of your house. Locate the leak indicator on your meter to see if it is moving. Depending on the brand of your meter, the leak indicator could be a small triangular shaped dial or a small silver wheel that rotates when water is flowing through the meter. On newer, digital meters, a water droplet image will appear on the meter head which indicates you have a leak.
  • If you have a Neptune meter, view this informational document to see How To Read Your Meter.

It might be out of sight:

  • After checking obvious areas, an underground leak is next in the investigations. These types of leaks can go undetected since most lines are buried at least 3 feet below ground level. If you are still unable to locate the leak, a licensed plumber should be called.

Call TUD 24–hours a day, seven days a week at (209) 532-5536 to report a water or sewer emergency. If the emergency occurs after normal business hours (after 4 PM), our answering service will notify our on-call staff.

Should you have any questions or concerns regarding your water and/or sewer service, please contact Customer Service at (209) 532-5536, or email: [email protected].

Hours: 7am to 4pm (Monday thru Friday). Closed on Major Holidays.

Thank you for your interest in joining the TUD team! The District will post current job opportunities on this website on the Careers/Job Openings page. Applications are only accepted for open and posted positions. For more information go to this page,

Ditch System FAQs

Originally the ditch system was created in the mid 1850’s as a series of reservoirs, ditches, and canals to divert and transport water primarily for mining purposes. Today, it is used to convey the water from melted snowpack that has reached the South Fork of the Stanislaus River to the Tuolumne Main Canal and into 70 miles of ditches that eventually reach TUD’s water treatment facilities, storage tanks and to various classes of customers including residential, agricultural, and commercial.

PG&E owns Lyons and Strawberry Reservoirs (Pinecrest) and the Tuolumne Main Canal. PG&E owns and operates a canal and flume system to deliver water from Lyons Reservoir to the Phoenix Powerhouse. TUD owns, operates, and maintains approximately 71 miles of ditch, flume, pipe, and tunnel infrastructure downstream of the Tuolumne Main Canal that diverts raw water from the PG&E system. While TUD owns and operates this portion of the ditch system, it does not own the majority of the land on which it exists.

A miner’s inch is a historic unit of measurement that dates back to the Gold Rush. A miner’s inch equals 11.22 gallons per minute, on a 24-hour per day basis. Click the following link to watch a video on measuring water by means of a miner’s inch.

Irrigation typically begins April 15th and runs until October 15th each year.

The ditch system is essential in helping TUD provide the community with reliable water. Without water coming from the ditches, the only water available is what remains in the storage tanks and wells, hardly enough for drinking, sanitary use, and fire protection for an extended period. If routine ditch and flume maintenance is deferred, we run the risk of losing water supply at any time during the year. Due to its importance, preventative maintenance and improvements are vital to keep the water flowing each year.

The annual ditch outage is typically scheduled during the first few weeks in October by PG&E. PG&E owns the Tuolumne Main Canal from Lyons Reservoir down to Twain Harte. Because PG&E turns water off to the Tuolumne Main Canal during this time, TUD must take advantage of the outage to perform its own ditch maintenance while the source water is already off.

One reason the work occurs this time of year is that Phoenix Lake is full and can supply drinking water to TUD’s largest customer base (Sonora/Jamestown), especially in the case of an emergency outage in the upper system. Before November 1 st, each year the Division of Safety of Dams (DSOD) requires TUD to remove flash boards from Phoenix Lake Dam resulting in significant decreases in water storage to make room for winter storm water. This amount of water is not enough to supply Sonora and Jamestown with water for eight days. If the ditch outage is moved too far out into the wet months or even into early spring, it would create safety issues. Most of the ditch system can only be accessed by dirt roads and many are located at high elevations. Snow and rain can hinder the ability to deliver materials and equipment to areas where we have projects. Employee safety plays a big factor in this equation, and if crews had to work on a snowy, wet, or icy flume this would be very dangerous. Lastly, performing ditch maintenance before winter allows the water to flow much easier during the unpredictable winter months with snow and excess amounts of rain. TUD continues to evaluate options for scheduling maintenance at a different time of year, but as detailed above, the timing is based on safety and our top priority is keeping our communities and employees safe.
Yes. A right of easement has been established on all lands in which the ditch system and appurtenant facilities are located, including lands which may have been in private ownership when the ditches were first constructed, thereby created the existence of a ditch easement for the purposes of operation, maintenance, inspection, and repair.
No. All untreated or raw water supplied from the district’s open ditches, canals and conduits is unfit for human consumption. This raw water must go through a stringent treatment process before it’s safe to drink. It shall not be used for residential or domestic uses including, but not limited to drinking, cooking or bathing. More information can be found here: F:\Ditches\Health Risk Info\Health Risk_Ditch Responsibility_2022.pdf

Phoenix Lake Treatment FAQS

Heavy rains and warm summers can lead to algae overgrowth in water reservoirs, including Phoenix Lake. Although not harmful, in the right conditions, algae can bloom out of control, causing taste and odor problems in the water distribution system. In an effort to control algae growth and improve water quality taste and odor for our customers, Tuolumne Utilities District (TUD) will be applying treatment to Phoenix Lake for algae beginning in the summer of 2023. Below is a list of frequently asked questions about this treatment process.

Phoenix Lake is being treated with an algaecide to control the growth of algae and improve water quality.

An algaecide is a treatment used to control or eliminate algae growth in bodies of water

The Lake Doctor, a contractor hired by the District, will complete the treatment. Treatment typically takes less than one day. The length of treatment depends on the severity of the algae growth and weather conditions, however, will most likely reoccur monthly, for up to 6 months depending on its effectiveness.

Yes, the algaecide being used is safe for humans and animals when used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Yes. The algaecide being used is approved for use in water reservoirs and is rated safe for drinking water.

TUD has performed similar lake treatments over the years in various locations within its service area yielding positive results and improving water quality for our customers. Should we see improvement from the treatment at Phoenix Lake, the district may begin performing treatments annually each spring.

TUD staff, under advisement of its expert contractor, considered other methods such as active mixing and aeration; however, the algaecide treatment was deemed the most efficient, effective, and affordable solution to improve the water quality for our customers.

Contact our office at (209) 532-5536, ext. 554 for additional questions. For the Phoenix Lake Application Plan and Permit documents, click the following links:

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