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Water Sci Technol. 2004;49(9):335-40.

Public thresholds for chlorinous flavors in U.S. tap water.

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  • 1Carollo Engineers, 12592 West Explorer Drive, Suite 200, Boise, ID 83713, USA.


Considering this rapid growth in the purchasing of bottled water and home filtration devices, utilities are increasingly concerned about consumer dissatisfaction with tap water quality. This project aimed to characterize public perceptions of chlorinous flavors in drinking water, and how these impact customers' choices with respect to consumption of tap water alternatives. On-site taste tests at seven water utilities with 30 to 40 panelists at each site, were conducted using a forced-choice triangle test method (ASTM method E679-91) to measure public sensitivity to chlorine and chloramine in drinking water. The chlor(am)ine concentration increased from set to set. The best-estimate sensitivity limit for each panelist was the geometric mean of that concentration at which the last miss occurred and the next (adjacent) higher concentration. The measured sensitivity limit of average American populations to free chlorine (159 persons tested) and chloramine (93 persons tested) in tap water were 0.8 and 3.7 mg/L Cl2, respectively. These thresholds are much higher than those previously reported in the literature using trained FPA panels. No significant differences were observed between tap water users and users of tap water alternatives or between the various markets tested with respect to average sensitivity, though individual sensitivity varied widely.

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