Hi, JR. I'm pretty sure that you will find that this is not rust but rather iron in the water. Maybe you have iron/steel pipe or fittings that are rusting. Maybe it is natural to the water in your area. Old scale build-up in the water heater probably contributes. The oxides can seem pretty insignificant if you just drain your tank and look at the water. When it evaporates, they stand out. There was also a problem with DIP tubes from one manufacturer that ended up in many different brands of water heaters. There were some recalls about the time you bought your heater. Check with the company that sold you or your plumber the water heater to see if yours is involved.