The Worst Tap Water in the US: Top 10 States

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Many Americans assume that the United States has the best drinking water in the world. Besides the disaster in Flint, MI, the tap water in every other state is perfectly safe to drink, right? Unfortunately, that's not the case across the nation—some states have lower quality tap water than others, and others rank among some of the worst in the developed world.

Want to know if your state is on the list for worst tap water in the U.S.? Here’s a breakdown of the country’s most suspect locations for municipal drinking water quality by state. If your state ranks among them, it’s important to think seriously about home water filtration solutions and the benefits that come with clean, safe drinking water.

1. Georgia

Pecans, peanuts, peaches and Vidalia onions are just a few of the things Georgia is known for. Unfortunately, residents may also be familiar with the state's poor water quality. Chemicals like arsenic, chloroform, radium and bromate are higher than legal levels in many of the state's rivers, streams and wells.

The water quality is worse in metropolitan areas like Atlanta, but water pollution is a problem across the state. In 2019, 600 of Georgia's public water systems failed to meet the EPA's standards. Sadly, the Georgia State Government hasn't done much recently to curb its pollution issues. Government officials will have no choice but to act if the water pollution crisis continues.

2. Arizona

Arizona has always had a water scarcity issue due to its desert climate. But scarcity isn’t the only problem anymore. The state has some of the worst water quality in the U.S., and it's only getting worse as the population continues to increase.

Phoenix's tap water has the highest average levels of chromium-6 (a known carcinogen) in the country. Additionally, nine drinking water systems in Arizona tested for the highest levels of the toxins perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in the country.

3. Florida

The Sunshine State is a haven for retirees, beach lovers and thrill-seekers. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the worst places for water quality in the United States.

Florida has had some of the country's worst tap water since 2018, mostly due to red tide microorganisms from the Gulf of Mexico and blue-green algae blooms in lakes and rivers.Those ecological disasters, paired with yearly hurricanes, land Florida on the dangerous tap water list.

The good news is that the state is working hard to install new water systems that will help deliver fresh, clean water to Floridians.

4. Michigan

News broke in 2014 about the unsafe drinking water in Flint, MI. That year, the city switched from getting its water from Lake Huron to the Flint River as a way to save money. Unfortunately for Flint residents, the city's aging lead pipes contaminated the water supply with high concentrations of lead and even Legionnaires'. 

To date, the city has replaced over 9,000 lead pipes, but the water nightmare won't be over for years to come, and lead exposure can cause lifelong health issues. Michigan continues to make headlines for all the wrong reasons when it comes to water quality in the United States.

5. Ohio

Michigan’s neighbor to the south hasn’t fared much better in recent years. Sebring, OH suffered a Flint-like disaster in 2016 when unsafe lead levels were found in the village’s water system. But that village isn't the only problematic town in Ohio.

Ohio is one of the most industrialized states, which has historically meant poor tap water conditions. Decades of runoff from factories and coal mines has resulted in unsafe levels of iron, sulfate and other minerals throughout the state. The problem is so widespread that 25% of residents—2.96 million Ohioans—were affected by contaminated drinking water in 2016.

6. Washington

Images of evergreen forests and towering mountain peaks often come to mind when you think of Washington. But despite Seattle's commitment to sustainability, Washington has some of the worst tap water in the U.S. Unsafe levels of carcinogens like arsenic, chloroform, chromium, nitrate, radon, radium, and uranium aren't uncommon in some of the state's rural communities.

Unlike Ohio—which has polluted water due to mines and factories—Washington's poor water quality results from contaminated snowmelt coming from the Rocky Mountains. As water runs down from the mountains, it picks up contaminants like animal waste, pesticides, oil, microplastics and more.

7. Texas

The Lone Star State leads the country in GDP growth and job creation. But it also tops the charts when it comes to radiated drinking water. In addition to radiation, Texas' water has unsafe levels of lead and arsenic due to old pipes and water systems.

While it's mostly the rural communities that have to deal with unsafe drinking water, over 12 million Texans drink contaminated water every day. With the population continuing to grow year over year, state officials will certainly need to step in soon to address the water crisis.

8. California

California is another state with tainted drinking water in rural farming communities. Nitrates in the fertilizer, along with arsenic and uranium in water systems, can cause cancer and developmental issues.

Lower-income, rural communities are the ones most susceptible to drinking unsafe water. However, city dwellers aren't immune from the problem. Nearly 1,600 California public water systems violated the EPA's standards in 2019.

California has started to address its water contamination issue. But with summer droughts affecting many parts of the state, it could be years before there’s a viable solution to protecting the drinking water.

9. New Jersey

New Jersey gets a bad rap for being a highly polluted state. But despite what you may see in the media, The Garden State has over 50 protected areas designated as state parks or state forests for outdoor recreation. That said, water pollution is a criticism with some credence behind it. 

The state's manufacturing plants contaminate the drinking water with cancer-causing perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). PCFs and other pollution are becoming less common but the state's water has recently had issues with high lead and chlorine levels.

10. Pennsylvania

The Keystone State is another one known for its rolling hills and farmland. But when you look past the natural beauty, you'll find six million Pennsylvanians supplied with contaminated drinking water.

Pennsylvania's water pollution stems from poorly maintained coal mines and over 200,000 abandoned gas and oil wells that leach contaminants into the groundwater, rivers and streams. The state government has taken actions towards reducing water contamination. But, as we've seen in other states, it could take years to correct the situation.

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What’s the solution?

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