5

I grew up in the United States and have been drinking tap water my whole life. More recently some of my friends have been making me feel a little bit guilty or awkward about the safety of tap water, usually recommending me to use either use a water filter, or to boil my water. I think this is just hyperbole, but after a long time hearing this from different people, I am beginning to feel unsure.

I know some places in the United States and across the world have unsafe drinking water, but how do I know where the water is safe or not? Are there any certain tastes that are considered dangerous? Is it better for me to just start using filtered water?

  • 4
    Reminder: This is a question about food safety. Please focus on that and if you would like to re-read our help page about answering, see How to Answer. It’s always recommended that you add sources for any claims, in this case even more so. This is not the place for soapboxing, political discussions, endorsement of products or services, anecdotes, or anything else not related to the question at hand. – Stephie Mar 10 at 17:22
  • Note that typical water quality tests are run on water that's been running for a minute before sampling. If you're in an older building with lead solder, it can leach out into the pipes overnight, but the testing is designed to avoid detecting it as a problem. – Joe Mar 11 at 15:53
9

It really depends on the location. Sciencemag.org has an article on this, which is backed up by this paper. To quote a relevant part from sciencemag:

Allaire and her colleagues downloaded EPA’s data and looked at the number of health-related water quality violations for 17,900 community water systems in the continental United States over a 34-year period. Some were for elevated lead levels, the problem in Flint, but the data set also included violations for coliform bacteria—a group of microbes that is easy to detect and serves as an indicator of bacterial contamination in general—nitrates, arsenic, and other contaminants. The researchers combined those data with information from the U.S. census such as housing density and average household income, to figure out which communities were most vulnerable.

The following sentence from the significance page from the scientific article's website leads me to the conclusion that you shouldn't be worried per se, but that it is certainly worth looking into the situation in your area:

Here, we show that health-based drinking water quality violations are widespread, with 9–45 million people possibly affected during each of the past 34 years. While relatively few community water systems (3–10%) incur health-based violations in a given year, improved compliance is needed to ensure safe drinking water nationwide.

If there is something wrong with the water (as you might find after your research) then see what the specific advice is. Some things may go away after boiling, others may not.

Use this website by the EPA to search for the 'Consumer Confidence Report' on drinking water quality by the EPA.

  • Your conclusion agrees with the advice the EPA gives: "Begin by learning as much as possible about your tapwater. If you haven’t already received it, contact yourlocal water supplier and ask for the annual waterquality report (sometimes called a consumer confi-dence report)" ("Filtration Facts"). The EPA requires water systems to create and share annual reports because it's important for consumers to be informed. My advice: read the reports and don't be paranoid. – Juhasz Mar 12 at 3:42
2

I would ask your friends what evidence they have to support their opinions. They will be unlikely to produce anything besides conspiracy theory level information. It’s similar to the vaccine debate. Who do you believe? The large, established scientific community, or your friend’s hunch?

Tap water is regulated by state and federal governments for safety. Virtually all tap water in the US is absolutely safe to drink. Filters can improve taste, which is impacted by many factors, but neither home filters nor boiling would remedy a Flint, MI type contamination.

Mistrusting tap water would mean mistrusting our regulatory bodies (tempting right now, understandably) - but to do so would impact so much more than your tap water. It would be like rearranging deck chairs on the titanic to filter your tap water if you believe the the functionality of our government has so degraded. Meat, milk, household cleaners, detergents, eggs, bottled water, packaged and caned foods — all and more would also be compromised by regulatory corruption.

Also, the poor, hospitals, etc. depend on tap water — if it’a not safe, shouldn’t your friends and fellow citizens be more outraged? Even if they filter or boil it, they still pay for the water, shouldn’t they protest or complain to their provider?

US tap water is safe, drink away.

  • Right I was skeptical too, one friend shared this article with me, which is why I started second guessing myself – John-Henry Mar 10 at 18:00
2

Have you considered simply taking a sample of your tap water to your local water company and requesting that it be tested? If you don't trust them to test it and give you the actual results, there are literally thousands of companies in America that will do this for you for a very small fee.

  • 2
    Welcome to Seasoned Advice! It happens to many new users, but let me clarify: Stack Exchange is fundamentally different from the average web forum you may be familiar with. We don’t encourage discussions on a topic and one of the basic principles is “answer the question”. Unfortunately, that’s what your post doesn’t, or it’s at least quite hidden in your long description. Please take the tour and browse through our help center to get a better understanding of how the site works. I strongly recommend you edit and shorten your post to clearly answer the question. – Stephie Mar 10 at 17:30
  • My eyes crossed trying to read this. – Cindy Mar 10 at 19:18
  • I have removed all non-answer parts of your post. If you would like to improve it, you can always edit it. – Stephie Mar 10 at 21:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.