While on a global level water quality in the US is impressive, lacking diseases and harmful chemicals found in much of the world’s water supply, some cities are clearly better than others at maintaining safe, clean, drinkable water for their residents. Which cities have the worst tap water? Examining factors like pollution, safety violations, and overall perceived quality, the following five cities have a lot to answer for.
The water here not only tastes terrible, according to residents, but more importantly, it also contains numerous chemical recognized as potentially harmful to human, including radium-228, trichloroethylene (industrial solvent), tetrachloroethylene (dry-cleaning fluid), benzine (petroleum naphtha), and lead, not to mention trace amounts of both cyanide and chloroform. Some of these pose considerable hazard, especially in elevated quantities.
The drinking water in Pensacola is routinely ranked as the worst in the nation.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Sin City receives the majority of its drinking water piped from the Colorado River. While most people don’t come to Vegas to try the tap water, locals will tell you that it isn’t anything to write home about in terms of quality or safety. Testing has identified 30 chemicals in the water that shouldn’t be there. Of those, 12 were detected in levels that exceeded health guidelines for drinking water set down by the EPA.
These include multiple radium isotopes, arsenic, and lead, which can have serious health consequences, including harming children and increasing the risk of cancer. Nearby North Las Vegas also deserves honorable mention.
Back in 2000/2001 the city of Fresno earned a grade of Poor for its water quality and compliance from environmental agencies. Women who were pregnant were urged not to drink the tap water. Infants who drank it sometimes developed Blue Baby Syndrome due to the high level of nitrates present. Myriad other toxins had also been found in the water, including radon, arsenic, and lead.
Thankfully, those dark days have passed, although the water still remains of questionable quality today. Other cities in Central California carry on this tradition of poor water quality, including Bakersfield, Merced, and Hanford.
In the Lone Star State, Houston can place some of the blame for its water quality issues on its frenetic rate of growth, which has left one of the largest cities in the country struggling with water issues. These include numerous toxic elements found in the water, like alpha particles (radiation) and haloacetic acids (by-product of disinfection), just to name two substances that cause particular concern. Total, 46 pollutants have been detected in Houston’s water.
San Diego, California
California is home to some of the worst water nationwide. Unfortunately, the beautiful city of San Diego must be counted among them. All told, 20 contaminants have been detected in the city’s tap water. The most prevalent in terms exceeding EPA guidelines is trihalomethanes (solvent or refrigerant). Another elements that exceeds these guidelines is manganese (manufacturing), which occurs in smaller quantities in nature, but causes neurological issues in excess.
Across the country, many smaller cities, towns, and counties have drinking water as bad as the major cities listed above, but these cities are stand-outs because of the number of people affected by their poor quality tap water and by just how bad some of the water is, according to accepted guidelines and standards.
Charlie Teschner started MESA Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling in 1982. Charlie has a journeyman and master plumber’s license. He was raised with a strong work ethic and he now applies those values to tasks such as plubming in Longmont.