Water is essential for all life, and since the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, during 2015, captured global attention, it only makes sense that we should all be aware of the quality of the water we consume. So which US states have the best and worst tap water?
According to the weighted point system used by the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.), Hawaii, Alabama, and South Carolina currently rank the highest for drinking water quality, while Alaska, Florida, and California rank among the lowest.
Water quality regulations and standards vary from state to state. Often, poorer and more rural areas suffer from unsafe and poor-quality water. Water quality is also heavily influenced by geographical location; keep reading to learn more about the states with the best and worst tap water.
Table of Contents
10 States with the Best Tap Water
The best tap water in the United States comes from the following states that frequently go above and beyond with stricter drinking water testing and standards, whereas some states settle for water that meets the bare minimum requirements for being drinkable.
1 – Hawaii tap water
Groundwater is the primary source of water in Hawaii, and it is arguably the purest form of water available anywhere on the planet. The tap water comes from onshore aquifers, which source their water from a reserve of rainwater found underground.
There is no need to add fluoride because the water is purified by naturally porous volcanic rock.
2 – Alabama tap water
Freshwater is one of Alabama’s greatest assets. Freshwater is abundantly available in the state thanks to its numerous rivers and streams as well as heavy rainfall.
The Tennessee River Valley contains limestone aquifers that deliver large amounts of water. Water filtration through the limestone also improves the taste of the water.
3 – South Carolina tap water
Around 80% of the state’s public water systems draw their drinking water from surface water, while only 20% do so from groundwater. Groundwater caches in the state are of good quality, despite the fact that some may contain lead and other pollutants.
Streams, rivers, and lakes all provide high-quality water in the state of South Carolina.
4 – Tennessee tap water
With more than 50,000 miles of rivers and streams, more than 500,000 acres of lakes, and ecologically diverse marshes, Tennessee is rich in surface water resources.
Drinking water is sourced from either surface water, which is typically found in streams, rivers, or lakes, or groundwater.
5 – Massachusetts tap water
Massachusetts has some of the strictest regulations and some of the highest-quality drinking water in the nation. Some towns use a reservoir that receives its water supply from nearby rivers and streams. Others get their groundwater from wells that draw it up from aquifers.
Since the protected area’s forests naturally purify the water, only a minimal amount of filtering is necessary before it enters the water purifiers. The concoction of chemicals that most cities’ water utilities use is unnecessary.
6 – Rhode Island tap water
Rhode Island is a small state with a vast network of rivers and reservoirs, so it makes sure to keep a close eye on its water.
One of the core functions of the state is to ensure that drinking water is clean and safe. Rhode Island tap water undergoes rigorous and frequent testing to regulate wastewater discharge and guard against groundwater pollution.
7 – South Dakota tap water
The majority of drinkable water in South Dakota comes from groundwater produced by wells in aquifers.
South Dakota has a great track record of delivering clean, high-quality tap water. One spokesperson within the Board of Water and Natural Resources stated that over the last 5 years, South Dakota has maintained 98–99% of its infrastructure.
8 – Minnesota tap water
In Minnesota, groundwater supplies provide the majority of the drinking water. This water is stored underground in aquifers before being pumped to the surface and consumed.
The state collaborates with public water providers to provide excellent service, and to maintain a high standard of quality, tap water is tested on average 500 times per day.
9 – New Hampshire tap water
New Hampshire has a plethora of water sources, including groundwater, surface waters like lakes and rivers, and the ocean.
New Hampshire runs a tight ship and enforces some of the strictest water regulations in the country. The water is very clean and tastes great.
10 – Connecticut tap water
Connecticut is a state that has numerous laws in place to protect its water sources, in part to improve public health, but it is also one of the only states in the country that forbids public water supply and waste treatment water from being on the same system.
Connecticut delivers a combination of ground and surface waters to the public.
Reasons Why States Have Good Tap Water
The table below lists the US states with the best and worst tap water based on the weighted point system used by the Environmental Protection Agency. It lists the source of each state’s tap water and a reason why their water is particularly good.
|Source of Tap Water
|Reason for Good Water Quality
|Onshore aquifers from rainwater
|Naturally purified by volcanic rock
|Improved taste due to water filtration
|Surface water, groundwater
|High-quality water from streams, rivers, lakes
|Surface water, groundwater
|Rich in surface water resources
|Reservoirs, wells, and aquifers
|Naturally purified by protected forests
|Surface water, groundwater
|Rigorous and frequent testing
|Groundwater from wells in aquifers
|Clean, high-quality tap water
|Groundwater from aquifers
|Excellent service and high testing frequency
|Groundwater, surface water
|Strict water regulations
|Groundwater, surface water
|Laws in place to protect water sources
Top 3 Cities in The US with the Best Tap Water – Check These Rankings
Some cities in the US have just got it right; we’re taking a look at the top 3 cities with the safest, cleanest, and most refreshing water. One on our list has even been praised as the “sweetest water from the tap in the world.”
1 – Memphis, TN water
The largest US city that exclusively uses groundwater is Memphis. The Memphis Sand Aquifer, a vast reservoir of freshwater, is located hundreds of feet beneath Memphis. Across the state in Chattanooga, the water quality is not as good.
The water needs little purification because it contains so few minerals. This is the source of drinking water for at least a million people, and many have claimed it to be the cleanest water on earth.
2 – Macon, Georgia water
The Macon Water Authority’s water quality and taste are nationally recognized. The water treatment plant for the city of Macon in Georgia is also bigger than those of some cities.
The water in Macon comes from rainwater, which feeds the Ocmulgee River. The water treatment plant draws the water and pumps it to the Javors Lucas Lake, Macons raw water storage facility, a post process of chemicals ensures the water’s quality.
3 – Louisville, Kentucky water
Louisville uses a process known as Riverbank Filtration (RBF) to get its water from the Ohio River.
Each day, hundreds of tests are conducted on the water to ensure its safety and cleanliness after it has been filtered through sand and gravel.
It’s suggested that the large amount of limestone present in the filtration is what makes their tap so sweet.
The following table summarizes the best tap water in the US along with the source of their drinking water and why it’s so good.
|Source of Tap Water
|Reason for Good Water Quality
|Memphis Sand Aquifer
|Contains few minerals and requires little purification
|Rainwater that feeds the Ocmulgee River
|National recognition for water quality and taste
|Ohio River via Riverbank Filtration
|Filtration through limestone makes the tap water sweet
10 States with The Worst Tap Water
Although these states have stunning scenery and some of the most vibrant cities in America, residents and those considering relocating should be aware that the tap water in these states is among the worst in the country.
In Alaska, the widespread use of industrial firefighting foams on military bases communities in Alaska, from the North Slope to Southeast Alaska, now have contaminated drinking water.
In almost 30 different locations across Alaska, PFAS have been discovered at more than 100 different sites.
Due to Pennsylvania’s coal mining-based economy, pollution is rife across the state. A recent study found that the state’s 20,000 miles of streams do not adhere to federal standards for swimming and fishing.
Along with polluted streams, numerous defunct gas and oil wells are also blamed for releasing pollutants into the groundwater.
Due to Florida’s two ecological emergencies in 2018, the state’s water supply is at an all-time low. Red tide bacteria flooded into the Gulf of Mexico during the summer of 2018, and toxic blue-green algae flooded into rivers, lakes, and oceans.
Due to the freshwater algae blooms, the state also experiences high levels of fertilizer and other pollutants.
Since hurricanes and other storms cause flooding, which in turn affects the water systems, natural disasters frequently have an impact on Florida’s water resources.
The Colorado River, the Salt and Verde River systems, and groundwater supply the majority of the water in Arizona.
Despite severe water shortages caused by droughts, one study discovered that Phoenix tap water has the highest average concentrations of chromium-6 and PFAS in the US.
Most of California’s poor-quality tap water is found in the poorer communities. There are many farms across the state that also have hazardous levels of uranium and arsenic in their water.
Because California has such a huge farming economy, they have also recently been dealing with a severe nitrate problem. Nitrates are extremely carcinogenic if ingested.
Ohio is a heavily industrialized state, and because of this, the state’s water takes a lot of the pressure. Old lead piping is one of the most serious issues in Ohio, but they also have problems with sulphates and iron leaking into the water.
According to this article, the EPA suggests that over 100 water systems have been contaminated with “forever chemicals’ in Ohio.
The quality of the water in Washington is a problem because of polluted stormwater getting into the water system, as well as the growing population, which puts even more strain on the system. The state water supply varies widely depending on where you live.
There are other pollution risks, including low concentrations of dissolved oxygen, low pH, toxics, and bacteria.
8. Puerto Rico
Another cause of unclean water is natural disasters. Puerto Rico has been dealing with sediment-filled water since Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the island in 2017.
There is an extreme shortage of clean tap water in Puerto Rico due to the failure of infrastructure. Puerto Ricans also frequently receive “boil water” notices.
Georgia is home to many rivers, lakes, and reservoirs; however, it relies on groundwater sources most of the time for general consumption. Typical house water quality can vary.
Georgia has a lot of runoff and wastewater from factories, which pollutes water systems and allows contaminants to find their way into the tap water. Microplastics and PFAS are also challenging those parts of the state face. Access to clean water in Georgia can be a challenge.
Every day, a number of facilities, including refineries, regional wastewater treatment facilities, and chemical producers, are notorious for dumping pollutants into rivers, lakes, and bays.
Because of the buildup of all these chemicals and human waste in the waterways, Texas’s water quality has significantly declined. Water quality from the tap may not be as good as many people assume it is.
It may have surprised you to learn which states have the best and worst tap water. Why don’t we take a deeper look at the top cities with the best and worst tap water?
Top 3 Cities in the United States with the Worst Tap Water
No city wants to have the worst tap water. Some cities suffer from high lead content due to old lead piping, and some suffer from improperly filtering chemicals. Here are the top 3 cities in the US with the worst tap water.
You may be interested in this article – Why Does My Tap Water Taste and Smell Bad (and How to Treat It)
1 – Pensacola, FL water
According to a national survey by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that Pensacola’s water contained up to 21 chemicals that were above health standards, including radium, lead, bezene, and carbon tetrachloride.
20 million tap water quality tests conducted by water utilities between 2004 and 2009 were examined in an unprecedented analysis. According to the EWG, 316 different contaminants were found in the water that was delivered to the general public by water providers.
2 – Milwaukee, WI water
The city has been dealing with lead in the drinking water for a while, and it keeps making headlines, most recently for failing to replace lead pipes fast enough. Water from a typical home’s faucet has higher lead concentrations than many health professionals consider safe.
Lead enters through ageing service pipes and plumbing that are made of lead. About 10% of the city’s water sites had lead concentrations of more than 7.2 parts per billion, which is a staggering number.
3 – Fresno, CA water
Despite the fact that many Californian cities have subpar tap water, the state’s worst offender has to be Fresno. One study ranked it 199th overall out of 200 cities for poor water quality.
Another report by SimpleWater stated that Fresno’s water tested dangerously high for various contaminants, including many found in mining waste, breaking federal regulations.
If you’re a resident of Fresno, investing in some form of water filtration for your home water system would be a great decision.
Causes for Poor Tap Water Quality
Water quality can be negatively impacted by a variety of contaminants. Some of these contaminants are naturally occurring, while others are man-made. The most common contaminants found in tap water can pose serious health risks.
The following are the top six most common problems with public drinking water. Some of these problems are related to water contaminants, and others are based on why they are dangerous.
- Old infrastructure : The pipes that carry and distribute the water are one of the primary causes of poor quality tap water. Contamination of the water can occur when lead or copper seeps into it from old, corroding pipes.
- Treatment byproducts : Water is transported to a water treatment facility before being made available to the general public to ensure it is safe for consumption. These treatment facilities can get rid of a lot of contaminants, but they can also produce trihalomethanes, which could be dangerous.
- Industry and agriculture : Heavy metals, organic solvents, and petroleum products can leak from industrial storage and disposal sites into nearby water sources. Water sources can also become contaminated by agricultural runoff that contains pesticides and fertilizer.
- Human and animal wastes : Waste from animal feedlots, septic systems, and sewage all have the potential to carry dangerous microbes that could end up in water sources.
- Natural sources : There are different levels of certain contaminants underground, like iron, sulphur, and arsenic, in different parts of the country. These pollutants can be picked up and absorbed by groundwater as it passes through rock and soil.
- Hardness: Hard water contains high levels of dissolved minerals like calcium and magnesium, which can cause buildup in pipes and appliances, reduce the effectiveness of soap, and leave spots on dishes. Read my article about cities with hard water.
Although the EPA keeps track of each region’s water safety status, you might still end up drinking contaminated water. Taking extra measures to prevent this from happening is always a good idea.
Generally speaking, American water quality is very high. We enjoy some of the cleanest water in the world.