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The 10 States with the Worst Tap Water in the United States

The World Health Organization is aiming to enhance the quality of water all around the globe. However, when lead pollution was discovered in Flint, Michigan’s drinking water in 2015, it sparked a public health disaster in the United States. 

For many Americans, the quality of their local tap water is simply something they have to live with. Some states and communities take pleasure in having excellent, clean tap water with or without filters, while others, such as Flint, have made headlines due to poor water quality.

Despite the fact that some jurisdictions make a determined effort to provide safe drinking water to their residents, many lack the necessary infrastructure. These states must make do with the bare minimum of potable water. Residents, on the other hand, have sought personal solutions to the growing problem like installing good water filters.

What causes a state’s water to be of poor quality?

Many different factors can contribute to a state’s substandard water quality. Such as:

  • Leaks in water pipes can leach lead, copper, and other heavy metals into the water, bringing dangerous chemicals to your drinking glass. 
  • Runoff from agriculture and manufacturing plants is also a major cause of bad-quality tap water. 
  • Water municipalities may add chlorine to improve the water’s taste and smell, but it’s not as safe as people think.

States with the Worst Tap Water

While some states go above and above to assure safe drinking water for inhabitants, others settle for water that satisfies the basic criteria of being drinkable. Here are ten American states with the poorest tap water.

1. Arizona

Arizona’s tap water has the highest average levels of chromium-6, a known carcinogen, in the US. In 2015, over 2.46 million residents (36 percent of the state’s population) received contaminated water through their pipes. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Arizona had 2,362 violations of the SDWA in 2015.

2. California

Beautiful sunsets and golden poppies abound in California, but the state also suffers from badly contaminated water. Many of the state’s rural farming areas get their water from arsenic and uranium-tainted sources

The most vulnerable are children, pregnant women, and the elderly. California has begun taking action, but it may take decades to resolve its many drinking water challenges.

3. Florida

The state of Florida’s tap water is a result of two ecological disasters that occurred in the state in 2018. Red tide microorganisms drifted into the Gulf of Mexico and blue-green algae overflowed into lakes, rivers, and the ocean. 

In some regions, high counts of coliform bacteria from human waste and unsafe lead and copper levels were reported.

4. Georgia

Georgia’s drinking water is some of the nation’s worst. Its contaminated rivers, streams, and wells are primarily to blame. 

In some areas, chromium, arsenic, chloroform, radium, bromate, chlorate, and radium levels are well above legal guidelines. Some water systems contained trihalomethanes (THMs), which have been related to skin cancer, bladder cancer, and fetal development difficulties.

5. New Jersey

PFCs and other highly toxic synthetic chemicals used in the state’s industrial facilities lingered in its waters for years. The chemicals are linked to cancer, liver damage, and birth and developmental defects. 

One out of every five New Jersey residents consumes PFC-contaminated water on a regular basis. Over half of New Jersey’s population is exposed to unsafe water.

6. Ohio

Ohio is one of America’s largest industrial centers but has some of its worst drinking water. The high levels of lead in the state’s tap water are largely due to large-scale industrial activity throughout the state. 

Water polluted with iron, sulfate, and other mineral compounds are still served to many Ohio citizens. Many Texans (2.96 million, to be exact) received tainted water from community systems, as did residents in other states.

7. Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania, aka “The Keystone State,” has a long history of water pollution. Coal mining was the main offender responsible for the state’s water pollution crisis. 20,000 kilometers of streams in the state fail to meet federal fishing and swimming regulations. Nearly six million people in Pennsylvania have access to contaminated water.

8. Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico’s water supplies have changed for the worse since hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the island in 2017. Electrical outages and unreliable generators have resulted in a scarcity of running water, which is discolored and full of silt when it does run. 

Residents have been advised to boil their water for three minutes before using it, according to the authorities. Even before the hurricanes, nearly all of Puerto Rico’s drinking water supplies violated safety standards.

9. Texas

About 12.07 million Texans are served with unsafe water, and the quality doesn’t seem to be improving. The most contaminated water systems are located in the state’s small rural communities where resources are scarce and populations are usually around 100 people per provider. 

Some of the most dangerous pollutants tainting the water supply are arsenic, lead, and radiation, partly due to old pipes and contaminants leaking into waterways.

10. Washington

Washington’s water supply is one of the most contaminated in the country. Pollutants like animal waste, pesticides, fertilizers, oil, and microplastics pollute the state’s water supply. Almost three million Washington residents were served unsafe water in 2015. The Department of Health and Human Services is working to improve water quality in the state.

Monitoring tap water quality

Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in 1974 to strengthen public health protection against dangerous contaminants in water. The law allows states to set standards for tap water quality, as long as they fall in line with those of the EPA. 

Water-testing schedules, pollutant limitations, and treatment procedures must all be adhered to by each state’s water systems, according to EPA guidelines.

Final Thoughts

The tap water in the United States is believed to be among the safest and cleanest in the world. Every year, millions of people in various states are exposed to contaminated water. 

Whether or not you reside in a state with contaminated water, it’s still a good idea to test your water for toxins and, if necessary, install a good water filter. Allowing you and your family to drink clean, healthy, contaminant-free water.


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