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Is Tap Water Safe to Drink in USA ? Safe Drinking Water Act in America

Many of you, when you travel to a new country might wonder, if you can drink tap water in that country or not. If you from Asia, many do not suggest to drink tap water directly and they suggest to use a water filter or some purification mechanism. But, when you go to developed countries like US or any country in Europe, you may get a different response from the people there… I travel quite a bit for work and usually check on water quality and regulations from locals who live in that country. In this article, we will focus on safety of  drinking water from tap in America.

Can we drink Tap Water in USA ?  Is it Safe ? Regulations ?

Yes,  in general, tap water is safe to drink in USA in most of the places. You do not need to use any separate filtering process or water filters for the same. Yes, tap water in US is safe from health stand point as well. The reason you can count on the safety of tap water in US is due to the regulations set in place by US Environmental protection Agency( EPA) for public drinking water.

As per the Safe Drinking Water Act in America, EPA sets standards for safe drinking water.  In fact,  I did quite a bit of research on this, when I was studying MBA as part of my AMA’s case study on UNICEF Tap Project .  The funny thing is that, the study shows that tap water is much more safe than bottle water, the reason is that tap water is regulated by  US EPA, where as bottle water is not…

How Safety of Tap Water is enforced in US ?

The Safe Drinking Water Act is a regulation passed by the US government to provide safe drinking water for all US residents. It is a federal law and provides power to US States to set their own standards for safe drinking water. The general guidelines are established in the Safe Drinking Water Act ( SWDA ) like how much chemicals can be in there, microbial contaminants, etc.

One key thing is that, the federal law only applies to public community or public water system ( PWS), which states that there should be at least 15 service connections or 25 individuals.  I am sure most of the placed people live are communities of size at least 25, so you should be covered. If you are not going to be in a community of the minimum size as listed, then there is no protection or rules for safe drinking water.

Can I drink tap water in Hotels, Airports, Malls in US?

Yes, all the tap water that comes out of the water fountains in Hotels, Airports, Malls are safe to drink. It also includes tap water in Apartments as well. All of these fall under the Public Water system(PWS) definition of US EPA and regulated by SWDA. So, they all are subject to the compliance and you can be assured to drink safe tap water.

If you are not comfortable drinking tap water directly, you can use a small filter that tags on to the tap and just filtering…I personally do not see the need…but, if you want to you can….

Flint Water Crisis in Michigan – Impact for Tap Water ?

There was a big crisis in Flint, Michigan, when they switched water supply in 2014 and changed it with water from Flint River, which historically had contaminated water. The local govt was not treating the water well and sent water that is not as per EPA standards. Also, they use Lead pipes that resulted in high lead content in water that caused many issues. Overall, it was a big health crisis and there were lawsuits and final settlements on the same. You can read Flint Water Crisis History . The court ordered City Govt to supply bottled water to residents until they resolve it.

The key message from Flint Water Crisis is that, mistakes are possible at times with public water system, when some issues are overlooked. There were no significant issues reported with Tap Water in the past, until the Flint Crisis in 2014. So, in general, you are fine to drink from tap water in US, but it is always wise to double check with locals, if the local tap water is safe or any issues.

What has been your experience with drinking water in USA ?

Image Credits : http://pixabay.com/en/drop-faucet-tap-water-waterdrop-158968/

   

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20 Comments

  1. This is all very misleading and you are putting others at risk by lying about this. What im about to mention puts Flint. To shame. PFOS and PFAs and flourinated chemicals by Du-pont, Chemours and 3m, like teflon, fire spray foam at many airbases and ports, water repellent and many other products with similiar chemical compounds have been seeping into our water ways, WELL over 250 aquifers all over America, private and public. Your towns water management system is not designed to filter these chemicals and many people in the afflicted areas die from many cancers dealing with the immune system and your waste system within a decade while ingesting this water. These facts have been known since at LEAST the 70’s but nothing has ever been done about it until VERY recently and it’s likely too late, as these chemicals are predicted to last well beyond us, on earth. Thank those company’s for permanently, and continually destroying our most important resource we’ve ever had. They say their products save lives and make lives easier. 1 out of 2 Americans dying from cancer isnt saving lives, or making them easier.. Hop on board the lawsuit train or whatever train you can catch to stop these evil people.

    Reply
  2. Friends, tap water in the United States is safe. There are occurrences, in extreme cases as mentioned in Michigan where it was unsafe. I think that could be said of any country. I have had the good fortune to have been raised In a farming community, moved to a metropolitan city, and then moved back to a small town and can say I have drunk water all my life from artesian wells, from the garden hose, from the tap, from the river, and the only time I got sick was from being stupid in the Boundary Waters and not boiling water where I knew I should.

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  3. What about the high lead content in the water in Flint, Michigan? I read that a university in Kansas reported high lead levels, and an unusually high increase in second trimester miscarriages and premature births of very underweight babies.
    Why is the EPA not dealing with this issue?

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    • Thankfully, for most of the rest of the country, the Flint situation is an extreme exception. Our current regulations are fine, the problem is they weren’t followed and enforced properly in the Flint case. Also, I’m pretty sure it is being dealt with.

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  4. I’m a little late on commenting but I believe this article has very strong points and factual research behind it. This is a must read for all residents and or travelers!

    Reply
    • I know I’m a little late, but you’re telling people that this is a must read, after they have read it. I don’t know many people that read the comments before reading the article.

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  5. Ya Tap water is safe, but only the cold one. I heard lead is mixed to heat the water in the water heater. Better avoid too hot water even for your hair, that leads to a lot of hair fall ..
    But there is a difference in taste if we take a bottled water. Don’t know which is a good one

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  6. Hi Kumar,

    I have a different opinion, although even I had exactly the same misconception like you, until I got enlightened by many of my friends and I started doing water test using simple kits. Here are my views on tap/public water in USA:

    * Tap water might be safe to some extent but not always healthy.

    * EPA does regulate Tap water for the municipal supplies but not private wells which is often a source for some apartments /businesses, although they may do some kind of control but mostly chlorination, so water might be bacteria free but may not be the best as it may still have high PPM ( total dissolved solids ) and may also contain other contaminants.

    * My observation is if your Apartment Community offers you free water then most likely its from a private well. If you pay for your monthly water bill and you receive the detailed water report, then its good but still its nice to boil the water ( preferably with Tulsi leaves/Ajwain/Jeera ) prior to drinking.

    * The best alternative to Tap water in my view is Bottled “Spring” Water. USA has excellent sparkling spring sources and spring water is rich in minerals with health benefits, some studies even claim some springs to have healing powers.

    * The non-spring Bottled water may come from a municipal supply. The water is treated, purified and sold at the increased price, so essentially they’re glorified tap water. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees bottled water similar to EPA for tap water.

    * So I switched from Tap water ( my apt offers free water so its likely from a private well ) to Spring water. Whenever I see a deal from spring water I stock it. Usually I get it for $2-$2.5 per 24 pack ( 12 Liters )

    Thanks,
    Joe.

    Reply
  7. Last week I was in Houston and I saw that people use to drink water from bottles they get at stores. Is this a common practice?

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  8. You should also write an article about hygiene and importance of taking a shower. No offence, but not a lot of people from India use a deodorant.

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    • Most people in India dont use anti-perspirant. Since under arms produce lot of sweat, even if you take bath, you will smell by the evening. If you wear same shirt next day, you will stink whole day. Almost all people in USA use antiperspirant daily immediately after the bath, they expect everybody to use it. Its one of the first lessons I learned when landed in US. See more about anti-perspirant at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deodorant

      Reply

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