Which States Have the Best and Worst Tap Water?

Water is an essential part of our daily life. We've put together a list of the top 10 states in the U.S. with the best and worst public tap water.

By: Maggie Pace

Water is an essential part of our daily life. We drink it, cook with it, bathe in it, and we’re constantly being reminded about how much water we should drink to stay healthy and hydrated. And since the water crisis in Flint, Michigan in 2015, the quality of our water has become a regular part of our news cycle, as well.

Though the affected areas tend to be low-income and rural locales, unsafe and poor-quality water is everywhere in the United States. If you’re curious if you live in a state with good or bad water, we’ve put together lists of the top 10 states in the U.S. with the best and worst public tap water. Don’t fret if you see your state on this list, we have plenty of filtration methods to clean your tap water.

Water Quality

For many Americans, the quality of your area’s tap water is something you’re just forced to live with. Some states and cities take pride in having delicious, clean tap water, while some, like Flint, are in the news for having very poor water quality. So, what classifies a state as having good water or bad water?

What makes a state have bad water?

A state can have poor water quality due to a number of different reasons. A main reason for unclean water is due to the pipes that carry the water. A leak in a pipe that carries water creates a vacuum, in which untreated water is sucked into the pipe with the treated water, according to an article from National Public Radio about Inez, Kentucky’s water. This water then flows through people’s homes and faucets. Old pipes can also leak lead into the water, bringing the harmful chemical to your glass.

A main reason for unclean water is due to the pipes that carry the water. A leak in a pipe that carries water creates a vacuum, in which untreated water is sucked into the pipe with the treated water…”

Another cause of poor-quality tap water is the runoff from process manufacturing plants or agriculture. Examples of this can include runoff from a coal mining plant or auto-industry leaking into the state’s rivers. To make tap water smell and taste better, chlorine may be added. But no one wants their tap water tasting like pool water.

Who is responsible for monitoring the tap water?

In 1974, Congress pass the Safe Drinking Law (SDWA) which provides power to each state to set a standard for tap water quality as long as it meets the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA standards include contaminant limits, water-test scheduling, and methods that each state’s water systems must follow. Within each state, local water suppliers run testing for SDWA once a year. After tests are run, all community water suppliers are required to provide the report to all residents.

States with the Best Tap Water in the U.S.

While some states settle for water that meets the minimum requirement of being drinkable, the best tap water in the U.S. comes from these states that often go the extra mile with stricter drinking water testing and standards.

  1. Rhode Island: Because the small state of Rhode Island enjoys an abundance of water resources, the state carefully monitors all bodies of water. According to the Office of Water Resources, over 90% of the state’s groundwater is considered suitable for drinking. The Office of Water Resources controls wastewater discharges, prevents groundwater pollution, and more.
  2. South Dakota: South Dakota water systems pride themselves on having a superb track record, meeting the EPA goal of having 95% of water users in the state meeting all health standards related to tap water. Additionally, Mid-Dakota has received the Secretary’s Award for Drinking Water Excellence for 16 consecutive years providing safe water without a violation.
  3. Minnesota: The Minnesota Department of Health focuses on the public water suppliers by protecting through grants, coordinating training for water operators, and more. Duluth, Minnesota won the 2013 “Best in Glass” drinking water taste test which included three other Minnesota cities in the running.

    Duluth, Minnesota

    Duluth, Minnesota

  4. New Hampshire: New Hampshire has one of the nation’s strictest drinking water standards. In 2019, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services proposed new testing for contaminants such as PFAS – the harmful contaminant found in non-stick cookware.
  5. Connecticut: The state of Connecticut has very high-quality tap water as it is only one of the two states that prohibit discharges from wastewater treatment plants within public water supply watersheds. Meaning, the public water has very little exposure to pharmaceuticals and other harmful contaminants.
  6. Vermont: In Vermont, about 70% of residents get their drinking water from public systems that are closely monitored for contamination. Out of the 70%, 97% are satisfied with their drinking water.
  7. Kansas: About 96% of Kansans receive water from public water supplies that meet or exceed all state and federal regulations for clean water, according to Mike Tate, Director of the Bureau of Water for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Emporia, Kansas is known for having clean, great-tasting water as it won the Best Tap Water prize at the 23rd annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting.
  8. Missouri: Missouri has some of the best drinking water not just in the U.S., but in the world. In fact, the city of Independence has been named among the top five best-tasting tap waters in the world seven times in eight years at the Berkeley Spring International Water Testing Competition.
  9. Oregon: Oregon’s water supply has tested incredibly clean as the majority of Portland’s water flows from the pristine Bull Run Watershed. Test results on the watersheds two reservoirs show very low levels of naturally occurring contaminants like giardia and bacteria.  
  10. Massachusetts: According to the MassDEP Drinking Water Program, Massachusetts has some of the highest quality drinking water in the country and some of the strictest standards. Watersheds in the state are protected by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, which ensures that all forests in the area are protected as well. These forests naturally clean the water so that by the time it gets to the city, the water requires minimal filtering.  

States with the Worst Tap Water in the U.S.

These states may feature scenery and some of the nation’s most thriving cities, but residents and anyone considering moving should be aware that they also happen to have the worst tap water in the U.S.  

  1. Arizona: Not only is water scarce In Arizona, but a recent study shows that Phoenix tap water has the highest average levels of chromium-6.
  2. California: Most of the state’s poor quality of drinking water comes from the rural areas. Many of the farming communities in California are drinking from arsenic and uranium-contaminated water systems.  
  3. Ohio: Because Ohio is one of the nation’s largest industrial centers, the water in the state suffers, resulting in high levels of lead found in the tap waterCombined with poor mining practices and old pipes, many residents in Ohio are served contaminated water. 
  4. Washington: Outside of Seattle’s city limits, residents of Washington’s water look a little different. Chromium, chloroform, arsenic, uranium, nitrate, radon, and radium are a handful of contaminants in the state’s water.
  5. Puerto Rico: Natural disasters are also a major contributor to unclean water. After Hurrican Irma and Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, the island has been suffering from water that is filled with sediment.   
  6. Georgia: Due to polluted rivers, streams, and wells in Georgia, the state’s water quality is very poor.  
  7. New Jersey: A synthetic, toxic chemical used for New Jersey’s industrial centers has lingered in the water for many years. This chemical, used for grease, water, and heat-resistant properties, is being phased out of production but remains in the state’s tap water today.
  8. PennsylvaniaFor many years, Pennsylvania's economy relied on coal mining, which led to pollution. According to a recent study, 20,000 miles of streams in the state do not meet federal standards for fishing and swimming. In addition to contaminated streams, many abandoned gas and oil wells are attributing to leaking contaminants into the groundwater.
  9. Florida: Poor tap water in Florida is attributed to the two ecological emergencies the state experienced in 2018. During the summer of 2018, red tide microorganisms flooded into the Gulf of Mexico, and toxic blue-green algae flowed into rivers, lakes, and oceans. Additionally, the state experiences high levels of fertilizer and other pollutants due to the freshwater algae blooms. Natural disasters often affect Florida’s water as hurricanes and storms result in flooding, which in turn affect the water systems.
  10. Texas: The most affected areas of Texas are the rural areas, making up over 15% of the large state. Because resources are scarce, and pipes are often old in these smaller towns, lead, radiation, and arsenic can be found in public water.  

If You Live in a State That Has Bad Tap Water

If you live in one of the states that made the “Worst Tap Water in the U.S.” list, there’s no need to pack your bags. While there are alternatives to drinking tap waterwe highly recommend investing in a water filtration system. If you think bottled water is a good alternative to dirty tap water, we’ve compiled a list of disadvantages against the wasteful and expensive product in our article, Bottled Water vs. Filtered Water  Filtering your tap water at home can remove harmful contaminants, helping your health in the long runIf you’re interested in filtering your home’s water, but not sure where to start, we recommend starting with looking over a water quality report from your local municipality. Interpreting your city’s water report is simple, with the help of this articleOnce you know what contaminants are found in your drinking water, you can better choose a water filter with our helpful guide.    If you’re wanting to filter the water in your home from every faucet, you would need to consider a whole house water filter. Or, if you’re only concerned about the water you drink, under sink and countertop filters can be an easy and quick option to get clean, healthy water.  

Even if your state appears to have some of the cleanest water in the U.S., there’s still a chance unseen, harmful contaminants can be in the water. To learn more about Aqusana’s water filters and how they can help improve the safety and taste of your tap water, contact our Customer Service Team.