Why The Quality Of Tap Water Is Inconsistent Across The US

If you've ever done any traveling across the U.S., you may have noticed that not all tap water is created equal. Some comes from wells or aquifers underground, while other areas get their tap water from large rivers and lakes. But while all U.S. drinking water is subject to CDC standards and regulations, the fact remains that it just tastes better in some places. So why is this critical utility so uneven from state to state or even county to county? The answer, as it so often is in real estate, is: Location, location, location.

As Aquasana, a water filtration company, notes, some issues with water impurity are simply environmental. States with high amounts of rainfall can see their plentiful water supplies damaged by runoff from cities or land used heavily for agriculture or manufacturing. This situation can be exacerbated in areas that are prone to natural disasters like hurricanes, where flooding can wash all sorts of pollutants into the water system.

An economic issue

Unfortunately, it's not just rainfall that can lead to problems. A report from Science noted that hot, drier states like Texas and Oklahoma tend to have worse drinking water because the heat can breed bacteria in ground water if it is not protected — something many poorer, rural communities may not be able to afford. Their study showed that in 2015 — the year the Flint, Michigan water crisis was discovered — 21 million Americans were living with drinking water that did not meet safety standards, with the most concentration in poor or rural communities where treatment facilities and pipes may be in disrepair. Erik Olsen, a policy expert from the Natural Resource Defense Council, told Science the best way to reduce this issue would. so more people would have access to better cleaning systems.

On the flip side of the issue, areas with plentiful surface water and stricter water regulations tend to have water that is both safer and better tasting. According to Aquasana, Rhode Island, Minnesota, and Missouri are more stringent about managing their drinking water and consistently are ranked as some of the best-tasting tap water in the country. The same rankings showed that New Jersey, which has seen its tap water suffer due to pollution run off, has improved in ranking in recent years as the state makes more efforts to clean up its water.