The Five Best and Five Worst Cities for Water Quality

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Aug 17, 2010 | Cris Carl

I have been known to scoff at products that have their first ingredient as water – until of course I remember that water is my first ingredient. When you take that simple fact into consideration, water quality becomes one of life’s most important issues. While there are numerous water filtration systems on the market, it is good to know the quality of the water actually coming out of your tap. Where you live may make a difference.

There are various criteria regarding documented studies of water quality. The best examples come from non-political or non-promotional studies. Researching the water quality in your city or town is made somewhat easier by requesting an Annual Water Quality Report also known as the Drinking Water Quality Report. These consumer confidence reports must be provided in areas that have public water systems that have at least 15 service connections or serves at least 25 year-round residents.

The following best and worst categories were culled from studies performed between 2008 and 2010. Because criteria vary, so do the lists. The cities listed here appear on several lists and are only intended to give you a general idea.

The Five Best Cities for Water Quality:

1 – Portland, Oregon

2 – San Jose, California

3 – San Francisco, California

4 – Boston, Massachusetts

5 – Louisville, Kentucky

The Five Worst Cities for Water Quality:

1 – Las Vegas Nevada

2 – Reno, Nevada

3 – Pensacola, Florida

4 – Casper, Wyoming

5 – Concord, New Hampshire 

What are the criteria for good water quality?

Again, it will depend on who you ask or where you do your research. That being said, we can all agree that high quality tap water will contain the lowest levels possible of contaminants. Contaminants can include bacteria, organic, or made-made chemicals and compounds such as pesticides and residual pharmaceuticals. Most people are not immediately affected by water contaminants in tap water. However, over long periods of time, contaminants have been known to cause severe illnesses, such as cancer and liver damage. It is also important to note that even chemicals that are used traditionally in water supplies such as chorine and fluoride can have dangerous effects on health.

An investigation by the Associated Press turned up significant quantities of pharmaceuticals in 24 major cities tap water. Some of the drugs found included anticonvulsants, antibiotics, sex hormones, and mood stabilizers. Note: Please do not throw old or unused medications down the toilet! Also, do not dump any chemicals or drugs down the drain. Contact your local public works department regarding proper disposal.

Other criteria for determining good water quality include: air quality, distance to primary untreated fresh drinking water, dependence on snow pack and water tables, history of trends of drought or saltwater intrusion, and population growth trends.  The US Environmental Protection Agency maintains data regarding the water quality of the nation’s watersheds. The EPA bases their water quality criteria on how effectively the watershed supports its designated use. For example, Aspen and Vale Colorado come in at the top because their watershed supports its designated use by 99 percent.

No study can cover every city or town. Studies are often based on the most populated cities. Look into getting your local report and it never hurts to use a good water filtration system.

Check out the 7 cities with the worst air pollution.

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