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Houston tap water meets EPA and international standards for safety. However, the high mineral content and chlorine treatment may affect the taste for some people. Despite this, the water is still safe to drink
Whether you’re new to Houston or have been there for years, it makes sense to be worried about Houston water quality. Is Houston tap water safe to drink? While it does contain some contaminants, which we will discuss below, the city water is in compliance with the standards set by the EPA. So, yes Houston drinking water is considered safe. However, if you want to know exactly what’s in your Houston tap water, keep reading.
Where Does Houston Tap Water Come From?
Houston tap water comes from the local rivers and lakes. Over 85% of the water comes from the Trinity River, which flows into Lake Livingston, and the San Jacinto River, which flows into Lake Conroe and then Lake Houston.
Houston drinking water tends to be displeasing to most pallets. This is because the water is incredibly mineral-rich. This harder water mixed with the chlorine treatments that it needs to receive ends up tasting awful. Luckily, if the taste of your water or the color of your water is a problem that doesn’t reflect on the safety of the water. There’s also plenty of things that you can do to fix both issues.
Can you Drink Houston Water from the Tap?
You can drink Houston tap water, but for ultimate protection you should consider using a water filter. Unfortunately, even after water treatment, Houston drinking water does have contaminants in it. A water filter will work to remove the majority of those contaminants and make the Houston tap water safer to drink. As Houston does not always meet the requirements set by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, a water filter can set your mind at ease, knowing that you’re water is of the highest quality possible.
What Contaminants are in Houston Drinking Water?
Houston tap water may meet the standards set by the EPA, but that does not mean its contaminant free. Actually, Houston drinking water has its fair share of contaminants. Luckily, these can all generally be significantly reduced or removed with the use of a water filter. All in all, Houston drinking water contains about ten contaminants that are higher than the health guidelines recommend. Additionally, there are 30 more contaminants in Houston drinking water that while not higher than the recommendation, are still present.
Of the ten contaminants that are higher than the recommended guidelines, the chief concern with all of them is that they could contribute to the cause of cancer. These contaminants include:
- Chromium (hexavalent)
- Dichloroacetic acid
- Radiological contaminants
- Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs)
- Trichloroacetic acid
Other contaminants in Houston drinking water
- 1,4-Dioxane – This is a solvent that can cause cancer. This tends to be a product of industrial wastewater discharge
- Aluminum – This metal can impair the brain development in children with too much exposure
- Atrazine and Simazine – These two contaminants are herbicides that disrupt proper hormone functioning in both men and women.
- Barium – This is a mineral that in high doses can add to the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease
- Bromochloroacetic acid – This is a product of disinfectants that are used to treat water. It can increase the chance of problems during pregnancy. It is also a cancer risk.
- Bromochloromethane – Another byproduct of disinfectants that can add to the risk of cancer.
- Bromoform – a TTHM created when disinfectants are added to treat water. This can cause cancer or problems that occur in pregnancy.
- Chlorate – Another consequence of disinfection, Chlorate weakens proper thyroid function.
- Chloromethane – This is both an industrial solvent and a byproduct of disinfection. It also could contribute to cancer.
- Chromium (total) – Chromium is often found in water as a result of industrial usage.
- Cobalt – This metal is found in different forms in the environment
- Cyanide – As a toxic chemical this can cause damage to the central nervous system. It can also lead to thyroid toxicity.
- DEHP – Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate – This is a softener used on plastics. It’s known to disrupt the male hormones, as well.
- Dibromoacetic acid and HAA5 (Haloacetic acids) – This group of acids are formed as a byproduct of disinfection.
- Fluoride – While naturally occurring, this is often also added to drinking water in many areas.
- Hexadecanoic acid – This is a fatty acid that occurs naturally in plant and animal lipids.
- Manganese – This naturally occurring element is common in water but can cause attention and memory problems in children.
- Methyl Isobutyl Ketone – Commonly this solvent is found in adhesive products
- Molybdenum – A naturally occurring metal that can cause symptoms similar to gout if consumed in large amounts
- Nitrate – This fertilizer chemical is usually due to urban runoff. Exposure may increase cancer or cause infants to have oxygen deprivation.
- Nitrate and nitrite – The same concerns are found here that are in Nitrate.
- Selenium – An excess amount of this essential element can impair thyroid functioning and cause skin lesions, hair loss, and even brittle nails.
- Strontium – This metal accumulates in your bones and can increase the chances for bone cancer or leukemia.
- Vanadium – Another metal found in steel. While commonly found in water, excessive amounts can cause toxicity in pregnant women and children
- Xylenes (total) – This is another solvent similar to paint thinner. It has the ability to damgage the development of fetuses and can cause damage to the nervous system
Water Filter Recommendations
While Houston tap water has some problems with hard water minerals and contamination, it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a good water filter. If you’re unsure of how or where to buy a water filter, we’re here to help! Water filters come in all sizes. You can choose a whole house water filter, which will provide ultimate protection for your whole home. Less expensive options include faucet water filters and water filter pitchers, both of which are excellent options if you don’t need water filtration for the entire house. Some models we like include:
- Whole House Filter – Home Master HMF2SDGC
- Faucet Water Filter – Wingsol water filter
- Water Filter Pitcher – Brita Everyday
- Countertop Filter – Big Berkey
While these water filters will filter out the majority of contaminants, you can also find water filters that address specific contaminants you may be worried about. For example, you can get a water filter that specializes in Lead or Chlorine removal.
Is Houston tap water safe to drink? It passes the requirements by the EPA, but if you want to ensure you have the healthiest possible drinking water you should always use a water filter. If you have any questions about Houston drinking water, feel free to ask us in the comments.
The Effects of Contaminants Found in Houston Water
The list of contaminants present in Houston tap water is pretty vast, but not all of them are hazardous for your health. After all, there’s a reason why it got a clean chit from the EPA even after their rigorous assessment that lasted for four years.
However, certain contaminants present in the tap water in Houston can pose serious health hazards. Here are the top 4 deadly contaminants and the effect they can have on your health.
Arsenic is a deadly toxic heavy metal. The concentration of this metal is below the threshold set by the EPA. However, it’s essential to know what your body is exposed to, even if in low concentrations.
Long-term exposure to arsenic increases the risk of cancer. It also leads to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, decreased cognitive development, and increases the chances of death in young adults.
The toxicity of arsenic may cause reproductive problems for a pregnant mother as well as birth defects for a baby.
The average concentration of arsenic in Houston tap water was found to be 2.3 parts per billion, and the maximum concentration was found to be 8 parts per billion. Despite the approval given by the authorities, we recommend that if you live in an area with a concentration higher than 1 part per billion, you should opt for a water filter to remove this contaminant.
How to Test for Arsenic in Water
High amounts of arsenic in water are dangerous. The US EPA has set some standards to control inorganic arsenic; a measurement of 5 parts per billion (ppb) has been chosen as the maximum acceptable amount for safe drinking water.
Testing the levels of arsenic can be done easily; you simply request a test from one of the numerous laboratories that conduct them, and they will send a container for water samples. A test is affordable because arsenic testing is a public health matter.
If uncontrollable levels are discovered from your test, drink bottled water and consider using it for cooking as well until a permanent solution has been found.
How to Remove Arsenic in Water (Naturally)
Testing technologies exist to bring your water to safety standards without spending too much. Reverse osmosis is one of the most popular methods of reducing levels of arsenic to almost zero.
Distillation is another alternative; water is boiled until it becomes steam. Fortunately, inorganic arsenic particles are larger than water vapor. Activated alumina is also an option – it is made from aluminum oxide in the form of pellets that absorb metalloid arsenic from water.
Finally, I would try the ion exchange technique if I ran out of options. This uses positively charged resin beads to trap arsenic in the water.
Test your drinking water every three to five years to ensure that it is up to acceptable levels in terms of safety.
Chromium 6 is a dangerously toxic metal known to be one of the primary factors driving cancer risk among adults and children. Unfortunately, this metal is not yet regulated by EPA, which explains why the Houston tap water was given an OK even after containing 747 parts per trillion of Chromium 6.
The concentration of Chromium 6 is 35 times higher than the threshold believed to pose a negligible risk of cancer.
How to Test for Chromium 6 in Water
The Safe Drinking Water Act is a protocol that determines the safe levels of minerals in our water. For chromium 6 or hexavalent chromium, there should be no more than 0.1 miligrams per liter. If the chromium in drinking water does not meet this requirement, it is unsafe for consumption.
At elevated levels, chromium causes kidney and liver problems, among other health conditions you can avoid.
To test for chromium in water, a simple home water test kit will do. It will tell you if there are any levels of chromium at all. A more advanced test will confirm or allay any doubt you have.
How to Remove Chromium 6 From Water
Once again, reverse osmosis is your most effective shot at removing chromium 6 from water because of its size. If you try activated carbon-based filtration, there may be difficulty truly keeping the small particles separate from your water.
Reverse osmosis and hydrostatic pressure ensure that the separated particles stay separated.
Lead can seep into your house’s water supply through outdated lead pipes that leach into the water. In recent research by the City of Houston based on 10% of the samples of Houston tap water collected, it was discovered that the average concentration of lead was close to 4 parts per billion.
The concentration might not seem too high and is certainly below the threshold set by EPA. However, when it comes to children, no level of exposure to lead is safe. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently published a report stating that any water that contains more than 1 part per billion of lead needs to be filtered and made safe for consumption.
How to Test for Lead in Water
Testing for lead in water is as simple as requesting a test from public water systems. You can reach out to Houston Public Works per CDC directives, but you can also take a simple water test home.
Since you cannot smell or taste lead, avoid taking chances by insisting on medical tests, especially if lead has been discovered in your water.
A drinking water quality report is easy to get nowadays; you only need to apply for it, and you will know how to proceed.
How to Remove Lead from Water
Lead in water is a health risk. Because it is a drinking water contaminant, if you suspect or have confirmed the presence of lead, use distillation, active carbon filters, or reverse osmosis to rectify the situation.
Disinfection Byproducts (DBPs)
The scariest part about DBPs is that EPA doesn’t regulate them, and there’s no clear data on their concentration in the tap water of Houston. DBPs are formed when organic matter present in the water supply reacts with the chlorine-based disinfectant. Just like other US cities, Houston uses chlorine to treat its tap water.
If the level of chlorine is dangerously high, it may further increase the concentration of DBPs in water. Long-term exposure to DBPs increases the chances of liver, skin, kidney, and heart-related disease, along with bladder cancer. The contaminant can also severely damage your central nervous system if the concentration rises to catastrophic levels.
How to Remove Disinfection Byproducts (BDPs) from your Water
The CDC recommends reducing organic matter first by allowing the water to settle for twenty-four hours. Chlorination will then separate the toxic substances.
Ph.D. graduate working as a water quality consultant for many government agencies helping them find solutions to the ever-growing problem of polluted water. Loves a good coffee!