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Is New York City tap water safe to drink? If you’re looking for the simple, quick, and easy answer, it’s yes. In fact, New York City tap water is some of the best in the country. All of the five boroughs are blessed with some of the best tap water in the country. Of course, that is not to say that it is 100% free of contaminants.
Where Does New York City Tap Water Come From?
The water in New York City comes from one of three watersheds. The Delaware and Catskill watersheds are located in upstate New York and provide more than 90% of the water for New York City. The final 10% comes from the Croton watershed.
From the source, the water is clean enough that New York is one of the only municipalities that does not have to filter their water. However, water degradation can occur down the line due to issues like:
- Aging pipes in homes and buildings
- Local water distribution networks using disinfectants like chloramine
Who Regulates The New York Water System?
Just like most US cities, the tap water system in New York is regulated by EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), whereas bottled waters are regulated by FDA (Food and Drug Administration).
According to the EPA, New York’s tap water is drinkable. However, the problem with their water reports is that they’ve overlooked the long-term consequences of several contaminants in their evaluation.
The reports by EWG (Environmental Working Group), which has much stricter criteria for water evaluation, reveal the long-term impact of the New York tap water system’s infamous cancerous contaminants.
These contaminants include Chromium 6, Chloroform, Bromodichloromethane, Trichloroacetic acid, Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs), and Dichloroacetic acid. Their long-term consumption can cause respiratory ailments, liver and kidney damage, eye damage, cancer, nervous disorder, and other health problems.
EWG believes that lowering the presence of dangerous contaminants is essential to reduce the long-term health risks.
Is Tap Water Available in Public in New York?
Generally, every restaurant or cafe you walk into will offer you sparkling water, bottled water, or tap water. Although restaurants generally don’t charge for tap water, no law in New York asks them to provide it for free.
If you’re looking for free tap water in New York City, then the public water fountains and bottle refilling stations are your best bet. Currently, most of the bottle filling stations are located in Brooklyn. The city is gearing up to increase tap water distribution by installing at least 500 bottle refilling stations by 2025.
Can You Drink New York City Water from the Tap?
You can, but if you want to be 100% sure you’re drinking water is safe you should add the use of a water filter. This will remove and/or reduce many of the contaminants in water, especially those found in New York City’s tap water. Remember, just because the water is clean at the source doesn’t mean it’s clean by the time it comes out of your faucet as it can get contaminated along the path of delivery.
Our water filter reviews can help you choose the best setup for your specific needs so you can be confident you’re drinking clean, safe water. That said, your best bet will be to choose a water filter that specifically addresses the contaminants found in your cities water.
What Contaminants are in New York City Drinking Water?
Despite the fact that New York City water quality is some of the best in the country, it still has some contaminants in it that are above standard health guidelines. All in all, according to EWG’s Tap Water Database, there are 14 contaminants that you’ll need to worry about in New York City drinking water. Six of the contaminants are at a higher level than health guidelines approve of and eight others are below the limit, but still detectable.
Five out of the six contaminants are haloacetic acids. These contaminants can cause cancer. They are formed when disinfectants like chlorine are used to treat drinking water. These include:
- Dichloroacetic Acid
- Trichloroacetic Acid
The final of the five is total trihalomethanes, which is comprised of four chemicals. The previously mentioned chloroform and bromodichloromethane and the unmentioned, dibromochloromethane and bromoform.
The sixth contaminant affecting New York City water quality is Chromium. Also a cancer-causing contaminant, Chromium is commonly found in drinking water due to issues like mineral deposits or industrial pollution.
The other contaminants in New York City tap water include:
- 1,4-Dioxane – a cancer-causing solvent that contaminants groundwater likely due to industrial wastewater discharge
- Chlorate – A consequence of disinfection, Chlorate impairs proper thyroid function, which is particularly harmful to children and pregnant women.
- Chromium (total) – Chromium, not to be confused with the cancer-causing hexavalent chromium, is a metal that if often found in water due to industrial usage.
- Haloacetic acids or HAA5 – This group of acids are formed when disinfectants are added to the water to clean it. Some of these acids were mentioned previously (dichloroacetic acid, dichloroacetic acid, and trichloroacetic acid). You can also add to that monobromoacetic acid and monochloroacetic acid.
- Nitrate – This fertilizer chemical is frequently found in water due to urban runoff but can also be from the discharge of the septic tanks at water treatment plants. Excess exposure can increase cancer risk or cause oxygen deprivation in infants.
- Nitrate and nitrite – The same concerns are found here that are in Nitrate. That said, nitrite is the more dangerous of the two contaminants.
- Strontium – This metal will accumulate in your bones. It can impair your bone health, even causing bone cancer or leukemia in some.
More details can be found in the New York City water quality report.
Water Filter Recommendations
Even though you can drink New York City tap water it’s going to be much safer if you add a water filter to remove the impurities that are present. While you can get a whole house water filter, there are many other options ranging from faucet water filters that cover one faucet to water filter pitchers that will clean water one pitcher at a time. Some of our favorites include:
- Whole House Filter – Home Master HMF2SDGC
- Faucet Filter – Culligan FM-15A
- Water Filter Pitcher – Brita Everyday
So, is New York City tap water safe to drink? It is, but it will be safer with a water filter. Hopefully this has answered all your questions, but if you have more, feel free to let us know in the comments!
Contaminants Aren’t the Only Concern With New York’s Tap Water
The EPA has given a clean chit to the New York tap water considering the level of contaminants are safe. However, contaminants aren’t the only thing you need to worry about.
One of the biggest threats to the safety of tap water in New York is the system itself. There are countless old pipes that distribute the water all across the city. As we know, old metal is infamous for leaching lead and other heavy metals.
Heavy metals are deadly for your internal organs, immune system, nervous system, and can even increase the rate of birth defects.
The city is very conscious of the problems associated with tap water. In 2018, the city invested approximately $1 billion to generate safe drinking water. Out of this, at least $200 million went towards the treatment and purification of tap water.
Despite their efforts, contaminants are seeping into the New York tap water system. Sometimes they’re left behind during inefficient purification, and sometimes they enter through old and rusty pipes.
Another growing problem with the New York tap water system is the increasing concentration of microplastics. It’s been discovered that people are consuming close to 260 grams of microplastic every year. This is equivalent to approximately 52 credit cards a year and one credit card a week.
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!