Where does Chicago tap water come from?The tap water in Chicago comes from Lake Michigan which is one of the largest lakes in the world. Water from Lake Michigan enters the intake crib at depths of 20 to 30 feet.
What is in Chicago tap water and who regulates it?Both the EPA and the Chicago Department of Water Management stress that Chicago's water is safe to drink. Most of the year the water tastes great but there may be some seasonalities. While harmless health-wise, algae, in the hotter months, can give the water an unpleasant “rotting moss” sort of flavor. Despite EPAs and CDWMs assurances tests often find lead as well as pesticide and manufacturing residues in it. According to the Chicago Tribune, nine water systems in the Chicago region exceeded EPA standards for lead in 2016. Most of the lead comes from older house and street piping systems. It was also recently confirmed that 1 out of 5 homes with water meters sampled had brain-damaging levels of lead in their tap water. A new report from September 2022 revealed "shocking levels of toxic lead in Chicago tap water". EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe there is no safe level of lead exposure. Lead is harmful to health, especially for children. While paint, dust, and soil are the most common sources of lead, drinking water can contribute 40 to 60 percent of an infant's lead exposure.
Many public water systems will test drinking water for residents upon request. Chicago residents can call 311 for information. You can also check the State of Illinois' drinking water website for a list of laboratories certified to analyze for lead.
But the easiest way is to use a high quality faucet water filter such as TAPP certified for removal of lead, pesticides and another 80+ contaminant. This will give better tasting water and you can feel safe.
Drinking water in public places and restaurants
It’s generally safe to drink the tap water in public places in Chicago. Even better, it tastes great and it’s free. The only exception may be for small children so make sure the drinking water at school has been tested recently or that it’s filtered.Use the MyTAPP app (iOS and Android) to find refill stations around you when on the go.
20% of Chicago’s population mainly drink bottled water. Consumption continuous to grow despite the fact that there is no scientific evidence that bottled water is healthier than tap water. Almost 50% of bottled water is simply filtered tap water anyway.
What we know is that plastic waste is bad for the environment and eventually ends up in our own tap water as microplastics. Chicago is notoriously bad at recycling. Chicagoans create nearly a million tons of waste a year, but only 10 percent of it gets recycled and kept out of landfills. And even when plastic bottles are recycled, they have a negative environmental impact from manufacturing, filling, to transportation.
In conclusion, avoid bottled water if possible. Use a refillable bottle instead when on the go and save money and the planet.Using a filter like TAPP, you will never need to use any plastic linked with your water consumption. When it’s time to change the filter, dispose of its biodegradable refill cartridge with organic waste.
- The tap water in Chicago is safe to drink from the source but with lead contamination in many homes
- Use an affordable water filter such as TAPP to be in the safe side with lead and other contaminants
- As children are more sensitive to contaminants it may be good to check the schools tap water quality
- Use a refillable bottle on the go and avoid bottled water whenever possible