Washington DC tap water is generally safe to drink according to EPA but there are risks. The most commonly reported is lead due to old pipes and leeching as well as the more recent problem of microplastics. We explore where the water comes from, how it's treated and how to ensure it's safe to drink.
Where does DC tap water come from?
Washington D.C. tap water is brought to millions of citizens by the Washington Aqueduct.
It supplies drinking water to approximately one million citizens living, working, or visiting in the District of Columbia, Arlington County, VA, and the City of Falls Church, VA, and its service area. This extremely low turbidity provides excellent barrier against pathogens such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia.
The Washington Aqueduct (operated by the Army Corps of Engineers) draws water from the Potomac River and treats it. District of Columbia Sewer and Water Authority (aka DC Water) purchases treated water from the Washington Aqueduct and is responsible for distributing it through DC.
What is in DC tap water and who regulates it?
Washington D.C. had a major water crisis
in 2000-2006. The problem began in 2000, when the Washington Aqueduct changed its treatment chemicals, inadvertently causing the leaching of lead from the District’s aging lead service lines and lead pipes in older homes. In 2010, the CDC reported that 15,000 homes in the Washington, D.C. area
might still have water supplies with dangerous levels of lead.
Lead contamination is nothing to play around with, especially for families with young children. Therefore we highly recommend taking advantage of DC Water's free lead testing program, and any families with small children to use a water filter
certified to remove lead such as TAPP
. Moreover, according to water research by OrbMedia microplastics were found in 93% of all tap water in the United States. Bottled water is even worse with 94% reported to contain microplastics.
also found elevated levels of byproducts from chlorine (e.g. THMs) which can be vastly reduced (95% or more) with a carbon based water filter.
It's important to remember that most pitchers and fridge filters do not remove lead and chromium
from water. Also, whole-house water filters, which treat all water coming into the home aren’t the best choice, since lead problems can also exist in a home’s aging pipes. Therefore use a faucet-mount water filter like TAPP
on your kitchen sink.
Drinking water in public places and restaurants
The tap water in public places in the DC area is safe to drink, tastes great and it’s free! Ask for tap water everywhere and if it’s unsafe they will let you know.
If you have kids going to school then ask for the most recent water test to be on the safe side as old buildings and pipes may leach contaminants such as lead. Use the MyTAPP app (iOS and Android) on the go to find refill stations around you
There is no evidence that bottled water is healthier or safer than tap water. Usually, it’s just a preference in terms of taste. Bottled water consumption has grown massively over the past couple of years. Aquafina, Dasani, Evian, Fiji, Mountain Valley, Pure Life, and Smartwater are some of the most popular bottled waters. But don’t be fooled, the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) concluded that an estimated 25 percent or more of bottled water is just filtered tap water, at a premium price.
Unfortunately, most plastic water ends up in landfills or incinerated. According to the Association of Plastic Recyclers plastic recycling of plastic bottles in Washington D.C. grew the last couple of years but considerably below the level of growth in bottled water consumption.
Use a refillable bottle instead of buying bottled water. It will save money and the environment. 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 and around Washington D.C. is generally safe to drink but elevated levels of lead and THMs have been reported.
- Both tap water and bottled water contain microplastics with unknown risks
- To be on the safe side and for better tasting water use an affordable water filter such as TAPP
- Drink tap water in public places as it’s safe and free
- When on the move use a refillable water bottle rather than buying bottled water
Do you drink tap water in Washington D.C., Bethesda or Arlington? We want your feedback and opinion. Agree or disagree? Tell us!