Can you drink San Francisco tap water?

Can you drink San Francisco tap water?

What if you could join in the Silicon Valley’s latest Raw Water craze, at a fraction of the price (we’re talking pennies!), from the comfort of your home, without having to worry about bacterias? That’s actually possible and very easy! The Tuolumne River, which is naturally low in sediments and nutrients, feeds most of San Francisco with clean, great tasting water. That’s actually where most of your overpriced “Natural” or “Raw” water comes from in the first place. In the process of distributing San Francisco tap water, it is disinfected (Yes, that’s good, no one likes diarrhea!) and it picks up a few contaminants along the way. Using a filter such as TAPP, will remove any undesired smell, taste, chlorine and lead added as the result of the distribution, while keeping the healthy mineral, leaving you with clean, healthy water.

Where does San Francisco tap water come from?

As much as 85% of tap water flowing into San Francisco and other Bay Area regions comes from the Tuolumne River which feeds the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water Reservoir located inside Yosemite National Park, while the rest comes from local surface reservoirs and groundwater. San Franciscan’s beloved Hetch Hetchy water is so clean, that San Francisco is one of few municipalities not required by law to filter its water (although it is disinfected by ozonation and UV exposure). Where the quality degrades, is when the city blends Hetch Hetchy water with water from other sources. Add to that the local distribution network which uses chloramine as a disinfectant, and aging pipes inside buildings, and the result can sometimes taste different to what you would expect from such a crystal clear river as the Tuolumne River.

What is in San Francisco tap water and who regulates it?

In the U.S, tap water is regulated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), while bottled water which is a packaged good, is regulated by the FDA. Although both the EPA and FDA have similar quality standards, FDA standards are looser in terms of how often bottled water needs to be tested and they do not require companies to share their test results with consumers. Conclusion: If you want to know the exact composition of your water - it’s a no-brainer - you should switch to tap water right away. EPA guidelines are strict but EWG (Environmental Working Group) - a nonprofit organization, have set their own, tougher guidelines which they call: health guidelines. Visit the EWG website for the detailed list of contaminants in your zip code area. According to the EWG report, 3 cancerogenous contaminants above health guidelines were found in “San Francisco Regional Water System” water. All are below the legal limit set by the EPA but it’s naturally cause for some concern. The contaminants are Chromium 6, Radiological contaminants and TTHMs. All considerably below the EPA guidelines, so any reduction is positive but not necessary. Moreover, according to water research by OrbMedia microplastics were found in 94% of all tap water in the United States. In summary, San Francisco tap water is still legally safe to drink but to be on the safe side, an active carbon filter such as TAPP could be used. TAPP removes TTHMs and reduces Chromium 6 by 40-70%. To remove Chromium 6 almost entirely then activated carbon should be combined with a reverse osmosis or Ion Exchange filter. TAPP will also remove chloramine, microplastics and other agents associated with foul taste and odor, microplastics, as well as lead and other heavy metals which can deposit via poorly maintained pipes in your building.

Drinking water in public places and restaurants

Unfortunately, there is no law requiring restaurants to serve their customers tap water for free, most do it as a courtesy. As a matter of fact, as California is a drought-stricken state and is under water restrictions, in some cases it might be illegal for them to serve you water unless you specifically ask for it. With that said, drinking tap water at a bar or restaurant in San Francisco has never been so easy. Not only is the public perception of water good, a growing number of restaurants now display a “We proudly serve tap water” signs, and 5 Bay Area universities including Berkley have implemented bans on bottled water. For when you are out and about in the City, the SFWPS (SF Water Power Sewer) have installed over 100 lead-free “tap stations” in the public realm and in schools. Take a reusable water bottle with you, and fill it up at one the stations. Alternatively, you can use the MyTAPP app (iOS and Android) to find refill stations around you.

Bottled water

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 water from public supplies, at a premium price. Good news is that California leads the way in terms of beverage container recycling rates! While the recycling rate of beverage containers peaked at a whopping 85% in 2013, unfortunately only 78% of PET water bottles were recycled. If you don’t want your plastic bottle to end up in a landfill or in the ocean, carry a reusable water bottle with you. If you must buy a plastic bottle (or any other beverage container) look for “CA CASH REFUND” or “CA CRV” on the label. Bringing it to a recycling center could earn ¢5 to ¢10 per container. 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.


  • Water coming from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir is one of the cleanest in the country.
  • Bottled water is one of the biggest food and health scams in recent history. It’s a waste of money and our nature.
  • If you want to know exactly what minerals and contaminants are in your water, drink from the tap at home.
  • If you don’t like the taste of tap water, or are worries about reducing TTHMs, Chromium, or lead, get a high-quality water filter such as TAPP with biodegradable filter cartridges.
  • Ask for tap water in restautapp rants and never feel ashamed about it.
  • There are hundreds of refill station across the bay area.
  • Get a refillable bottle and keep it filled up with fresh tap water.
  • Refuse bottled water whenever possible, or look for “CA CASH REFUND” or “CA CRV” on the label and bring it to a recycling center
Do you drink tap water in San Francisco and the Bay Area? We want your feedback and opinion. Agree or disagree? Tell us! Sources:
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