5 States With The Worst Tap Water

5 States With The Worst Tap Water

Clean, safe water is one of the most basic human needs. But for many in the United States, it's not so simple. All over the U.S., thanks to things like urbanization and industrialization, people are finding themselves with highly contaminated drinking water. 

This is especially the case if you live in one of the five states with the worst tap water. Just what constitutes dirty tap water, though?

Common Tap Water Contaminants

The states with the worst tap water may have high levels of one or more of these contaminants in their drinking water. 

  • Forever chemicals: The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that at least 45% of the nation's tap water contains polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), also called "forever chemicals" because they're literally indestructible.
  • Lead: One of the most common contaminants found in drinking water, lead often leaches into drinking water from outdated plumbing pipes, but can also be caused by corrosion in water distribution systems. 
  • Pesticides and herbicides: Used to kill insects (insecticides) and weeds (herbicides), these chemicals can enter the water supply via agricultural (farm land) and non-agricultural (cities and homes) runoff, and pose health risks to humans.

States' water systems may also be considered the "worst" due to the number of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violations they receive in a calendar year. 

The combination of contaminants and violations adds up to states where filtered water may be more than a luxury, but a necessity.


Florida - 5 States with the Worst Tap Water - ZeroWater


Tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in 2020 place Miami third on the list of cities with excessive levels of forever chemicals in their drinking water. 

The state's water utilities are often disrupted by hurricanes. In 2022, Hurricane Ian caused wastewater treatment plants to overflow, introducing bacteria, viruses and other contaminants into the drinking water. It can take months for natural weather systems to restore balance. In the meantime, water filters are a necessity.

  • Number of lead pipes: 1,159,300
  • EPA drinking water violations (in 2022): 1,587


Fort Lee, New Jersey - 5 States with the Worst Tap Water - ZeroWater

New Jersey

The EPA's limit for lead in drinking water is 15 parts per billion. In 2019, the water in Newark contained three times that amount, possibly due to the high number of lead pipes still in use in the state.

The city distributed free water filters to residents, but also recommended they buy water filters able to reduce the amount of lead in their drinking water. 

It's important to note that boiling water does not reduce or remove any of the lead in it. Only a good filter can remediate lead in drinking water.

  • Number of lead pipes: 349,357
  • EPA drinking water violations (in 2022): 1,153


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - 5 States With The Worst Tap Water - ZeroWater


Nearly all of Pennsylvania's 13 million residents are exposed to water contaminants measured above health guidelines. A 2023 USGS study of 161 of the state's rivers and streams—a common source of drinking water—found that 122 of them contained forever chemicals. 

In addition, violations by public water systems steadily rose from 2020 to 2022, an alarming trend in a time when states with dirty tap water should be practicing mitigation.

  • Number of lead pipes: 688,697
  • EPA drinking water violations (in 2022): 3,957


Kankakee River, Illinois - 5 States With The Worst Tap Water - ZeroWater


Public water systems violations also steadily rose in Illinois from 2019 to 2022, nearly doubling from 2019 to 2020. The drinking water in Illinois contains an alarming amount of lead. The EPA has even published advice for Chicago residents regarding lead in their drinking water.

In 2011, more than 13,000 children ages 6 and under who were tested for blood lead in Illinois, had elevated levels of lead in their blood.

The state's children remain at risk of lead poisoning from their drinking water.

  • Number of lead pipes: 1,043,294
  • EPA drinking water violations (in 2022): 1,386


Texas Longhorn Cow - 5 States With The Worst Tap Water - ZeroWater


When the power grid failed in some parts of the state due to an unprecedented winter storm in February 2021, millions of Texans were told to boil their water before consuming or cooking with it. 

Nearly two weeks after the storm passed, approximately 390,000 residents still had to boil their water to avoid ingesting any of the more than 20 contaminants measured to be over health guidelines and legal limits.

  • Number of lead pipes: 647,640
  • EPA drinking water violations (in 2022): 3,192


ZeroWater Filtration Pitchers and Filters

Drink Cleaner Water

If you live in one of the states with the worst tap water, you want to make sure your water is kosher, or you just want to drink healthier, purer water, ZeroWater can put your mind at ease. 

ZeroWater stands on the belief that you should have zero doubt when it comes to your drinking water. Our 5-stage filters are IAPMO-certified to reduce PFOA/PFOS and lead. And we're third-party tested to reduce over 30 other contaminants like pesticides.

Our 5-stage filters removes virtually all total dissolved solids and are IAPMO certified to reduce PFOA/PFOS, lead and mercury. 

Learn more about how ZeroWater's filtration systems work, and find the one to suit your home and protect your health.


“PFAS Chemicals Detected Many Rivers And Streams Across Pennsylvania” - United States Geological Survey - https://www.usgs.gov/news/state-news-release/pfas-chemicals-detected-many-rivers-and-streams-across-pennsylvania

“Newark's lead contamination is at an all-time high.” - Business Insider - https://www.businessinsider.com/cities-worst-tap-water-us-2019-3#newarks-lead-contamination-is-at-an-all-time-high-5

“NCEH State Fact Sheets: Illinois” - Centers For Disease Control & Prevention - https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/information/state_factsheets/illinois.htm

“EWG’s Tap Water Database” - https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/state.php?stab=TX

“PFAS Contamination of Drinking Water Far More Prevalent Than Previously Reported” - Environmental Working Group -  https://www.ewg.org/research/national-pfas-testing

“Pesticides in Drinking Water – A Review” - National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7826868/ 

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