If you live in California and are aware of the outstanding reputation that Berkey countertop water filters have, you may be surprised that you cannot buy many of this company’s products in your state.
This is because Berkey has refused to meet the guidelines that California has put in place for the right to sell home water purification devices in the state.
In my 26 years doing swimming pool and spa water maintenance, I have seen similar types of disputes between manufacturers and states regarding approval of their products but I have to admit this is one of the strangest ones that I have come across.
In this article I will go over why Berkey water filters are banned in CA, some of the main questions and concerns surrounding the dispute, and how you can still obtain a Berkey water filter product despite your California residency.
Table of Contents
Introduction to the Issue
This whole issue stems from California state legislation that was passed in various bills from 2006 to 2009. These are statutes California AB 1953, SB 1334 & 1395, and HSC Section 116875. They are better known as California’s ‘no-lead laws’ and the wording in all three is very similar.
They were created to keep products that contained hazardous lead parts from entering the California marketplace. While the intention of these laws was good, meeting their requirements created some big headaches for smaller companies such as Berkey.
What Does the Law Say?
As we all know, legal jargon can be very confusing, so I will try to keep this as simple for you as possible.
For a company to be able to sell its products in California, a manufacturer had to pay an independent third-party tester to certify that none of their product’s components contained more than 0.25% of lead.
This has to do with the elimination of lead-containing components in plumbing pipes, valves, tubing, fixtures, and fittings that are used in all different types of water conveying products. Any uncertified products that convey water were not allowed to be sold in California after January 1st, 2010.
According to this no-lead legislation, it forced companies such as Berkey to seek out and pay third-party testers such as NSF International.
This reputable worldwide testing authority certifies products as being lead-free by having them comply with their water purification equipment standard which is formally known as NSF/ANSI/CAN 61-2020. It is more commonly referred to as NSF/ANSI 61.
Why Doesn’t Berkey Get a Certification?
Berkey claims the main reason why they have not sought out third-party testing for their products is the costs that are involved in doing this. Additionally, the Berkey website claims this issue goes beyond cost factors.
Here is an excerpt from the Berkey website that directly discusses this subject, “Although our extensive testing is sufficient for 49 states in the US, it is currently not acceptable for residents of the state of California. Once NSF certification has been obtained, the state of California additionally requires that companies pay high costs to obtain and maintain certification with the state of California. In the end, we have concluded that the additional taxes, certifications, and red tape they have created are too large of a barrier for our firm to offer our systems in the state of California.”
Some have eluded that there is more to this than Berkey is saying.
This has to do with the fact that by disclosing the information California is requiring for certification, the company probably feels this may supply their competition with closely guarded information as to why their water filtration products are so impactful.
Their water filters do far outperform many similar types of water filtration systems. I must admit, I am a little perplexed as to why Berkey would not make the investment necessary to be able to sell their products in the very lucrative California market if this is not the real reason.
Since Berkey does not seem to be willing to budge on these issues, it’s easy to see why Berkey water filters are banned in CA.
How to Get a Berkey Filter in California?
Despite the ongoing beef between Berkey and the state of California, there are some water purification products that the company is allowed to distribute and sell in the state.
These are what are considered to be outdoor use water filters, so they do not fall under the same approval guidelines as those that are considered to be indoor use water filters.
Berkey’s California Friendly Filters
Here are two Berkey countertop water filters that those residing in California can legally purchase:
The Berkey light is a popular gravity-fed water filtration device that’s sold all across the USA. It’s a BPA-free plastic shelled water filter that has two very good water filters in the top portion of it that filter out a wide variety of contaminants as it passes down through it. This Berkey filter also features a generous 2.5-gallon capacity.
A close cousin to the Berkey light is what’s known as the Travel Berkey. It too is a gravity-fed water filtration system that works very similar to the Berkey light but is smaller in size. This product stands just 12” high, so it makes a good travel companion for those that are always concerned about their drinking water’s purity.
It also is more durable than the Berkey Light because it has an outer shell that is made out of highly polished AISI 304 stainless steel. This unit features a smaller 1.5-gallon capacity too.
Why are these Berkey gravity-fed countertop water purification devices so popular. It has to do with how easy they are to set up and use (both are considered to be portable) and the number of commonly found impurities in tap water that each one almost completely filters out.
This list includes 99% or greater removal of:
- Pathogenic Bacteria
- Petroleum Contaminants
- Trihalomethane (THMs)
- Heavy Metals
- Coliform and e-Coli
- Gross Alpha emitters
Other Berkey water filtration devices that are available in California include the Sport Berkey, Go Berkey, and PF-2 & PF-4 Filters. Also, there are no restrictions in place on Berkey support equipment such as replacement filters and parts.
Work Around for Getting a Berkey to CA
So, even though you have determined that it’s a high-quality Berkey water filter that you want, that will not happen if you live in the state of California. Or can it? Some creativity on your part will enable you to get one of these reputable water filtration devices.
For one, it’s not illegal to possess a Berkey filter in California that I know of and if it is, it’s probably not a capital offense. That means the trick is purchasing one from another state. There are two main ways that you can go about doing this.
One is to travel across state lines. Maybe think about making an extra stop on your way to or from a trip to the mountains in Washington, Colorado, or Oregon. If you have some time to kill on a trip to Vegas you can also make this happen.
The easiest and quickest way though is to have someone from out of state purchase and ship it to you. If you live in California, chances are that you have a trusted friend or family member living out of state that will be happy to do this for you.
The only effort it requires on their part is to order a Berkey water filter online and then place a phone call to UPS, FedEx, or DHL to come pick it up and ship it.
Berkey Water Filters are Worth the Effort It Takes to Get One
If you took a good look at the information that I presented above of what tap water impurities the Berkey Light and Travel Berkey filter out, you will see this is a pretty impressive list. Few gravity water filtration setups come close to what these water filters reduce or remove.
This goes the same for many of the Berkey water filters that you can’t purchase in the state of California. Simply put, most of the water filters that this company makes will produce some very high-quality H2O for drinking or cooking purposes.
So such filters as their Big Burkey and Royal Berkey are worth the effort it would take to obtain one. They provide a simple and inexpensive way for you to produce drinking water that leaves you very confident as to its purity.