Which States Have the
Best Tap Water in the US

If you have water coming into your home that is supplied by a local water facility, then chances are it’s clear and is not too bad as far as quality is concerned. 

This is largely due to regulations that have been put in place by such government bodies as the Environmental protection Agency (EPA).

That does not mean, however, that your water quality does not need to be improved. As a matter of fact, there is a wide-ranging disparity in the quality of water that is supplied by city water treatment facilities in different states and even in different cities in those states.

So which states have the best tap water in the US? 

That’s something that I am about to discuss in a little bit more detail.

Although I believe in filtering any city-supplied water that comes into your home, knowing the approximate quality of the water in your state will give you a better idea of the extent that you have to go to clean up the water that comes from your area.     

I will also go over how the quality of the drinking water in a state water system is determined, what leads to poor tap water quality, and the best ways for you to enhance the quality of your home’s drinking water and get great tasting water.

How Is Drinking Water Quality Determined?

The federal government does not rely on local water suppliers to police themselves as far as the quality of their water is concerned. This dates back to the ‘Federal Water Pollution Control Act’ which was enacted in 1948.

That initial act was then significantly modified and upgraded in 1972 by what is known as the ‘Clean Water Act’. This again was modified in 1974 and forms the basis for what is now known as the ‘Safe Drinking Water Act’ (SWDA). This too was significantly amended in 1996.

These acts have greatly contributed to the delivery of cleaner water to the some 92% of the US population that relies on government run water systems to provide them with the water that they drink.

Through these acts, the EPA has now established standards that protect tap water from over 90 contaminants. The latest act sets limits on both naturally occurring and man-made substances found in tap water that have the potential to harm your health.

For a more in-depth look regarding this topic, this article by us on National Drinking Water Standards is a great read.

How Is Tap Water Safety Monitored

Here are some of the groups that help to ensure that Americans get clean drinking water from their tap water supply:

Environmental Protection Agency

Since the EPA established and put in place the SWDA, it should come as no surprise that they are the main enforcer of the water quality standards that have been set by the Safe Drinking Water Act.

They have also placed some of the burden of enforcement on individual states too. The EPA has done this by allowing them to enact their own clean water legislation. 

States such as Rhode Island are good examples of this and the environmental services group that controls Oregon’s water supply..

The only catch is that the legislation that states put in place must meet or exceed the standards set by the revised SWDA.


National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC)

This is the group that often directs the EPA as to what guidelines they should establish for certain potentially harmful water contaminants. It’s an organization that was created as a direct result of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Make no mistake about it, the EPA listens very closely to what they recommend. That’s because they are committed to staying highly informed as to what illnesses waterborne impurities are thought to be contributing to.

Environmental Working Group (EWG)

Here is a watchdog group that has no authority over water quality but they are a powerful political lobby that is backed by big money. That gives them some great influence over such areas as agricultural subsidies, toxic chemicals, drinking water pollutants, and corporate accountability.

They are a non-profit activist group that claims to look out for the safety of USA citizens and some of their other interests.

This group is known for doing extensive research and they also have a knowledgeable legal staff and are not afraid to advocate for stricter water quality standards or other matters on behalf of the people.

The EWG is also responsible for maintaining the Tap Water Database which informs people as to the quality of the drinking tap water in their area. This database goes by area code and is a part of their annual water quality report.

They are a group that is known to have an indirect positive impact on the quality of the lives of U.S. citizens. 

What Causes Poor Tap Water Quality

There are several reasons as to how harmful impurities end up in tap water. Here are some of the main ones:

Erosion of Naturally Occurring Contaminants 

Many minerals and other substances that can be harmful when taken into the body in higher amounts end up in tap water through normal processes such as erosion. This happens when harmful substances are displaced from such common geological formations as rock beds.

This includes such contaminants as sulfur, lead, iron, mercury, and more. Even Radionuclides can end up in tap water through natural environmental processes.

Even such occurrences as simple mountain snowmelt can end up in man made lakes or a private well.  

Erosion of Naturally Occurring Contaminants

Industrial and Agricultural Pollution

Groundwater pollution is by far the biggest source of contaminants having the potential to end up in the tap water that you drink despite it having the appearance of being clean water . 

This happens when such substances as chromium end up in drinking water after they have been used in various industrial processes, electricity generating plants, and as ingredients in fertilizers.

Pesticides from farming communities in rural areas often end up in water resources that supply a public water system along with other contaminants that can impact public health.  

Some of these water impurities are very harmful to your body even in small amounts (such as lead) and until recently many of them have gone unregulated as far as the safe limits of them in drinking water.

Corrosion and Leaching of Metals from Plumbing Pipes

Water contamination does not only occur outside of the home. Sometimes it comes from the plumbing pipes that distribute water throughout your house.

This happens when plumbing fixtures and pipes start to break down and corrode and release copper, lead, and other heavy metals into the water that you drink. These metals can also leach out of pipes when pH is low because this condition creates acidic water.

Lead pipes are among the biggest concerns here.

Plumbing Pipes

Water Treatment Processes

It goes without saying that sometimes the very steps that are meant to keep our drinking water safer to drink are also ones that can harm us in the long run. Such is the case with city water that is treated with chlorine. 

Although this process does a great job of killing bacteria and other harmful microorganisms it has a downside too.

This includes long-term ingestion of chlorine being a contributor to such forms of cancer like bladder, rectal and breast cancers.

Chlorine consumption is also thought to increase the likelihood of food allergies, asthma, birth abnormalities, as well as harming your drinking water’s taste and smell.

Fluoride is another common additive that has been added to drinking water for many decades now.

This was first done to strengthen teeth and prevent cavities. While it has achieved this goal, more evidence comes out every year that exposing your body to fluoride can be harmful to your health.

It’s not being linked to such ailments as dental & skeletal fluorosis, neurodevelopmental disorders, and even has been connected to children having lower IQs.

This is the reason why the people that are aware of these impurities being found in tap water drink bottled water or install water filtration products. 

States with The Best Quality Tap Water

According to research done by the reputable publication US News & World Report, these are the states with the best tap water in the U.S.

  1. Hawaii
  2. Alabama
  3. South Carolina
  4. Rhode Island
  5. Tennessee
  6. Oregon
  7. Massachusetts
  8. Georgia

These states were ranked by those that had the lowest total of water quality violation points per 1000 residents as stated by the EPA’s 2019 Enforcement & Compliance History.

It’s also worth noting that states with even the best water quality still have harmful contaminants showing up in city water supplies.

States with The Worst Quality Tap Water

According to the above-mentioned publication, here are the states with the worst tap water

  1. Alaska
  2. Montana
  3. West Virginia
  4. Maine
  5. New Mexico
  6. New Hampshire
  7. Vermont

These states were ranked by those that had the highest total of water quality violation points per 1000 residents as stated by the EPA’s 2019 Enforcement & Compliance History.

Many of these will surprise people because they consist of largely rural populations. It’s also a fact that even the worst tap water can be made safe to drink again. 

What Can I Do If I Live in A State with Contaminated Water?

Here is the best way to go about improving the tap water quality in your home if you live in a state with a history of having many undesirable contaminants in its municipal water supplies.

First Test Your Household Water

This process should start by having your home’s water tested by a professional lab to verify that it needs improvement and to help you pick the best type of water filtration system to improve upon its quality.  

I favor professional lab testing because of its accuracy and the fact that these tests can determine the presence of many more drinking water contaminants than most home tests can.

If you are going to the time and expense to do home water testing, why not get the most complete picture of your water’s quality as you can?


Among the professional lab tests that I highly recommend are those made by a company called Tap Score. They make testing easy by supplying kits that come with water sample containers and free return shipping. 

This company will also get your results to you by email in just a few days.

Next – Install Appropriate Water Filtration Systems

Fortunately, even if your city’s water is considered to be less than desirable, you have many good choices for cleaning that water up. The following filtration systems all produce high quality drinking water. 

  • Whole-Home Water Filtration Systems

These filters, also known as point-of-entry water filtration devices, often combine activated carbon-based filtration with other types of filter media to do a nice job of eliminating several concerning contaminants that are often found in household drinking tap water

The best whole-house filtration systems can consist of a single tank with different layers of filter media found throughout it or they may also consist of several individual filter stages that use different types of filter media.

Some drawbacks associated with these are that they often require professional installation and they may not filter out some extremely small-sized water impurities.

Whole House Water Filter
  • Point-of-Use Water Filters

These are water filtration products such as water filter pitchers, under-sink systems, and countertop filtration devices that are usually fairly inexpensive to obtain and do a nice job of enhancing your water’s quality past that found in bottled water.

Most POE water filtration devices are not designed to produce large amounts of purified water in a very short amount of time.

zen water
  • Reverse Osmosis Systems

These filtration systems will significantly remove or reduce many potentially harmful impurities from your tap water. They can do this because they contain filter membranes that have an extremely small pore size (around 1-micron).

The top reverse osmosis systems come in many different shapes and sizes and can be installed in such locations as under the sink or on a kitchen countertop. Some whole-house water filtration systems contain a reverse osmosis stage too.  

These systems usually produce water that is much higher in quality than bottled water and is great tasting tap water. . 

Drawbacks to RO systems include the fact that they remove beneficial minerals from tap water and they need supplemental activated carbon filters to remove chlorine.

SoftPro Reverse Osmosis

The Importance of Having Safe Drinking Water Should Never Be Underestimated

It’s important to be proactive when it comes to your drinking tap water quality if you live in a state that is known to have poor water quality. Even many that did not make our list of the worst ones have less than desirable water quality.

You can do this by first testing your tap water to see what potentially harmful contaminants are present in it and then choosing the best water filters for removing the impurities in your tap water that concern you.

Once you do this, you and your family will be drinking tap water that is higher in quality than ever before. So take steps to ensure that you have safe and the best tasting tap water.