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Is LA Tap Water Safe to Drink?

Scott Winfield
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by Scott Winfield

If you live in Los Angeles or have ever visited the city, you know that the tap water in LA is a contentious subject. Some people refuse to drink the water that comes out of the tap, even if it is filtered, preferring to drink only bottled water. Others claim to drink LA tap water every day and feel fine.

So what is the correct answer? Is it safe to drink tap water in Los Angeles? Below we’ll look at the answer in depth.

Is LA Tap Water Safe to Drink
Is LA Tap Water Safe to Drink?

LA Water Quality Report: What Is in the Water?

Legally, yes, the tap water in LA is safe to drink. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates tap water in the US.

Los Angeles tap water meets the standards set by this government organization. Furthermore, Los Angeles does not have any violations of the Safe Water Drinking Act (SWDA.).

The EPA regulates five cancerogenic contaminants in tap water. These are Arsenic, Bromate, Chromium 6, radiological contaminants, and TTHMs (trihalomethanes). All of these contaminants fall below accepted thresholds in LA city water.

While Los Angeles tap water meets EPA standards, it is important to remember that “legally safe” does not necessarily mean that the water is healthy. Manufacturers and other companies in the United States use over 60,000 chemicals in their processes.

These chemicals often run off into groundwater. The EPA only regulates 91 of those chemicals.

That means that the EPA does not regulate many chemicals that could show up in tap water. A non-profit company called the Environmental Working Group maintains a list of contaminants in drinking water around the country. You can enter a zip code into their website to see the list for LA or any other city.

The EWG claims that the contaminant levels set by the EPA are not necessarily safe for long-term human consumption. Although the EPA considers LA water safe, the EWG has measured levels of Arsenic in LA tap water that are 430 times higher than the group recommends.

Is the Water Hard or Soft?

All of the water in California is hard or very hard. The average hardness for California water is between 100 and 300 PPM. In Los Angeles, the water hardness rates at 127 PPM (parts per million), which is on the lower end of the state’s hardness scale.

Scientists measure water hardness by the amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium in the water. They measure the hardness in parts per million. If water is very hard, it can cause mineral buildup in pipes and kitchen appliances such as dishwashers and coffee makers.

The hardest water in California is in Ventura, which has a water hardness of 472 PPM. The cities with the next-highest water hardness levels are Santa Barbara at 430 PPM, and Mecca, at 393 PPM.

Where LA Gets its Water From

Where LA Gets its Water From
Where LA Gets its Water From

Los Angeles imports most of its drinking water from the Los Angeles Aqueduct system in the Owens Valley and Mono Basin. LA also pumps up some of its groundwater and processes it to remove impurities, but there is not enough water around LA to provide enough for the whole city.

Because Los Angeles is heavily paved and there is very little open space, the small amount of rainwater that falls from the sky does not have a chance to soak into the ground and replenish the groundwater supplies. This is why the city must import a lot of its water via the aqueducts.

In recent years, Los Angeles has also started using recycled water to replenish its groundwater. Recycled water is water that has been used in sinks, showers, toilets, etc., and is then processed and pumped back into the water system for reuse.

Recycled water is currently only a small part of LA’s water system, but experts anticipate that it will become more important as climate change and drought reduce natural water supplies.

How Tap Water is Treated in LA

How Tap Water is Treated in LA
How Tap Water is Treated in LA

LA county uses many different treatment methods to purify groundwater when it does not meet accepted standards. The type of treatment used depends on the quality of the water and the contaminants in it.

Particulates like sand or silt can be removed through filtration, while disinfection through UV light or other processes can kill dangerous bacteria or viruses. “Blending,” which is a process that involves mixing water from various sources, can also reduce the contaminant levels.

People concerned about the levels of minerals and other particulates in their water can use carbon filters to remove asbestos, cysts, lead, certain pesticides, trihalomethanes, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Carbon filters can also add good minerals back into water that has been very heavily treated. For example, charcoal adds minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron, which can get stripped out of processed LA tap water.

Do They Have the Cleanest Tap Water?

Los Angeles does not have the cleanest tap water in the world, or even in the United States. Compared to other cities in the US, Los Angeles ranks about 83rd in terms of cleanliness and purity.

The tap water in LA contains about four times as many contaminants and chemicals as the average large US city.

Memphis, Tennessee is known for having the purest, sweetest tap water in the world. Memphis water contains very low levels of minerals and contaminants, so the water does not need to be treated after it comes out of the ground.

Contrary to what some people believe, untreated water that contains few minerals tastes better than treated water.

Conclusion

In summary, LA tap water is legally safe to drink. However, some environmental groups claim that the legal levels set by the EPA are not necessarily safe.

If you live in LA or are visiting the city and are concerned about ingesting too many minerals or heavy metals, it is wise to invest in a high-quality filter.

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Scott Winfield
Scott Winfield
My name is Scott Winfield and researching and writing about water filters and other strategies to purify water has become my full time passion in recent years. I'm glad that you found our site and you can look forward to authoritative and well researched content here to help you get the best in water.
2 Comments
  1. Thanks Scott for the provided info. I really find it so inforamtive for me, that made me want to seek your opinion.
    I moved from Montreal, Canada to LA recently and that water is really challenging here for me and my kids.
    I used the tap water at the begining (out of habit from back home) but it was not the best idea, so I turned to purified water for drinking and cooking, yet I am wondering is it the best that I can do here in southern Cali or do I have other better alternatives?
    Thanks for your feedback and kind advice!

    1. Hi Chris, there are good purified water choices available in SoCal with one of my favorites being the Crystal Geyser brand. Their sources are direct from either Mount Shasta in far Northern California or Olancha Peak at the southern end of the Sierra. Of course, there are always pros & cons to which path you take. Buying water constantly is not convenient and may prove to be more expensive than if you had your water conditioned/filtered appropriate for your residence. You can see on our site we talk about a variety of water systems, whether they’re point-of-use like an under the sink or countertop system. Or, you can go with a whole-house system. There are different considerations for what system may suit your needs best and you can read some of our content where we discuss exactly these points. Another point is if you’re renting or own your own home. These personal factors all make a difference on the best way to approach this situation. If it makes sense for your personal requirements, then a whole-house system from someone like SpringWell (which we review very favorably and our readers love) could be an excellent option. Check out our reviews and content and see what is best for you.

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