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Is NYC Tap Water Safe to Drink?

Scott Winfield
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by Scott Winfield

New York City spends billions of its tax dollars to ensure that the Big Apple has safe drinking water coming straight from the tap.

In fact, New York City’s tap water routinely wins annual awards for both taste and quality. For a city its size, winning awards is worth the boasting. But how does New York City create safe drinking water for its residents and tourists each year?

Water safe to drink
Is NYC Tap Water Safe to Drink?

NYC Water Quality Report: What is in the Water?

New York City brags about the city supplying “some of the best tap water in the world.” When city officials provide an annual report about what goes in the water to make it safe and where it comes from, it is difficult not to be impressed.

The report also details minerals detected during their annual testing. Many of the minerals detected in the testing are naturally occurring elements such as bromide, chloride, iron, manganese, sodium, sulfate, and zinc.

Other elements appear to be occurring due to erosion of natural deposits like aluminum, calcium, chromium, lithium, nickel, and potassium.

Fortunately, the contaminants detected in the NYC water supply are not harmful or plentiful enough to cause harm.

But what about lead? Is New York City’s tap water contaminated with lead? Fortunately, no. The city’s main water supply comes from upstate, where very little lead has been measured.

However, due to the city’s aging infrastructure and water supply lines, your individual home tap water may be impacted by lead. This is due to contamination from your pipes, not the water supply itself.

If your home is old, it’s a good idea to test your water to see if you need to replace your pipes or use a filtration system.

Is The Water Hard or Soft?

According to New York City’s Drinking Water Supply Quality Report, the city uses its data to say that its supply is considered soft. Their data says the water has 2 grains of CaCO3, or calcium carbonate, per gallon of water.

Any water with up to 3 grains per gallon is considered soft. Water that has 3 to 7 grains is considered medium, and anything above 7 is classed as hard.

The city also claims to have an average hardness rate of 1.8 grains per gallon with hardness rates reaching up to 7 grains per gallon in the Catskill-Delaware region where water supplies are blended.

You will have soft water in many parts of the city, but be aware water hardness varies. Like with lead contaminants, the best way to deal with hard water is to use a home water filtration system.

Reverse osmosis can remove the contaminants while also softening hard water, making it easier on your body (and dishes).

Where NYC Gets its Water From

Where NYC Gets its Water From
Where NYC Gets its Water From

New York City mainly receives its water from the 19 reservoirs and three controlled lakes of a 2,000-square-mile watershed in the Catskill Mountains and Hudson Valley. But the water is also collected from the Croton Water Supply System and the Groundwater Supply System in Queens.

It is in this region where the water supply is collected, treated, and dispersed to 8.5 million city residents daily. Over a million residents in nearby Westchester, Putnam, Orange, and Ulster counties also receive water from New York City.

How Tap Water Is Treated in NYC?

How Tap Water Is Treated in NYC?
How Tap Water Is Treated in NYC?

Tap water in New York City receives treatment through the city’s 14 wastewater treatment facilities that work around the clock to deliver 1.3 billion gallons of water daily to the residents, tourists, and visitors of the city.

The process starts with wastewater flowing into one of these facilities where debris is removed and taken to landfills and other trash facilities. From there, the water receives further screening to remove smaller contaminants before being pumped to the facility’s surface.

The wastewater then enters tanks where the surface receives further skimming to remove contaminants like plastic and grease. Other potentially harmful impurities such as organic solids sink to the bottom of the wastewater treatment tanks for removal.

Air is added to the cleaner water to allow microorganisms to consume any remaining organic materials in the water.

This water then travels to another set of tanks. A thick sludge settles to the bottom of the water tanks where aeration continues. Water workers add sodium hypochlorite to help disinfect the water and remove any remaining contaminants that can make a person sick.

Following the treatment, the water is released as the clean water that anyone can drink, straight from the taps.

Do They Have the Cleanest Tap Water?

While not the cleanest tap water in the United States or the world, New York City does feature high on The Travel’s list of Cleanest Tap Waters in the United States. The blog The Travel puts the Big Apple’s water supply at No. 12 on their top 12 list.

Meanwhile, other cities like Macon, Georgia, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Memphis, Tennessee are much higher on the list. Memphis takes the top spot on this list with the claim that they have the sweetest tasting water out of the thousands of cities in the United States.

Regardless of awards from blogs, New York City at least has some of the safest tap water in the world all due to the investment the city has made to keep their drinking water clean.

Conclusion

Despite New York City’s population density and aging infrastructure, it is home to one of the best tap water sources in the United States. The continuous work to ensure taste, quality, and safety is why New York City’s water supply receives high marks.

Thanks to city efforts, millions of New Yorkers and tourists can safely drink the water without fear of contaminants. Drawing from 19 reservoirs and cleaned by the 14 treatment plants, New York City residents can drink knowing the water they consume will not hurt them. Now that is something to drink to!

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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.
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