These 9 States Have the Worst Tap Water

By: Lauren Fokas | Published: Jun 06, 2024

Everyone appreciates a nearby grocery store, air conditioning on a hot day, or ample vacation time from work, but the one thing absolutely everyone needs to survive is clean drinking water.

But even though the United States is widely considered one of the best countries to live in on the planet, not every American has clean drinking water. In fact, residents in many states can’t even drink the water that comes from their taps. Here are the 9 states with the worst tap water.

9. Texas: Poisonous Water in Rural Towns

Texas is the second largest state in the US after Alaska, and while millions of people fill the state’s popular metropolises like Dallas, Austin, and Houston, 15% of its residents live in rural towns throughout the vast landscape.

The downtown of a small rural town somewhere in Texas

Source: iStock

Sadly, the quality of the tap water in these areas is abysmal. The pipes are often old and rusted, and the water continuously tests positive for poisons like lead, radiation, and arsenic.

8. Florida: Ecological Emergencies Have Led to Toxic Tap Water

The Sunshine State is a beautiful place to vacation, but Florida’s technically idyllic landscape causes some serious problems for its long term residents. Several ecological emergencies over the past few years have all but ruined Florida’s tap water.

A photograph of the wetlands of Florida

Source: iStock

Florida gets the majority of its tap water from groundwater, which is extremely susceptible to contamination. And since toxic blue-green algae and red tide microorganisms flooded Florida’s groundwater  in 2018, the state has struggled to keep its water clean.

7. Pennsylvania: Coal Mining Causes Lead Pollution

For decades, Pennsylvania made the majority of its income through coal mining. But while great for the economy, coal mining is notoriously dangerous for any nearby water supply.

An extremely large coal mine with two pieces of heavy machinery

Source: iStock

Thanks to these mines, as well as many old oil and gas wells, a recent study reported that 20,000 miles of rivers and streams within the state do not meet the federal standards for fishing and swimming, let alone drinking.

6. New Jersey: Industrial Centers Released Huge Amounts of PFAS into the Water

New Jersey is known for many things, the Jersey Shore, Atlantic City, and, of course, salt water taffy.  However, many people don’t know that the state has an excessive number of industrial centers.

Photograph of a large industrial center

Source: Adobe Stock

Unfortunately, these factories have led to extreme amounts of PFAS in the state’s water supply. New Jersey has promised to repair its systems and provide its residents with safe drinking water, but such a big undertaking will take some time.

5. Georgia: Polluted Rivers Give Georgia Some of the Worst Water in the US

The Georgia Water Coalition has reported time and again that the state’s rivers, streams, and wells are almost unbelievably polluted. From arsenic to radium, chloroform, bromate, and chlorate, almost every toxic chemical far surpasses the federal guidelines.

Two pipes sprew gray polluted water into a river

Source: iStock

Because of this reality, Georgia’s tap water is one of the worst in the entire country, and it’s unlikely that will change any time soon.


4. Washington: A Growing Population and Runoff Problems

The state of Washington gets the majority of its water from runoffs, and the constant rain in the Northwest has led to severe contamination over the past several years.

A scientist in a white protection suit and a gas mask tests the water in a bog

Source: Freepik

As the state’s, and more specifically the city of Seattle’s population grows, pollution to the once pristine landscape is only exacerbating this situation. More people always means more contaminants, but Washington doesn’t seem to know quite how to handle their growing population or their developing water crisis.


3. Ohio: Old Pipes, Mining, and Industrial Centers Have Ruined Ohio’s Water

Sadly, for Ohio residents, they don’t just have one problem plaguing their tap water; from mining to industrial centers, Ohio has always had one of the worst water supplies in the country.

A close-up photograph of several old and rusted water pipes

Source: Freepik

Additionally, the majority of Ohio residents are living with old rusted pipes which only contaminate the water further. The biggest concern in Ohio’s water supply is the lead, but they have also found excessive amounts of iron and sulfates.


2. California: Farming Communities Are Drinking Water With Arsenic

For decades, many Americans and people from around the world considered Caliofrnia to be utterly perfect, but it’s becoming glaringly apparent that the Golden State has its fair share of issues.

An aerial view of miles of farmland on a sunny day

Source: Freepik

While the state’s big cities like San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have decent tap water, the vast miles of rural areas are suffering. Many of the farming communities use harsh chemicals that run off into the groundwater, including uranium, nitrates, and an immense amount of arsenic.


1. Arizona: Nearly Every County in Arizona Has the Highest-Recorded Levels of Contaminants

Number one on the list of state’s with the worst tap water is unquestionably Arizona. While most of the other states have at least some counties with clean water, nearly every county in Arizona made the list for the highest average levels of toxic chemicals in the country.

An aerial view of a bend in the Colorado River in Arizona

Source: Wikipedia

As a report by the NRDC explained, “ We identified 437 counties across the country…These counties were predominantly in the southwest, including nearly every county in Arizona.”


Contaminated Drinking Water Causes Illness, Disease, and Even Death

The fact that so many states are struggling to provide their residents with clean tap water is certainly a crisis. It’s about far more than simply unsavory drinking water, the water in these nine and many other states could be extremely harmful if ingested over time.

A photograph of a sink which is releasing brown tap water

Source: iStock

The chemicals found in the water of these American states, such as PFAS, arsenic, nitrates, radon, uranium, and chloroform can cause immediate and chronic illnesses such as cancer, and in some cases, death.


Clean Drinking Water Should Be a Human Right

Although most Americans have the ability to purchase clean drinking water if their taps include toxic chemicals, the majority of people with the supposedly great US or A argue that clean drinking water should be a human right.

A person holds a sign at a protest that reads “Water Is a Human Right”

Source: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

For years, people around the country in each of these nine and many other states have been demanding that their state government does something to ensure they have safe water to drink. But it seems that these governments have yet to make any real change to improve the water supply.