Table of Contents
Can You Drink Tap Water in Houston?
Yes, Houston's tap water is generally considered safe to drink as Houston has no active health based violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) that we are aware of. Other factors such as lead piping in a home, or low levels of pollutants on immunocompromised individuals, should also be considered, however. To find more recent info we might have, you can check out our boil water notice page, the city's water provider website, or Houston's local Twitter account.
According the EPA’s ECHO database, from April 30, 2019 to June 30, 2022, Houston's water utility, City of Houston, had 1 non-health-based violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act. For more details on the violations, please see our violation history section below. The last violation for Houston was resolved on Dec. 31, 2019. This assessment is based on the City of Houston water system, other water systems in the city may have different results.
While tap water that meets the EPA health guidelines generally won’t make you sick to your stomach, it can still contain regulated and unregulated contaminants present in trace amounts that could potentially cause health issues over the long-run. These trace contaminants may also impact immunocompromised and vulnerable individuals.
The EPA is reviewing if it’s current regulations around pollutant levels in tap water are strict enough, and the health dangers posed by unregulated pollutants, like PFAS.
Water Quality Report for Houston Tap Water
The most recent publicly available numbers for measured contaminant levels in Houston tap water are in its 2020 Water Quality Report. As you can see, there are levels which the EPA considers to be acceptable, but being below the maximum allowable level doesn’t necessarily mean the water is healthy.
Lead in tap water, for example, is currently allowed at up to 15ppb by the EPA, but it has set the ideal goal for lead at zero. This highlights how meeting EPA standards doesn’t necessarily mean local tap water is healthy.
EPA regulations continue to change as it evaluates the long term impacts of chemicals and updates drinking water acceptable levels. The rules around arsenic, as well as, lead and copper are currently being re-evaluated.
There are also a number of "emerging" contaminants that are not currently. For example, PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), for which the EPA has issued a health advisory. PFAS are called "forever chemicals" since they tend not to break down in the environment or the human body and can accumulate over time.
We recommend looking at the contaminants present in Houston's water quality reports, or getting your home's tap water tested to see if you should be filtering your water.
Houston Tap Water Safe Drinking Water Act Violation History - Prior 10 Years
Below is a ten year history of violations for the water system named City of Houston for Houston in Texas. For more details please see the "What do these Violations Mean?" section below.
From Dec. 1, 2019 to Dec. 31, 2019, Houston had 1 non-health based Safe Drinking Water Act violation with the violation category being Monitoring Violation, more specifically, the violation code was Monitoring, Routine (RTCR) which falls into the Microbials rule code group, and the Total Coliform Rules rule code family for the following contaminant code: Revised Total Coliform Rule.
For the compliance period beginning Oct. 1, 2015, Houston had 1 non-health based Safe Drinking Water Act violation with the violation category being Monitoring and Reporting, more specifically, the violation code was Follow-up Or Routine LCR Tap M/R which falls into the Chemicals rule code group, and the Lead and Copper Rule rule code family for the following contaminant code: Lead and Copper Rule.
From May 1, 2015 to May 31, 2015, Houston had 1 health-based Safe Drinking Water Act violation with the violation category being Maximum Contaminant Level Violation, more specifically, the violation code was Maximum Contaminant Level Violation, Monthly (TCR) which falls into the Microbials rule code group, and the Total Coliform Rules rule code family for the following contaminant code: Coliform (TCR).
From April 1, 2015 to April 30, 2015, Houston had 1 health-based Safe Drinking Water Act violation with the violation category being Maximum Contaminant Level Violation, more specifically, the violation code was Maximum Contaminant Level Violation, Monthly (TCR) which falls into the Microbials rule code group, and the Total Coliform Rules rule code family for the following contaminant code: Coliform (TCR).
Is there Lead in Houston Water?
Based on the EPA’s ECHO Database, 90% of the samples taken from the Houston water system, City of Houston, between sample start date and sample end date, were at or below, 0.00401 mg/L of lead in Houston water. This is 26.7% of the 0.015 mg/L action level. This means 10% of the samples taken from Houston contained more lead.
While Houston water testing may have found 0.00401 mg/L of lead in its water, that does not mean your water source has the same amount. The amount of lead in water in a city can vary greatly from neighborhood to neighborhood, or even building to building. Many buildings, particularly older ones, have lead pipes or service lines which can be a source of contamination. To find out if your home has lead, we recommend getting you water tested.
No amount of lead in water is healthy, only less dangerous. As lead accumulates in our bodies over time, even exposure to relatively small amounts can have negative health effects. For more information, please check out our Lead FAQ page.
Are there PFAS in Houston Tap Water?
Currently, testing tap water for PFAS isn’t mandated on a national level. We do have a list of military bases where there have been suspected or confirmed leaks. There appears to be at least one military base - Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base - near Houston with suspected leaks.
With many potential sources of PFAS in tap water across the US, the best information we currently have about which cities have PFAS in their water is this ewg map, which you can check to see if Houston has been evaluated for yet.
Our stance is better safe than sorry, and that it makes sense to try to purify the tap water just in case.
Houston SDWA Violation History Table - Prior 10 Years
|Compliance Period||Status||Health-Based?||Category Code||Code||Rule Code||Contaminant Code||Rule Group Code||Rule Family Code|
|12/01/2019 - 12/31/2019||Resolved||No||Monitoring Violation (MON)||Monitoring, Routine (RTCR) (3A)||Revised Total Coliform Rule (111)||Revised Total Coliform Rule (8000)||Microbials (100)||Total Coliform Rules (110)|
|10/01/2015 -||Resolved||No||Monitoring and Reporting (MR)||Follow-up Or Routine LCR Tap M/R (52)||Lead and Copper Rule (350)||Lead and Copper Rule (5000)||Chemicals (300)||Lead and Copper Rule (350)|
|05/01/2015 - 05/31/2015||Resolved||Yes||Maximum Contaminant Level Violation (MCL)||Maximum Contaminant Level Violation, Monthly (TCR) (22)||Total Coliform Rule (110)||Coliform (TCR) (3100)||Microbials (100)||Total Coliform Rules (110)|
|04/01/2015 - 04/30/2015||Resolved||Yes||Maximum Contaminant Level Violation (MCL)||Maximum Contaminant Level Violation, Monthly (TCR) (22)||Total Coliform Rule (110)||Coliform (TCR) (3100)||Microbials (100)||Total Coliform Rules (110)|
What do these Violations Mean?
Safe Drinking Water Act Violations categories split into two groups, health based, and non-health based. Generally, health based violations are more serious, though non-health based violations can also be cause for concern.
Health Based Violations
- Maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) - maximum allowed contaminant level was exceeded.
- Maximum residual disinfectant levels (MRDLs) - maximum allowed disinfectant level was exceeded.
- Other violations (Other) - the exact required process to reduce the amounts of contaminants in drinking water was not followed.
Non-Health Based Violations
- Monitoring and reporting violations (MR, MON) - failure to conduct the required regular monitoring of drinking water quality, and/or to submit monitoring results on time.
- Public notice violations (Other) - failure to immediately alert consumers if there is a serious problem with their drinking water that may pose a risk to public health.
- Other violations (Other) - miscellaneous violations, such as failure to issue annual consumer confidence reports or maintain required records.
SDWA Table Key
|Compliance Period||Dates of the compliance period.|
Current status of the violation.
|Health-Based?||Whether the violation is health based.|
The category of violation that is reported.
|Code||A full description of violation codes can be accessed in the SDWA_REF_CODE_VALUES (CSV) table.|
|Contaminant Code||A code value that represents a contaminant for which a public water system has incurred a violation of a primary drinking water regulation.|
Code for a National Drinking Water rule.
|Rule Group Code||
Code that uniquely identifies a rule group.
|Rule Family Code||
Code for rule family.
For more clarification please visit the EPA's data dictionary.
Houston Water - Frequently Asked Questions
|By Mail:||PO BOX 1562
HOUSTON, TX, 77251-1562
Existing customers can login to their City of Houston account to pay their Houston water bill by clicking here.
If you want to pay your City of Houston bill online and haven't made an account yet, you can create an account online. Please click here to create your account to pay your Houston water bill.
If you don't want to make an account, or can't remember your account, you can make a one-time payment towards your Houston water bill without creating an account using a one time payment portal with your account number and credit or debit card. Click here to make a one time payment.
Moving to a new house or apartment in Houston means you will often need to put the water in your name with City of Houston. In order to put the water in your name, please click the link to the start service form below. Start service requests for water bills typically take two business days.
Leaving your house or apartment in Houston means you will likely need to take your name off of the water bill with City of Houston. In order to take your name off the water bill, please click the link to the stop service form below. Stop service for water bills requests typically take two business days.
The estimated price of bottled water
$1.75 in USD (1.5-liter)
USER SUBMITTED RATINGS
- Drinking Water Pollution and Inaccessibility 37% Low
- Water Pollution 56% Moderate
- Drinking Water Quality and Accessibility 63% High
- Water Quality 44% Moderate
The above data is comprised of subjective, user submitted opinions about the water quality and pollution in Houston, measured on a scale from 0% (lowest) to 100% (highest).
City of Houston
EWG's drinking water quality report shows results of tests conducted by the water utility and provided to the Environmental Working Group by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, as well as information from the U.S. EPA Enforcement and Compliance History database (ECHO). For the latest quarter assessed by the U.S. EPA (January 2019 - March 2019), tap water provided by this water utility was in compliance with federal health-based drinking water standards.
- Serves: 2319603
- Data available: 2012-2017
- Data Source: Surface water
- Total: 46
Contaminants That Exceed Guidelines
- Chromium (hexavalent)
- Dichloroacetic acid
- Radium%2C combined (-226 & -228)
- Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs)
- Trichloroacetic acid
Other Detected Contaminants
- Bromochloroacetic acid
- Chromium (total)
- Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate
- Dibromoacetic acid
- Haloacetic acids (HAA5)
- Hexadecanoic acid
- Methyl isobutyl ketone
- Monobromoacetic acid
- Monochloroacetic acid
- Nitrate and nitrite
- Octadecanoic acid
- Xylenes (total)
Always take extra precautions, the water may be safe to drink when it leaves the sewage treatment plant but it may pick up pollutants during its way to your tap. We advise that you ask locals or hotel staff about the water quality. Also, note that different cities have different water mineral contents.
Sources and Resources
Is Houston Tap Water Safe To Drink?
Yes, Houston’s tap water is generally considered safe to drink and one should not get sick from drinking it. Though it is generally safe to drink, one should consider the possible safety impacts of low levels of regulated contaminants, unregulated contaminants, and water quality issues caused by severe weather.
While Houston’s tap water is generally safe to drink, long-term residents may consider using water filters for their everyday drinking, as the EPA is still assessing the health impacts of long-term exposure to certain contaminants below the currently acceptable levels. One such chemical is arsenic, which Houston contained at up to 50% of the current acceptable levels, according to the city’s 2020 Water Quality Report.
Severe weather has also caused issues with drinking water safety in the past, such as a winter storm in February 2021, which caused the city to have a boil notice for four days. As with anywhere in a hurricane zone, one always needs to be careful after severe storms as ground water runoff can get into the water supply and bring all sorts of nasty things with it.
Where Does Houston Tap Water Come From?
Eighty-six percent of Houston’s water supply flows from the Trinity River into Lake Livingston, and from the San Jacinto River into Lake Conroe and Lake Houston according to the city of Houston.
According to Houston’s 2020 Water Quality Report, Customers of Houston Water Main System receive their drinking water from three water purification plants and 40 ground water plants. 16 additional groundwater plants provide for the remaining 5 Houston Water Systems. The City of Houston treats the water according to federal and state standards to remove harmful contaminants.
Main Contaminants Found in Houston Tap Water
As we mentioned above, while the Houston tap water manages to meet the requirements set by the EPA, it does still contain many contaminants. These break into two categories, those regulated by the EPA, and those not regulated by the EPA. Though the EPA regulated contaminants must meet a certain threshold for the city’s water to be deemed acceptable, many are still present in the water at some level. The EPA continues to evaluate the long term impacts of these chemicals as more research is available. Arsenic, which we mentioned above, is currently being re-evaluated, for example.
Additionally, there are a number of “emerging” contaminants that the EPA has not determined acceptable levels for and is currently researching. For example Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), for which the EPA has issued a health advisory. Another name for PFAS is ‘forever chemicals’ since they tend not to break down in the environment or the human body and can accumulate over time. We do not yet fully understand the dangers of PFAS as they are currently being investigated. According to the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG), Houston has a number of suspected PFAS leaks, which can be seen on this map, so there is potential that it could be in Houston’s drinking water.
Below are some known contaminants present in Houston tap water, though these are below the levels the EPA considers dangerous, other resources, such as EWG, consider these to be at unsafe levels.
- Arsenic – It’s one of the most dangerous contaminants found in drinking water, is highly toxic and a possible cause of cancer.
- 1,2,3-Trichloropropane – It’s a harmful contaminant found in groundwater and classified as something that is likely to be carcinogenic to humans by the EPA.
- Chloroform – While it’s not too harmful in very small quantities even in your drinking water, it does pose a threat to your liver and kidney health if there’s prolonged exposure to an unsafely large quantity of chloroform.
- Dichloroacetic acid – Now, this is actually a contaminant that’s produced in your drinking water as a result of the disinfectant treatment the water undergoes. While safe to a certain extent, it has been linked to cancer and problems during pregnancy as well.
- Bromodichloromethane – Just like Dichloroacetic acid, this contaminant is produced when chemicals are added to drinking water to get rid of harmful bacteria.
- Chromium (hexavalent) – This is another carcinogen and linked to severe health issues. Unfortunately, the simple faucet water filters usually can’t remove this contaminant, but only a more effective purification process like reverse osmosis can.
- Dibromochloromethane – Another contaminant that’s produced as a result of chlorine-treatment of the drinking water. However, the chlorine treatment is considered important to eliminate disease-causing bacteria and viruses, and the Dibromochloromethane content in the water is usually very low to be safe enough. Unfortunately, in Houston, the Dibromochloromethane content is a little higher than what is recommended by the EPA.
- Radiological contaminants – These are naturally-occurring contaminants that are found in drinking water. The biggest issue with these contaminants is that, unlike the other contaminants we discussed above, they can pose a risk of cancer even in very small concentrations.
- Trihalomethanes – These contaminants are produced when the chlorine used for treating tap water reacts with the natural organic matter of the water. While they are not so dangerous in small quantities, exposure to a large number of Trihalomethanes can contribute to diseases like cancer and some adverse reproductive outcomes.
- Trichloroacetic acid – While not the most dangerous of contaminants on the list – and not the most likely to cause cancer – an excessive amount of the contaminant has been linked to liver cancer.