What risks does drinking LA tap water pose?
September 19, 2009 4:20 PM   Subscribe

What risks does drinking LA tap water pose? ? Should I be using a filter?

The plant says that water is potable after it is processed, but my neighbor just told me that all the dirty pipes it goes through, plus the fact that the potable water from the plant still isn't healthy means I should really get a filter.

Specifically I live in the West Hollywood area and can't seem to find any info on this.

These are my cons:

1) I'm living on Production Assistant wages at the moment and do NOT spend money unless absolutely necessary. This would cost me $34 for the unit and $34 for two filters (filters changing once every 4 months or so).

2) I HATE how slow the water comes out. I fill up my fridge with tons of flavored water bottles and this would really slow me down. Also, I hate the pitchers because you get barely any water out of such a bit unit, so I would have to get the sink unit.
posted by Jenna Roadman to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I grew up drinking LA tap water, and I still drink it every time I go home. No problems here.

LA also apparently has award winning tap water. I'd say don't worry about it.
posted by Arbac at 4:26 PM on September 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Tap's fine; it just tastes weird.

You should let it run for ~30 seconds before drinking it, though; that'll let all the water that's been sitting in your pipes get replaced with the good fresh-from-the-main stuff.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:26 PM on September 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power puts out a report on water quality annually.
posted by sharkfu at 4:26 PM on September 19, 2009

Municipal water is just fine.

California is so strange.
posted by unixrat at 4:43 PM on September 19, 2009

Does your neighbor work for Sparkletts or something? LA water is perfectly safe to drink. There might be better tasting (real or imagined) alternatives for a price but it is totally not necessary.
posted by birdherder at 4:59 PM on September 19, 2009

Tap water is significantly better regulated and monitored than bottled water - with few exceptions at the local level (and if they applied to you, you'd never hear the end of it) the latter is the risky option. There is no reason to fear tap water - the water filtering craze is utterly without point, and trades on people fears and the thought that so many people can't be wrong. Except in this instance, they are.

Besides, you consume tap water all the time because all kinds of food preparation processes use it.
posted by phrontist at 5:04 PM on September 19, 2009

LA's tap water is award-winning the same way those steakhouses in airline magazines are award-winning. Here's the list of participants in that contest.

But it's probably okay, as sharkfu's link shows. Can you find out from your landlord whether there's any lead in your building's plumbing? That's the only thing I'd be worried about. I don't think those Brita filters even work for most of those pollutants, anyway. (Their website only mentions lead, chlorine, and "large particulate matter".)

P.S. For those who say there's no reason to fear tap water: West LA's water can taste really, really bad in places. I mean, yeah, it's safe to drink, but it's totally understandable for people to think there might be something wrong with it, if all they've done is taste it. It really is a lot worse than other areas.
posted by equalpants at 5:22 PM on September 19, 2009

I've always heard that you should never ever drink hot tap water...because the hot water is more likely to leach the crud off of your icky old pipes. That and it tastes gross.

I can't imagine anyone drinking a glass of hot tap water...but I suppose sometimes for cooking stuff calls for hot water.
posted by ian1977 at 5:45 PM on September 19, 2009

There is a small chance of picking up low levels of lead from old pipes, but your friend's line about the fact that it comes out of the plant in an unhealthy state is total unmitigated bullshit. By law there are numerous standards that must be met and when they fall below these levels they are required to notify you.

If the lead thing is a still a concern then you should consider testing to put yourself at ease that it is not an issue. Filters are for improving the taste, not the safety, of tap water. If you don't have a problem with the way it tastes then there is absolutely no reason that you need to filter it.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:18 PM on September 19, 2009

These guys are total water geeks, they explain what you are getting, and their stuff is affordable.

(I learned about them here, of course, and bought one of their filters.)
posted by mecran01 at 6:36 PM on September 19, 2009

The water is just fine. The only thing you may not like is the odor or the taste, most likely due to older pipes. So you could use a Brita filter, but it won't make you healthier, it'll just make your water taste less "tappy"
posted by Groovytimes at 8:13 PM on September 19, 2009

Unscientific answer: Been drinking it almost all of my life. So far, no ill effects that I know of. I've read several reports of bottled water having higher "acceptable" levels of bad stuff than tap water, so personally I don't feel that one is safer than the other.

I find it tastes better if it's run through a Brita filter first.
posted by chez shoes at 9:07 PM on September 19, 2009

LA tap water is some of the best there is. And I am not a fan of tap water.
posted by Nattie at 9:21 PM on September 19, 2009

LA tap water is perfectly safe, as is all municipal water in the US IMHO. It tastes horrid though, so I use a filter.
posted by Joh at 9:55 PM on September 19, 2009

my neighbor just told me that all the dirty pipes it goes through, plus the fact that the potable water from the plant still isn't healthy means I should really get a filter

Your neighbor is not well informed. With very few, very infrequent and generally well publicized exceptions, city tap water in first world countries is safe to drink.

One of the reasons tap water often tastes a bit funny is that it often has a small amount of dissolved chlorine in it. That's put there to stop nasty things from growing inside the pipes. Most of the mud that sticks to the inside of municipal water pipes is, in fact, pretty much sterile because of this, and drinking a bit of sterile mud won't do you any harm.

Bottled water, on the other hand, doesn't generally contain any chlorine. If you take a swig from a bottle of commercial bottled water (or filtered tap water) and then recap it and leave it lying around for a few days, you will likely find that the inside of the cap smells a bit festy. That's because there's nothing in the water to kill the mouth bacteria you smeared on the neck when you swigged. Do the same thing with a bottle of tap water, and you'll find it keeps much better.

Improving the taste of tap water can be done without a filter. Fill an ordinary jug, leave it standing at room temperature for 24 hours to let chlorine evaporate and mud settle, and then decant the top half into a bottle and refrigerate it.

Incidentally, the reason it's not a good idea to make a regular practice of drinking hot tap water is nothing to do with the quality of the municipal supply. Most hot water services have a glass-lined steel holding tank, and to protect the steel from corrosion via pinhole faults in the glass coating, the tanks are fitted with sacrificial anodes. These slowly dissolve into the water, are often made of aluminium, and aluminium is not something you particularly want to be ingesting. Magnesium anodes are also available, but they're not likely to be food grade and may contain other undesirable metals as impurities.

If your hot water service has a stainless steel tank, or is a continuous heat type with a stainless steel heat exchanger, drinking its output is quite safe.
posted by flabdablet at 5:58 AM on September 20, 2009

I'm sure the tap water is just fine.

I also think that Sys Rq's advice is a little irresponsible given California's state of semi-perpetual drought. You'd just be wasting water doing that, and we don't have enough of it go go around as it is.
posted by Aizkolari at 4:51 PM on September 20, 2009

Tap water's got chlorine which is bad for the stomach. A Brita jar is cheap and the generic refill filters are even cheaper.
posted by Neekee at 7:21 PM on September 20, 2009

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