Safety of Tap Water

Parent Q&A

  • Determining water quality

    (2 replies)

    I ran a bath in my new apartment and the water came out blue. The internet told me this was most likely copper corrosion but when I did a water quality test, the copper results were within normal range. The pH level was unusually low, though. How does this square? Are there any other possible explanations for the blue color? And should I be worried about the low pH and why? 

    I let my landlord know about it and he is looking into a few possible things, but for my own peace of mind, I would like to do a little detective work myself. 

    RE: Determining water quality ()

    I would generally trust the World Health Organization, here is a paper from them on pH levels, There is a lot of fake news out there with the goal of selling water treatment products. The Bay Area has excellent water, EBMUD recommends using only certified labs to test for specific contaminants, the info is here:

    RE: Determining water quality ()

    HI-- Water quality is big for me.  We can have excellent water coming up to our residence but if the pipes are inferior on our property, in our home/apt, then that changes everything.  Having a child with learning disabilities, etc. I didn't want to take any changes.  The only way to find out what you're actually drinking is have it lab tested.  Quickly googling, I found this link that may be of help for you.  I'm sure there are other, reliable, labs out there.   --- it takes you to "National Testing Labs" that's certified to test Calif's water.  (What we do--as renters-- is depend upon a purification system, which I found after hours of research.)

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Berkeley Tap Water

Sept 2015

I am wondering what the condition is of our Berkeley tap water.

I recently prepared chicken noodle soup in a non-stick pan and it ended up tasting like soap. Is it the tap water? I read that it could be Flouride concentrated by the boiling water? I ruled out every other source (i.e. my soup ingredients, spoon, etc.) Could it be a reaction to the non-stick pan even though I have made soup before? We have been in the same house for almost twelve years and this is the first time this has happened.

Also, has anyone installed a filtration system under their sink for their tap/water supply? If so, why did you do it and are you happy with it? worried about our water

Yes, it sounds like it was the nonstick pan. You really should only use nonstick for cooking eggs, burgers, other things that cook in fat. Not for liquids. Get a stainless or glass pot for liquids like soup.

Berkeley water is really, really good. It's Sierra snow melt. It's the best.

I think it is a problem with your pan, or possibly with going overboard in saving water or not using hot enough water when washing dishes. That happens to us at times -- we don't rinse things off well enough and there's a bit of a soap residue. I've been in Berkeley (in an old house) for 20 years, and I think the water itself is fine. anon

We have had a Multipure whole-house filter on our incoming water line for many years and it works great. You can Google them. It means the water that goes in our vegetable garden and fishpond is also filtered and we have not noticed any degradation of water taste with the drought changes. Barbara S

For the past few months, EBMUD has been drawing water from closer to the surface of the Mokulmne River and associated dams. Due to the drought conditions, they say they can't draw the deeper, cooler, cleaner water that we are used to enjoying.

The results are yucky. While EBMUD warned customers that the taste would be off, we have noticed other issues as well. Our hot tub is growing green algae on the rim and sides - we need to scrape it off with a toothbrush, and my husband contracted a nasty skin infection. I spend less time in the tub and am OK.

For drinking water, we have always filtered the water, and now are very glad to have the filter system in place. Amelia Sue

Safety of Water in Oakland

Sept 2014

I am a mom of a toddler and hoping to have a second child. I was curious whether parents of young kids (or others) drink tap water or filtered water, and if so what filter they chose and why. I know our water is relatively safe, but I am troubled that it exceeds health guidelines in a few areas: I've been thinking of buying a Berkey filter and I'd love feedback on those filters in particular or others that you have used. Rockridge mom

As EBMUD customers, we enjoy some of the cleanest drinking water in the state. Your tap water in Oakland is absolutely safe to drink, and you don't need a filter (unless you have a household issue with lead). While the EWG results allow for national cross-comparisons, they have been stripped of a lot of important footnotes, such as where sampling is conducted. Please refer to EBMUD's web site for their 2013 report. They have multiple treatment plants; you're served mostly by Orinda. Drink up and enjoy! Mary

We've had the big berkey for about a year now and are very pleased. High up front cost but I believe it will be less than other filters in long run. Also portable and could still be used in a disaster which sink filter cannot. One issue is where will you keep it so the spout hangs off counter and is usable. You can also elevate it on a little stool on the counter beside the sink. We keep a 1/2 gallon mason jar next to ours for filling and a 1 gal glass ice tea pitcher with spout the we fill with filtered water as a backup (I can easily use the whole thing and need the backup on days I'm cooking or making stock). It's important to have a routine for filling to make sure there is always water, in the beginning we'd be out all the time and it was frustrating. My husband fills every night before bed and I make sure to fill once or twice during the day. We are only two and a baby on the way but I am always making stock, kombucha, soaking nuts or doing other things that use lots of water. I would buy the slightly bigger model if I'd realized there were other sizes but overall I'm happy to have it and would recommend it to others. Happy berkey user

A family member does water quality monitoring for EBMUD. He uses a Brita filter, so we do too. --Clear Water

This new filter looks promising: However, you might want to consider a whole house filter because you absorb a lot more toxins through your lungs breathing the steam in the shower than you do by drinking the water. Anon

I have several friends who work at top-level in EBMUD and none uses a water filter. Take it from the pros. anon

We've been very happy with our MultiPure under-sink filter. RK

Oakland has some of the best water in the country. No need to buy a filter or bottled water, just drink the water right out of the tap. The filters don't remove all of the contaminants they are ''scaring'' you with. And this may sound a bit counter intuitive but filtered and bottled water can be worse than what comes out of the tap because bacteria can grow in filter systems and holding containers. Be thankful for the wonderful water we get right from the Sierra. ANON

Tap water in Berkeley: safe to drink?

April 2008

Do you think the tap water in Berkeley is safe to drink? I'm trying to stay away from plastic and am thinking of retiring my trusty Brita but I also am leery of drinking tap water, especially since I'm pregnant. Does anyone know which is the lesser of two evils?! Kellie

Well, Britta is still better than tap water in my opinion. Best is a reverse osmosis filter and then a solid carbon filter. Britta is better than nothing, just don't leave the pitcher sitting in the sun. I personally drank spring water during my pregnancy because I didn't want to drink chlorine and flouride along with all the water I was drinking. filters are best

Berkeley, like the rest of Alameda county, is served by EBMUD. EBMUD water is probably the best in the country, and among the best in the world. We are lucky to have such excellent water. You shouldn't need to filter it, unless you just don't like the taste. Love Our Local Tap Water!

I live in Berkeley and see tiny grey & black particles coming through the tap water frequently. I would not trust the tap water. We used to have the Brita pitcher, but recently switched to the Brita attached to your faucet. So much better! Always enough water to fill up a pot and always clean water to rinse organic fruit. Can't believe we didn't get it sooner! Bought it at Elephant Pharm. Heike Helmer

Yes, the water from the East Bay Municipal Utility District is the best I know of. Danny Wan, X Oakland city council member says that if you are buying bottled water you are throwing away your money 'cus EBMUD water is better. It is also tested so you can verify.

I drink it unfiltered without worries. Oh, yes it tastes great.

EBMUD will also give you rebates to buy high efficiency toilets and clothes washers. I know of no better water utility.

EBMUD water is one thing you can be happy about. George

Tap water in Berkeley is fine. The only I don't like is the added flouride so I bought a reverse osmosis water filter. It's a bit wasteful waterwise, but we only use it for drinking water and ice. I say drink the tap water or get a reverse osmosis filtering system if you are really worried. (I also stopped using Brita because of the plastic water containers.) Anon

Regarding Brita filters and pitchers: My husband inquired directly with the company, and here is the reply he received: ''The pitcher lids and filter housings are made of Polypropylene plastic. The reservoirs and pitchers are made either from NAS (a Styrene based plastic) or SAN (Styrene Acrylonitrile). The soft-touch handles are made from an elastomer called Santoprene (not to be confused with Latex or Neoprene). Our products do not contain any bisphenol A and are all tested by the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) for safety and wetted contact. Unfortunately the pitcher materials are not recyclable, and therefore do not have a plastic number.'' I don't know if this information helps or hurts, but there it is. Katie

I was a water quality chemist for EBMUD for 4 years. The water is wonderful if you live in Berkeley or Oakland. People in Richmond get water from San Pablo Dam which isn't as good as the Sierra water. The people at EBMUD are very dedicated to doing a good job. Unfortunately I found the job boring. alita

How to have the water in my home tested?

May 2012

Dear BPN parents, Since our baby was born I started to worry about the drinking water quality in our home. Our house is pretty old (built in 1949), so I particularly worry about the lead level in the water. I know that there are lead test kits for sale in Home depot, but many people don't recommend them because they sometimes give false results. So I want to have some professional lab to test the water.

The problem is, how to do it? I am totally lost. I went to EBMUD website, it says they don't test household water, and they recommend to contact the State of California Department of Health Services (CDHS). I searched on CDHS website, finally found a phone number in their water district and called a few times, but nobody answered the phone.

Has anybody had their household water tested by a professional lab, or by a government agent? Or does anybody know how to do it? Thanks a lot for your help. Why doesn't EBMUD test our water?

Caltest Analytical Laboratory, located in Napa, is accredited by the state for drinking water analyses. Check out the website (, or call 707-258-4000 to talk to a Project Manager about your needs. EV, Quality Assurance Officer, Caltest Analytical Laboratory

Nervous about CA water quality

March 2011

The recent news about high levels of Chromium 6 in our groundwater makes me nervous. How can one filter this out of our water? A Brita? I am a recent breast cancer survivor with young kids, and I am uneasy about this topic. I don't like buying bottled water because of the waste and expense, but I'm not sure what is the best strategy for healthy drinking water! We're also currently renters, so installing anything in the house is not an option. water concerned

Each region in California gets its water from different places so there's no such thing as ''California water''. You can contact your local water utility to find out more. In the East Bay (EBMUD is the supplier) and SF and the Peninsula (supplied by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission -- not to be confused with the State's PUC) the source of the water is pure Sierra snow melt and we enjoy some of the best water quality in the nation. Water contaminates can enter the water from the pipes but this has always seemed to me a very minor problem. I've come to the conclusion that filtration is a waste of time and money. And avoid bottle water -- it generally has lower water quality than our great East Bay tap, not to mention is wasteful. Brenda

Hi - I totally understand the nervousness about water quality. However, if you live in the east bay it's highly unlikely you are being delivered groundwater. Same for San Francisco. Both of those two water systems, EBMUD and SFPUC get the vast majority of their water supplies from Sierra snowmelt. The Mokulmne river for EBMUD and the Tuolumne River for SFPUC. Both agencies publish their water quality data at least annually if not more frequently. Check out their websites. But generally, we are extremely fortunate to have such good surface water supplies here in the Bay Area. Laura

You're right to be concerned about CA water quality (although it is much better than in other parts of the country, almost anywhere now, unfortunately, there are chemicals that are bad for public health-- this is a consequence of our industrialized way of living, which now we're learning slowly how to clean up). I am a physician involved in environmental health issues. After multiple analyses, including cost-effectiveness, my recommendation for you would be an over-the-counter water filtration system. These are portable, so you could take it with you should you move, and they don't require a professional to install. They are much better than pitcher filtration systems, which also carry w/ them the issue of water standing in leaching plastic containers. ''Best Filters'' or another comparable site is a good place to start. You can click to see what sets of chemicals are removed from various levels of filters (which range from $45-300). Reverse osmosis, although it can filter more than the usual filters, can also remove lots of important micronutrients and minerals. Here's to good health! DH

Bottled water is certifiably a rip-off as far as safety; it's less well regulated than tap water. My B-I-L works on water quality for PG he uses & recommends a Brita Filter. Be sure to follow the instructions and swap out filters periodically; lots of people use water filters and fail to change them, so mold starts growing. That's not good for you either! LK

Dear Nervous: There is no such thing as ''California'' water quality. Problems are unique to every water source, so your concerns should depend greatly on where you live. If you are served by EBMUD or San Francisco water systems, you're drinking some of the best water in the nation -- be grateful! A Brita can remove chlorine taste or some lead from household sources (not chrome-6), but otherwise isn't necessary. Find out who your water service provider is; every provider has to publish information about water quality on an annual basis, and this is almost always on their web site. Instead of being nervous, educate yourself. Tap Water Lover

Those of us who live in the East Bay have excellent water quality. EBMUD provides almost all our potable water from the Pardee reservior and Hetch Hetchy. The 2009 Water Quality Report is available on line or from EBMUD

California's proposed limit of .02 parts per billion of chromium-6 will be the lowest in the nation when enacted

The Central Valley is highly dependent on wells and has corresponding higher rates of chromium-6 and other contaminates in their water Bill, Tinkey Plumbing

I've been using the counter-top Multi-pure water filter (went to the Ecology Center in Berkeley) for the last 3 years and it's working great for us. You no longer taste the chlorine in the water, and it's got the solid carbon block filtration which is extremely effective in removing all sorts of contaminants. You have to buy a new filter 1x a year (costs about $50 to replace). But no plastic bottles, no guilt, and as much water as you want on-demand. Check it out: - Drinking Filtered Tap Water

Berkeley tap water - Good, Bad, OK??

June 2007

Does anyone know if the Berkeley tap water is ok to drink, not filtered? Our pediatrician says it's ok to mix straight tap water to make our babys formula. The pipes in/around our house have been updated, but I don't know about the city's water pipe system. Anyhow, has anyone done mixed formula with tap water? Thanks!! kate

Yes, Berkeley tap water is good. I am using it to make formula for my baby for three months now after our pediatrician said berkeley tap water is good. My baby didn't show any stomach upsets or anything like that. ad

Our water has chloromine in it, which is a mixture of chlorine and ammonia. It kills fish, you have to treat it before replacing aquarium water. I think EBMUD says it's fine to drink, but I have a filter on my tap at home which filters this out (among other things). I wouldn't give it to my baby, child, teenager or friends. I hope that helps. anon

Please tell me that you are joking!

Berkeley tap water is fantastic water! It is great for adults, kids, pets, plants and babies. We have been making formula for our kid with tap water-- unboiled, unfiltered, without first subjecting it to gamma radiation since she was born. It is DRINKING water, in which we are lucky enough to also be able to shower and bathe. It comes from the Sierra Nevada, from one of the finest sources for a metropolitan area-the Mokelumne River. You want mountain water? That's what we have, and the good news is that you are already paying for it. Furthermore, by drinking tap water you will not need to contribute to the massive waste problem that bottled water is creating, both in all the bottles that need to be disposed of and the energy used to truck that stuff across the country.

If you lived in India, Africa, or even Mexico, this would be a valid issue, but you live in Berkeley!

Enjoy the water, and teach your children to drink from the tap, not the bottle. its fine

The water provided to Berkeley via EBMUD is from the Pardee Reservoir, and is excellent in quality. There is no need to filter it, unless you are not confient of the pipes in your house. If you have had new, copper water pipes installed (these are the best) then your water should be fine.

Installing a water filter for your drinking water can actually increase tooth decay in your family, if they do not receive fluoride through other sources (fluoride rinses, school drinking water, fluoride toothpaste, etc.)

Once we changed out the old steel pipes in our Craftsman house, our drinking water issues were resolved, and we have no more problems. If your pipes were recently replaced, be sure to clean out the aerators at the taps in the kitchen and baths, since sometimes the debris from the old steel pipes may still be in there.

Also, your water heater may have substantial debris in it from the old pipes; flushing it out with a garden hose attached to the spigot at the bottom will remove this (you should do this annually anyway, to lengthen the life of your water heater.) Making sure your water heater isn't any higher than 120 F. will eliminate the chance of scalding as well.

Good luck! Clean Water in Berkeley

The water we get in the Bay Area is superb. Some of the best anywhere in the world. I have used it extensively to fill up formula bottles with good results. We use a Brita filter to remove some of the chlorine smell and taste, though. But that's just a preference and it's not strictly necessary. I researched this extensively with EBMUD some time back.

I found peace of mind after purchasing a water test kit, which can be found on a website such as I think I paid around $20 to test for e.coli, lead, pesticides, nitrates, chlorine, hardness and ph. All turned out fine. After reading recent reviews of bottled water, I would much prefer to drink from my home tap, where I at least know the source of the water (check out EBMUD's annual reviews). Stacey

Seeing spots on pots when boiling water

Oct 2006

I live in North Berkeley and recently noticed little spots appearing at the bottom of my stainless steel pots when boiling water. I've had all the pots for a while and until now i've never seen anything form in the pots besides bubbles from boiling. But the spots began appearing this week and the same spots have appeared on 4 different pots, so i have to believe it's something in the water. Has anyone else noticed spots from boiling water recently? Has anyone read or heard of any notices about changes to our drinking water (eg. - more/less flouride, chlorine, etc.)?
curious drinker

Yes! We just moved into Berkeley, and I dumped out a pot of hot pasta water 2 days ago, because having boiled the water for a few minutes, there was a weird scum all along the sides of the pot. No clue what it was. Any chemists out there? writeck

Hi, We are seeing spots too- looks like white mineral deposits of some kind. I don't know why. We live in Pinole. Love to know more. DZ

Testing tap water at home

Oct 2002

We would like to test our tap water at home as our eleven month old is less able to deal with lots of minerals or other disolved chemicals than we are. Any ideas? John and David

Test tap water for what? Assume you'll find at least chlorine, and I think chloramines and probably fluoride. Do you want to drink those? I understand that the minerals in tap water aren't the kind we need and can use anyway. When EBMUD tells us that tap water isn't safe for our fish and studies say pregnant women shouldn't be drinking it..well, that sent me shopping for bottled water. Distilled water is probably the best kind to drink. anon

You can get information about water quality tests from the company that supplies water to your house, but it won't include any information about chemicals that are entering your water from the pipes in your house (lead, iron, etc.) A list of companies certified to test drinking water is at You can contact one of the these companies for information on how to collect and send them a sample. Costs vary, of course, depending on the lab and the analysis you want. You probably want to test for inorganics, which should include nitrate, alkalinity, conductivity, and total dissolved solids. M