Survey: Which U.S. Cities Have the Worst Tap Water, According to Travelers?

We recently conducted a survey of 3,000 travelers to determine if they felt safe drinking the tap water in specific cities across the U.S. The results are illustrated below.

Key Insights from the Survey:

  • Distinct Taste Influencing Perception: Cities like New Orleans and College Station have distinctive water tastes due to their natural sources and treatment processes. While the water is safe, the unique flavors, including slight chlorine or mineral tastes, influence visitor perceptions negatively.
  • Michigan Cities Unfairly Rated: Michigan cities, such as Detroit and Warren, appear prominently in the list of least trusted tap water. This could be due to the state’s previous water crises, like the Flint water disaster, which have unfairly tarnished the perception of tap water quality across the state despite significant improvements and rigorous safety measures.
  • New York City’s Misconception: Despite having one of the most well-protected and rigorously tested water supplies, sourced from the Catskill, Delaware, and Croton watersheds, New York City’s tap water is perceived negatively. This misconception might stem from the association of large metropolises with pollution.
  • E-Waste Contamination Concerns: The study highlights the significant issue of e-waste contamination. Toxic substances from improperly disposed electronics can leach into water supplies, posing a threat to both taste and safety. This underscores the need for better e-waste management and recycling programs.
  • Perception vs. Reality: The survey reveals a considerable gap between the actual safety and quality of tap water and public perception. Many cities with high standards for water treatment and safety still suffer from negative perceptions, indicating a need for better public education on water quality issues.
  • Southern Cities’ Taste Issues: Cities in the South, like New Orleans and Baton Rouge, have tap water that meets safety standards but has a distinct taste that some visitors find unappealing. This suggests that while safety is assured, taste remains a subjective factor influencing public trust.
  • Public Education Needed: The findings suggest a critical need for improved public education about the sources and safety of tap water. Dispelling myths and providing transparent information could help align public perception with reality.
  • Importance of Water Quality Reports: Regular and transparent water quality reports can help build trust. Cities like Warren and Grand Rapids, which provide detailed reports, show that communication and transparency are key in addressing public concerns.
  • Visitor Influence: The opinions of seasoned travelers provide valuable insights but also highlight how transient experiences can shape perceptions. Long-term residents often have a different, usually more positive, view of their local tap water quality.


Online panel survey of 3,000 adults based on age, gender, and geography. Internal data sources are used to obtain population data sets. We used a two-step process to ensure representativeness through stratified sampling and post-stratification weighting.

Respondents are carefully chosen from a geographically representative online panel of double opt-in members. This selection is further tailored to meet the precise criteria required for each unique survey. Throughout the survey, we design questions to carefully screen and authenticate respondents, guaranteeing the alignment of the survey with the ideal participants.

To ensure the integrity of our data collection, we employ an array of data quality methods. Alongside conventional measures like digital fingerprinting, bot checks, geo-verification, and speeding detection, etc. each response undergoes a thorough review by a dedicated team member to ensure quality and contextual accuracy. Our commitment extends to open-ended responses, subjecting them to scrutiny for gibberish answers and plagiarism detection.