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US Cities with the Worst Tap Water: Fresno, California

By Austin Armstrong November 01, 2021

Fresno, California is a picturesque enclave, truly embodying all the beauty of Central California. It’s surrounded by some of the state’s most famous cities: Sacramento, 200 miles to the east and San Francisco three hundred miles to the north. The city is known for its viticultural contributions, supplying the entire country with full-bodied red wines and crisp whites - and while we love sipping on the city’s wine, Fresno’s tap water is one thing you wouldn’t want to drink. 

Before we get further, it’s important to understand where Fresno gets its water from. In this part of California, a large portion of residents are responsible for their own water, which means a lot of homes aren’t hooked up to a municipal water system. In Fresno, water is sourced from 260 groundwater wells, drawn from Fresno’s Sole Source Aquifer. Water also comes from the Millerton and Pine Flat lakes, by way of the Fresno Irrigation District canal.

One good thing about Fresno’s drinking water is that it isn’t contaminated by chlorine. For years, this was the persistent rumor - but it simply wasn’t true. Unfortunately, contaminants actually found in the water are no better than chlorine. 

Here’s what we mean: The city’s tap water supply is rife with Chromium 6, a highly toxic metal, not yet regulated by the EPA. In the EPA’s latest Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), it was disclosed that water in the region had concentrations of Chromium 6 ranging from 2,800 parts per trillion to 11,000 parts per trillion. That’s a far cry from California Water Board’s public health goal of 20 parts per trillion. 

This pollutant slithered its way into the water supply over decades, through metal processing facilities, tanneries, chromate production centers, stainless steel welding facilities, and businesses who manufacture pigment production. Even though Chromium 6 is yet unregulated, the EPA has acknowledged that when inhaled, it is a human carcinogen. As far as drinking water goes, they’re still trying to determine its cancer-causing potential. What we do know is this: Chromium 6 exposure can lead to disease, including acute respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disease, hepatic disease, and renal disease. It’s also associated with cancers, including cancers of the lung, nasal passage and sinus. 

In addition to Chromium 6, synthetic contaminants were found in Fresno's drinking water. 1,2 Dibromochloroporpane (DBCP), a now-banned nematocide originally developed to replace DDT, was found during a recent round of testing. DBCP has been banned for years - since 1979 in fact, but it’s a persistent chemical and it’s remained in the environment all this time. The levels detected were 27 parts per trillion, all the way up to 170 parts per trillion - making it just under the regulatory limit of 200 parts per trillion. But who wants ANY level of this chemical in their water? DBCP affects the endocrine system, and specifically, the male reproductive system. 

But that’s not all. Levels of various industrial solvents were also found in the water supply. That includes, 1,2 Dichloroethylene, Tetrachloroethylene (PCE), and Trichloroethylene (TCE). These contaminants are long-forgotten-about remnants of industrial discharge, dry cleaning ingredients, and metal degreasing components. And the fact that they’re in the water supply, all these years later, is motivation enough for some Fresno residents to try and filter them out.  

Everyone knows how bad arsenic is, and yet, arsenic is yet another contaminant found in Fresno’s drinking water supply. Levels of the heavy metal were found to be barely in compliance with California’s Public Health goal of 0.004 parts per billion. Even worse, arsenic levels detected were nearly at the  EPA’s maximum contaminant level of 10 parts per billion. Arsenic is linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease, immune issues, neurological problems and problems with the endocrine system. 

 These contaminants were also found in Fresno’s water, and they all exceed EPA guidlines: Bromodichloromethane, Nitrate, Tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene) Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs), Trichloroethylene;and Uranium. 

For those who live in Fresno, California an at-home water filtration device will give your family access to clean, quality drinking water, and give you the power over your tap. Simply put, we can’t trust that water supply agencies will get the job done when it comes to decontaminating our water. City water authorities work to remove contaminants but often fall short in the long run. In the end, impurities and contaminants slip through the cracks and find their way to residential taps all too often. Further down we’ll talk more about water filtration and how a water filtration system can provide your family with cleaner, healthier water, but first, let’s talk about how Fresno’s water supply became so bad in the first place. 

How did this happen?

There are a few different factors that combine to create the perfect storm that makes a state’s water quality substandard. 

  1. Deteriorating infrastructure - The first reason deals with the infrastructure of the municipality supplying the water. In a perfect situation, public water pipes would remain in tip-top condition but in the real world, they don’t. Here’s a common example seen in deteriorating pipes: If a water pipe becomes old and starts to leak it can create a vacuum-like situation pulling untreated water in with treated water. When you turn on your faucet, your water would be both treated and untreated. 
  2. Deteriorating infrastructure (part 2) - Another problem with old pipes is that they can seep copper, lead and additional heavy metal impurities - inviting a dangerous and unhealthy cocktail of contaminants into your drinking cup.  
  3. Hazardous runoff - Hazardous tap water is also caused by runoff from farms and manufacturing plants, like car-making plants and coal mining plants. Runoff seeps into our water bodies and then gets into our water supply. 
  4. Adding chlorine - Municipalities often add chlorine to the water supply in order to improve the taste or smell of the water; but it’s not safe. 

How can I find out if my home has bad tap water in Fresno, California?

Ask your provider.

The first thing you should do is call or email your local water provider and ask them to give you a copy of the most up-to-date water quality report they have. This report will detail the exact tests done to the water in your area with the dates the tests were performed and the results of the tests. The test results will give you insight into what contaminants may have been detected in your water. After that you can decide to have further testing done or you could move forward satisfied with what the report says - either way now you have information about the likely contaminants in your water.  

Send samples for testing.

The most thorough testing will occur when you send out a sample of your tap water - this will also give you the most accurate results. You should always send your sample to a certified water-testing lab because they hire experts who will know what to look for. As an example: some chemical contaminants are hard-to-detect and can be overlooked by novice testers. Professional water labs will check for bacteria, chlorine, lead and pesticides as well as any specific contaminants you request. 

Test your water at home. 

You can also do it yourself and if that’s something you enjoy, there are water testing kits that can be purchased to make that happen. Professional lab testing is the most accurate and thorough way to test water - but with that said, at-home water testing kits can provide you with crucial information on your drinking water. 

You can buy a kit online or in your local hardware store. The test strip kit will give you instructions on how to perform a test at home. Here’s an important tip: when testing your water at home, yourself, do it twice. Testing your water two times will ensure that your results are accurate. If you find that impurities are present, consider investing in a good water filtration device. A good water filtration system will help you to eliminate many contaminants and bring your drinking water to its most healthy and pure state. Finding a good, reliable water filtration system may be a daunting task - so let’s talk about the best system available to you. 

Invest in The Water Machine. 

The Water Machine is the world's first all-glass, gravity-fed countertop water filter. It's design is both functional and stylish, making The Water Machine an eye-pleasing focal point in your kitchen - or wherever you decide to put it. The Water Machine features a sleek hammered-glass design and can filter up to 6,000 gallons of water over a 10-year span (if you consume a gallon-and-a-half of water a day).  Water filtered through The Water Machine is crisp and clean without a metallic or plastic aftertaste; it is some of the most delicious and refreshing water you'll ever enjoy. Plus our all-glass design helps reduce plastic waste in the environment. In fact, The Water Machine is committed to environmental causes, with a portion of all of our sales going toward clean water organizations including, who has given 36-million people worldwide access to clean, uncontaminated water; and, whose goal is to bring clean drinking water to everyone on the planet. Please visit their websites to see more of the amazing work these organizations do. 

The Water Machine eliminates the following contaminants: Bacteria like E. coli, Chlorine, Viruses, Chloramines, Parasites, Fluoride, Heavy Metals, Trihalomethane (THMs), Pharmaceuticals, Petroleum Contaminants, Bisphenol-A (BPA), Radiologicals, Perfluorochemicals (PFOAS), and Herbicides & Pesticides.

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