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US Cities with the Worst Tap Water: Modesto, California

By Austin Armstrong November 01, 2021

Modesto, California is located in the Central Valley and is the largest city in Stanislau County. It’s known as an agricultural metropolis, growing almonds and walnuts; it’s even known for its cow and chicken raising. Increasingly, the city is becoming more well known for its contaminated water supply - making Modesto not just one of the worst cities for water in California, but one of the cities with the worst water in the US. 

How did it earn this title? Modesto’s water supply is rife with 23 different contaminants found during a recent water quality report, performed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) with information from the EPA, US EPA Enforcement and Compliance History Database (ECHO) and the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). 

Even worse, 15 of the contaminants exceed health guidelines set by EWG. They are: Bromodichloromethane, Chloroform, Chromium, Dibromoacetic acid, Dibromochloromethane, Dichloroacetic acid, Haloacetic acids, Nitrate, Total trihalomethanes, Trichloroacetic acid, Uranium, and Vanadium. These contaminants are known to be cancer causing, and even capable of changing one’s blood chemistry. 

For residents in Modesto, bottled water has become a solution to the water contamination problem. In fact 42,000 homes in the area were given free bottled water. How did that happen? We know that plastic water bottles are expensive and bad for the environment, but officials in Stanislaus County were so worried about residents drinking tap water that they made a permanent switch for those hooked up to water municipalities in violation of safe drinking water standards. Someone should tell the officials in Stanislaus County about at-home water filtration. 

The bottled water solution didn’t really solve anything. And residents in Modesto are still upset. According to an article in the Modesto Bee, the county’s water crisis led to residents, businesses, and schools incurring rising costs associated with maintaining water systems that were polluted with arsenic, nitrates and other impurities. In other words, people were paying for water they couldn’t use - and that led to a lot of anger on the part of people who were footing the bill. 

Water contamination issues have also affected area schools. A Sacramento Bee article, published in 2018, talks about Shiloh Elementary School, in the outskirts of Modesto, having to close all of its water fountains - going so far as to cover the fountains with plastic tarp. This is one example of many in the area that illustrate what the state’s water contamination problem has done to ordinary people. 

The Sacramento Bee article goes on to say that approximately 360,000 Californians are exposed to unsafe drinking water. The information in the story comes from a McClatchy data analysis, in coordination with the SWRCB - and their findings were bleak. Modesto residents are learning to live with their dirty water. They cook, wash dishes, shower, bathe, and wash their hands and face with tap water that contains sickening pollutants like arsenic, nitrates, and uranium. But it doesn’t have to be this way. 

For those who live in Modesto, 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 municipalities 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 Modesto’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 Modesto, 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. Its 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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