What is the Water Quality in Houston, Texas?
Compared to other US cities over 50,000, Houston water quality ranks in the very high range for contamination excluding Lead.
Most of their 49 contaminants have cancer-causing attributes. Arsenic is at extremely high levels: 528x health guidelines.
Let’s look closer at what’s in Houston water.
What’s in Houston water?
Here are the top 7 chemical compounds in your water and what health issues they can potentially cause:
- Arsenic – Potential effect: Cancer
- Bromodichloromethane – Potential effect: Cancer
- Chloroform – Potential effect: Cancer
- Haloacetic acids – Potential effect: Cancer
- Hexavalent Chromium – Potential effect: Cancer
- Radium – Potential effect: Cancer
- Total trihalomethanes – Potential effect: Cancer
These are seven of the 49 contaminants analyzed by the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org).
14 of these contaminants are rated as exceeding EWG Health Guidelines.
Does Houston have Lead contamination?
Yes, Houston has extremely high levels of lead in its water. The most recent Lead samples collected in 2019 showed concentrations up to 48.9 parts per billion.
The legal limit for lead is 15 parts per billion. Being well-below this level is a good thing.
Concentrations between 3.8 ppb and 15 ppb put a formula-fed baby at risk of elevated blood lead levels. Read more about the symptoms of Lead in water.
There is no safe level of lead for humans.
The good news is that 99.99% of the lead can be filtered out.
See the What Can You Do? section below to learn how to filter out contaminants.
Where does Houston’s water come from?
Houston’s water comes from the City of Houston – Buffalo Bayou watershed.
All 4 EPA assessed water sources in the City of Houston – Buffalo Bayou watershed are in Impaired condition. These include:
- Buffalo Bayou – Tidal and Above Tidal
- Newman Branch
- Unnamed Non-Tidal tributary of Buffalo Bayou Tidal
Ideally, a water source would be rated in Good condition.
Whether a water source is in Impaired or Good condition refers to the quality of these uses:
- Drinking Water
- Aquatic Life
- Fish and Shellfish Consumption
Learn more from How’s My Waterway
See below for what you can do to improve Houston’s water.
Conclusion – What Can You Do?
Information about water quality in Houston can be surprising.
But there’s no reason to lose hope. There are things you can do in your household as well as things you can do at a community level.
- Use Berkey water filters with activated carbon to filter out at least 80.4% of contaminants in your drinking water.
- To filter out 46 of the 49 contaminants, consider a Reverse Osmosis water filtration system for your house.
- These are more expensive than pitchers to purchase, but can be more effective.
- They have the benefit of filtering out heavy hitters like:
- 1,4-Dioxane – “Exposure may cause damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidneys.”
- Arsenic – health effects in water
- Atrazine – herbicide. Potential harm to the developing fetus.
- Barium – In low doses, barium ions act as a muscle stimulant, and higher doses affect the nervous system, causing cardiac irregularities, tremors, weakness, anxiety, shortness of breath, and paralysis.
- Bromodichloromethane – health risks in drinking water
- Chloroform – side effects
- Chromium (total)
- Dibromoacetic acid
- Dichloroacetic acid
- Endrin – insecticide, rodenticide, and piscicide (fish poison).
- Haloacetic acids – chlorination byproduct*
- Hexavalent chromium – health effects
- Metolachlor – herbicide
- Monobromoacetic acid
- Monochloroacetic acid
- Selenium – toxicity
- Simazine – herbicide
- Total trihalomethanes – byproduct of chlorination*
- Trichloroacetic acid
*Chlorination is an effective method of disinfecting/treating drinking water. You can then use a water filter to reduce the effects of chlorination byproducts to get the safest, cleanest water possible.
In Your Community:
Contact your local government officials and put pressure on them to invest in cleaner waterways and upgraded city water filtration and treatment.
Go to: https://www.houstontx.gov/ to find contact information for your local officials.