Water Quality in Washington, DC
Watershed: Pimmit Run – Potomac River
What is the water quality like in Washington, DC?
Let’s dive deeper into what’s in Washington DC water.
What’s in Washington DC 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
- Nitrate – Potential effect: Cancer
- Total trihalomethanes – Potential effect: Cancer
These are seven of the 36 contaminants analyzed by the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org).
12 of these contaminants are rated as exceeding EWG Health Guidelines.
See the What Can You Do? section below for all of the contaminants you can filter out and how to do it.
Where does Washington DC water come from?
DC’s water comes from the Pimmit Run – Potomac River watershed.
All 21 EPA assessed water sources in the Pimmit Run – Potomac River watershed are in Impaired or Unknown condition. These include:
- Battery Kemble Creek
- Chesapeake and Ohio Canal
- Foundry Branch
- Little Pimmit Run
- Pimmit Run – 3 segments
- Potomac River – 9 segments
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 Washington, DC’s water.
Conclusion – What Can You Do?
Information about water quality 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.
In Your Household:
- Use Berkey filters with activated carbon to filter out 28 of the 36 contaminants in your drinking water.
- Berkey filters can also remove up to 99.99% of Lead in Washington DC water.
- Brita can filter 18 contaminants (and Lead depending on the filter).
- Note: We may receive a commission if you decide to purchase filters through links on this page.
- To filter out 32 of the 36 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:
- 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.
- Bromochloroacetic acid
- Bromodichloromethane – health risks in drinking water
- Chloroform – side effects
- Chromium (total)
- Dalapon – herbicide used on sugarcane and sugar beets.
- Dibromoacetic acid
- Dichloroacetic acid
- Haloacetic acids – chlorination byproduct*
- Hexavalent chromium – health effects
- Metolachlor – herbicide. See: Safety and Ecological effects
- Monobromoacetic acid
- Monochloroacetic acid
- Selenium – toxicity
- Simazine – herbicide (banned in European Union states)
- 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://dc.gov/ to find contact information for your local officials.