Do You Think You Can Tell The Difference Between DC Tap Water and Bottled Water? Prove It!

Photo by PoPville flickr user Christopher Michael Poole

From My DC Water:

Can you tell a difference between tap water and bottled water? Test your drinking water preferences and learn how you can save money and the environment by choosing clean, affordable DC tap water.

DC Water is promoting tap water, protecting the environment and saving people money. Hundreds of water samples are tested each week throughout the District to ensure the delivery of high quality tap water. Bottled water involves significant economic and environmental costs. DC tap water is only a penny per gallon and bottled water costs 100 times more.

Join DC Water during a series of blind taste tests that will challenge people’s knowledge about tap water. Taste test challenges are scheduled in each Ward of the District.

Locations after the jump.

Every Wednesday between August 22 – October 10, 2012
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (weather permitting)

Ward 1 – October 10, 2012
Columbia Heights Metro
3030 14th Street, NW

Ward 2 – August 22, 2012
2221 I Street, NW

Ward 3 – August 29, 2012
Whole Foods (Tenley Circle)
4530 40th Street, NW

Ward 4 – September 5, 2012
Petworth Metro
3700 Georgia Avenue, NW

Ward 5 – September 12, 2012
Home Depot
901 Rhode Island Avenue, NE

Ward 6 – September 19, 2012
Southwest Waterfront
1100 4th Street, SW

Ward 7 – September 26, 2012
Penn-Branch Shopping Center
3220 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE

Ward 8 – October 3, 2012
Ward 8 Constituent Building
2100 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE

31 Comment

  • Great promotion. As a participant in annual Anacostia River cleanup event, it’s clear this wasteful habit of buying bottled water needs to be reduced as much as possible. I like the rich, hearty flavor of DC tap water.

    • Assuming you weren’t being facetious, that rich, hardy flavor tastes just like algae to me. Maybe it’s neighborhood-specific, but I can’t finish a glass of DC tap water in houses around PoPville due to the overwhelming algae flavor. Restaurants are usually fine. In fact, I always opt for tap water in restaurants.

      I’m looking forward to the eventual end of the bottled water craze, but I’d dehydrate to a crisp without my Brita. Even a year-old, chemical-saturated filter zaps that nasty tap water taste.

  • I would actually participate if I wasn’t genuinely scared of drinking actual DC tap water. har.

  • People like to joke about DC’s tap water, but if you compare it to the municipal water from a lot of places, it actually tastes pretty good. Ever taste the tap water in Florida? YUCK!

    • Taste has nothing to do with it. Not wanting to swallow 3 times the EPA allowed lead in municipal water is the issue.

      And for those of you buying what DC water is telling you, that the water is fine…think again.

      I’ve had my service line replaced, the main in the street has been replaced and still, my water has lead levels 30% higher than allowed per law.

      Remember, the water travels through miles of pipe from the resevoir before it gets to your house and unless all those lines are replaced, replacing your service line is pointless.

      So drink it if you want, but I certainly wouldn’t let a child or pregnant woman do it.

      • ah

        Copper or galvanized pipes in your house?

      • orderedchaos

        “Not wanting to swallow 3 times the EPA allowed lead in municipal water is the issue.”

        Have you ever had your tap water tested? I doubt you have, because your statement above is false.

        DC water has very little lead in it, unless you have a lead service line leading from the main to your home — in which case you can have that replaced (as we recently did) with copper pipes. You may also have lead issues if your home has galvanized pipes for its internal plumbing.

        If either of the above cases are true, and replacing those pipes isn’t a financial option, then yes, bottled water may be the cheaper and more reasonable solution. But don’t bash DC water out of ignorance.

  • isn’t this taste test necessarily a little . . . unworkable? the quality of the tapwater varies pretty heavily depending on how recently the pipes in your neighborhood and building were replaced doesn’t it? I rely on a brita or bottled water both at home in my 100-year-old rowhouse and at work in a government building downtown. Last I checked, DC Water actually recommended that pregnant women and young children filter your water if you haven’t had your actual tap water in your building tested recently.

    tapwater in my old house tastes terrible – and I just assume it is. tapwater in my office is probably indistinguishable from a bottle of dasani, but i also doubt its been tested recently.

    • Ironically, bottled water is far less regulated than tap water. And, in independent tests, bottled water is less safe than tap water. But then the bottled water industry has a $ billion plus advertising budget…haha

  • DC tap water from early 1900’s pipes is clumpy and tastes like dirt. Bottled water not so much.

  • “Hundreds of water samples are tested each week throughout the District to ensure the delivery of high quality tap water.”

    *Science Alert*

    It would be nice to know what they are testing for and how.

    Also, a test based soley on taste will not tell you anything about the particle or pollutant content of the water. Case in point, the tap water from my faucets turns my bathroom fixtures and tiles bright orange after a couple of weeks of exposure. Its gross and it also means that the same water cleans my dishes, the food that I eat, and the clothes that I wear every day. We are constantly exposed to whatever is in the water, even when we are not drinking it.

    Would bottled water do the same? I don’t know. But those are some factors that a simple taste test will not account for.

    The effort is appreciated, DC Water, but please give us some real information about the content of our tap water.

    • +1,000. They know very well that taste isn’t the issue – it’s total mistrust of this agency’s information. I think promoting the results of some independent water quality tests would be the best thing they could do for themselves.

    • You sure the orange staining isn’t mold or mildew?

      • It very well could be mold or mildew, but what is in the water that causes it to form? And if bottled water were poured all over my bathroom, would the same thing happen? And if so, to what extent compared to the tap water?

      • Orange stains are from rust. Usually from the steel pipes in one’s house. This would occur if you ran bottled water through your pipes, too. Also, many natural springs have vividly-colored mineral deposits where they surface.

    • If you’re a district resident, you should get a report from DC Water every year that details the tests they perform and the results. I would guess that this information is also available on their website, if you’re so inclined.

  • For those complaining about DC tap water taste, filter your water. You’ll improve the taste, save money and reduce most pollutants that get picked up from old pipes. Tap water in the United States is far healthier than tap in most other countries, filtering at the tap is just icing on the cake.

  • Are they still running the faucet for 30 seconds before they take samples to test for lead?

    Do most residents run the faucets for 30 seconds before getting a glass of water?

    Personally, I do flush the water before filling a water pitcher with a filter. And, in principal, I’d love to see more people drinki tap water over bottled. But I do think DC Water should be more straightforward about this.

    • orderedchaos

      “Are they still running the faucet for 30 seconds before they take samples to test for lead?”

      No, they are not. We tested ours a few months ago. First bottle you fill immediately, which tests the water after it sat in your home’s pipes overnight. Next bottle you fill after running 30 seconds, which tests the water that sat in the public pipes (it takes roughly 30 sec for that water to reach your tap).

      Both of those tests came back with low lead content in our home (well below EPA guidelines). Of course, any lead isn’t good, so we had the service line replaced with copper.

  • Generally, I prefer tap water over bottled water, but DC water straight out of the tap = gross. Throw some ice in the cup, and the taste isn’t too bad. However, filtering it makes a dramatic improvement. VA water right out of the tap is dramatically better…

  • DC Water is responsible for the delivery of clean tap water that is treated to maintain its high quality as it travels through aging water mains, including disinfection and corrosion control. DC Water posts monthly, quarterly and annual water quality results on our website and issues a detailed annual water quality report. You can find results and our annual report at

    Ensuring water quality is a shared responsibility of DC Water and property owners. Homeowners are responsible for the impacts of household plumbing on their tap water and DC Water offers a guide for maintaining household water quality and identifying issues – If you have a water quality issue or question, our Drinking Water Division is here to help and available at 202-612-3440 or [email protected].

    In the District, drinking water is essentially lead-free when it leaves the treatment plant and flows through the distribution system. DC Water works closely with residents to monitor lead levels in household drinking water and minimize lead exposure. The potential for lead in drinking water varies among homes in the District. Lead can enter drinking water that travels through a lead service pipe, lead solder or household plumbing containing lead. We offer free, voluntary lead testing to help residents identify potential lead sources. For more information visit, email [email protected] or call Customer Service at 202-354-3600.

    DC Water

  • Agreed that bottled water is pretty wasteful, but lead issues aside DC water is notably disgusting and needs additional end-user filtration before being (enjoyably) potable. Right out of the tap the stuff reeks of chlorine/chloramine and tastes like moldering swimming pool. And, lest we forget, there are the ever so lovely letters we get: “Hey Gurl, six months ago we let too much poo juice get in the water. If you aren’t old or suffering from kidney problems, you’re probably fine though. Thought you should know. Cheers!”

  • On the news last week I saw a segment on how the park service is now using water from the Potomac instead of dcwater for the reflecting pool. Because it was less nasty.


  • In general, I don’t believe in bottled water (other than in countries where the tap water isn’t safe to drink).

    I drank D.C. tap water until around 2003 or 2004, when the news came out about D.C.’s adding of chloramine to water having resulted in lead leaching out of pipes. That and the subsequent scandals made me think I could no longer trust D.C. tap water, so I started buying bottled water.

    More recently I moved into a row house where the lead levels (5-10 ppm) are supposedly within EPA’s definition of “safe”… but since industry exerts tremendous pressure on government in this country to water down (no pun intended) its standards for what’s “safe,” I’m not sure I trust that either.

    I have no concerns about drinking tap water in other municipalities, but everything I’ve read about D.C. Water in the past 10-12 years makes me skeptical and makes me think their pronouncements can’t be trusted. Didn’t they conceal lead testing results for two years or something?

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