Chicago Water Quality | Chicago Drinking Water Problems – Hydroviv

Problems We Found With Chicago's Drinking Water


Kezia Snipe | Research Analyst   

For Hydroviv’s assessment of Chicago's water quality, we aggregated water quality test data from the City of Chicago Department of Water Management, the water provider for America’s third largest city, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as from samples that we collect and analyze.  We cross reference these data with toxicity studies in scientific and medical literature, and look at upcoming regulatory changes.  The water filters that Hydroviv offers are optimized with these numbers in mind.

Chicago's Polluted Source Water:  Lake Michigan

The City of Chicago pulls raw drinking water from Lake Michigan and treats it at two water treatment plants. The Jardine Water Purification Plant serves the northern areas of the City and suburbs, while the Sawyer Water Purification Plant serves the southern areas of the City and suburbs. Lake Michigan has a long history of pollution problems, including a recent chromium 6 release from an abutting steel facility

Lead Contamination In Chicago Tap Water

Lead enters tap water through older lead service pipes and lead-containing plumbing. Because an older city like Chicago has a large number of lead pipes, we are not surprised to find high lead levels in Chicago.  Additionally, recent media reports identified Chicago as a city that used "sampling cheats" to report artificially low concentrations.  Even so, in the most recent EPA data, 10% of samples analyzed for lead in Chicago were over 9 parts per billion. Though Chicago's water quality is technically in compliance with federal regulations, the EPA and CDC have both acknowledged that there is no safe level of lead, and federal regulations do not take into account levels measured at an individual tap.  First-draw samples that we pulled and analyzed for lead in Chicago (17 total) were all over 20 ppb.  We highly recommend that Chicago residents that live in the older part of the city filter their water for lead.

Chromium 6 Contamination In Chicago Tap Water

Chromium 6 is an extremely toxic metal that is not currently regulated by the EPA. In recent years, Chicago tap water has averaged 190 parts per trillion for Chromium 6.  For the sake of perspective, these levels are 9.5 times higher than the concentration determined to have negligible impact on cancer risk

Disinfection Byproducts (DBPs) In Chicago Drinking Water

DBPs are a category of emerging contaminants that form when chlorine-based disinfectants react with naturally-occurring organic matter.  Although these chemicals are not currently tightly regulated, the EPA has admitted that they are associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer, as well as kidney, liver, and central nervous system problems.

Chlorine Makes Chicago Tap Water Taste Bad

Like most other municipalities in the U.S., Chicago injects its water with chlorine to protect against waterborne illness. While not typically considered to be harmful on its own, many people find that removing chlorine from drinking water greatly enhances its taste and odor.   

Still Have Questions About Chicago Tap Water?

Hydroviv is a water filtration company that uses water quality data to optimize water filters for each city’s water.  The Chicago water pollution issues that we list above are what we consider to be “points of emphasis” so we can design and build the best water filter for Chicago tap water, but all of our water filters provide broad protection against other contaminants commonly found in drinking water (e.g. VOCs, lead, solvents, pesticides, mercury).

If you’re interested in learning more about water filters that have been optimized for Chicago's drinking water problems, feel free to visit, reach out by email ( or through our live chat.  We also frequently post water-related news on Twitter or Facebook.

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  • Kezia Snipe