Is it safe to drink tap water in Jacksonville, FL? Does Jacksonville have clean water? Are there any contaminants present in the City’s water that exceed guidelines set by the EPA and the SDWA? And most importantly – why does Jacksonville water smell?
Find out everything you need to know in this guide.
📌 Key Takeaways:
- The drinking water in Jacksonville, Florida is considered generally safe to drink.
- The City of Jacksonville water contains 28 contaminants, but these contaminants are all present below legal limits.
- Jacksonville tap water is known for its eggy smell and poor taste, but these aesthetic qualities don’t affect its safety.
- The 3 biggest problem contaminants in Jacksonville drinking water are arsenic, disinfection byproducts, and radium.
Table of Contents
- 🚰 Can You Drink Jacksonville Tap Water?
- 🗺️ Where Does the Tap Water in Jacksonville Come From?
- 📉 Who Regulates Jacksonville Drinking Water?
- 🧪 Jacksonville Annual Water Quality Report
- ☣️ Contaminants Found Above Guidelines in Tap Water in Jacksonville
- 🧫 Main Contaminants Found in Jacksonville Tap Water
- ⛲ Jacksonville Drinking Water in Public Places
- 💬 Frequently Asked Questions
🚰 Can You Drink Jacksonville Tap Water?
Yes, you can drink Jacksonville, Florida tap water because the City’s water supplier adheres to legal requirements for safety and quality.
Essentially, what we mean is that the water in Jacksonville, FL contains contaminants – but these contaminants are present in trace amounts that don’t exceed maximum allowances set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
So, legally, Jacksonville drinking water is safe.
However, organizations like the Environmental Working Group (EWG), contest the current federal regulations, believing them to be too lenient.
The EWG thinks that in the EPA-permitted levels, certain contaminants could still have health effects – and that they should be present in much smaller trace amounts. The organization has produced its own Health Guidelines based on this belief.
While the EWG’s Health Guidelines aren’t legally enforceable, you may agree that your water should be more thoroughly treated, making it cleaner and safer to drink.
In that case, you’ll be interested to read the EWG Tap Water Database for Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA Major Grid), which supplies most of the City’s water.
According to this Database, a total of 28 contaminants were detected in Jacksonville water, 5 of which exceed the EWG’s Health Guidelines. More on these contaminants later.
Is there anything else you should know about Jacksonville’s water safety?
Lead is a contaminant that majorly compromises water safety, but we couldn’t find any evidence to suggest that lead was detected in Jacksonville’s water, or that the City still uses lead pipes in its water distribution system.
That doesn’t mean that your water is guaranteed to be lead-free. One news article that looked at the possible association between lead consumption and crime in the City said that homes built before 1960 or 1970 were more likely to have lead paint and plumbing – so even if your water supply is lead-free, it may leach lead as it travels through the pipes in your home.
We recommend testing your water for lead if you’re concerned.
🗺️ Where Does the Tap Water in Jacksonville Come From?
Tap water in Jacksonville, FL comes from the Floridan Aquifer. This underground water source is found 800 to 1,000 feet beneath the surface of the earth, with a thick layer of clay separating the aquifer from potential sources of contamination. More than 130 wells are used to draw water from this aquifer, where it is pumped to one of the City’s numerous treatment plants.
The major advantage of groundwater sources is that water is naturally filtered as it travels into the aquifer. As the water seeps through rocks and soils, contaminants are trapped in the earth, so the water that makes it into the aquifer is clean and doesn’t require much treatment.
However, the water isn’t entirely pure, and many groundwater sources – including the Floridan Aquifer – have issues with sulfur contamination.
According to the Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA), the City’s water supply is treated to remove sulfur compounds. However, many residents still complain of a rotten egg-like smell in their water, and this is due to the presence of sulfur.
After being collected from the source, water is treated at one of 38 water treatment plants, depending on the area of the City that the water is supplied to. All the treatment facilities use the same processes, including aeration/ozone treatment (to remove sulfur compounds) and disinfection with chlorine.
Common water treatments that are used for surface water, such as sedimentation, coagulation, flocculation, and filtration, aren’t needed to treat Jacksonville’s water.
This treated water can then be distributed to homes and businesses in nearly 5,000 miles of distribution pipes in the City.
📉 Who Regulates Jacksonville Drinking Water?
The City of Jacksonville’s drinking water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and managed by the Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA).
Under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the EPA has produced National Primary Drinking Water Regulations, which outline the maximum allowances for contaminants with known health effects – called Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs).
All public water systems of a certain size must adhere to the EPA’s regulations and ensure that their water supplies don’t exceed these maximum allowances for any contaminants.
To ensure compliance with the EPA standards, the JEA water utility performs thousands of tests per year – around 45,000 in total. These tests are collected from various locations within the utility’s treatment area and analyzed for numerous water parameters, including chemical and bacteriological components.
The City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) oversees Jacksonville’s public water systems, enforces the SDWA, regulates Florida’s water testing program, and ensures that state and federal water quality standards are maintained.
🧪 Jacksonville Annual Water Quality Report
All public water systems must produce annual Consumer Confidence Reports to provide information on water quality based on tests conducted throughout the year.
The latest Consumer Confidence Report (or Water Quality Report) for Jacksonville is dated from January to December 2021 and includes the following information:
- Data on source water assessments in the vicinity of JEA wells
- How the City’s water is sourced, treated, and distributed
- The contaminants present in Jacksonville water
- How these contaminants compare to EPA MCLs
The Report shares test data for the different community water grids in the City, these being the Major Grid, Mayport, the Lofton Oaks Grid, the Ponce De Leon Grid, the Ponte Vedra Grid, and the Palm Valley Grid.
According to the Report, none of the detected water contaminants exceed the legal limit set by the EPA. However, you might not wish to drink even legally safe amounts of certain contaminants with negative health effects.
For instance, several radiological contaminants were detected in the Major Grid at levels that didn’t violate federal regulations – but you’d probably prefer to drink no alpha emitters or radium in your water whatsoever.
Some of the contaminants listed in the Report include:
- Alpha emitters
We recommend reading through the Report and using the information to decide whether or not you’re happy to drink your water as it is. If the answer is “no”, you can consider filtering your water at home.
You can also compare the most recent Water Quality Report with previous reports dating back to 2013 on the JEA website.
☣️ Contaminants Found Above Guidelines in Tap Water in Jacksonville
The water contaminants in Jacksonville drinking water might all be present in legally safe concentrations – but “legally safe” doesn’t necessarily mean “actually safe”, especially when you consider the negative health effects of some of the regulated contaminants.
Here, we’ve looked at the contaminants found above the Health Guidelines set by the Environmental Working Group. Reminder: these guidelines aren’t legally enforceable.
Arsenic is one of the most dangerous contaminants and a confirmed carcinogen, and is present in naturally high levels in the ground. 0.0475 PPB (parts per billion) of arsenic was detected in Jacksonville drinking water – that’s 12x the EWG’s health guideline of 0.004 PPB. The legal limit for this drinking water contaminant is 10 PPB.
Haloacetic acids (HAA5)† and Haloacetic acids (HAA9)†
Two common drinking water contaminants in water that’s disinfected with chlorine are HAA5 and HAA9. These haloacetic acids are known as disinfection byproducts and may increase cancer risk if consumed in excess. 19.2 PPB and 22.4 PPB (parts per billion) of HAA5 and HAA9 were detected in Jacksonville drinking water – between 192 and 374x the EWG’s Health Guideline of 0.1 PPB and 0.06 PPB. The current legal limit for HAA5 is 60 PPB, but HAA9 has no MCL.
Radium (-226 & -228)
Radium combined refers to two common types of radium in water: radium-226 and radium-228. In large amounts, this drinking water contaminant may cause anemia, cancer, and depression of the immune system. 0.44 pCi/L (picoCurie per liter) of radium combined was detected in Jacksonville tap water – more than 8x the EWG’s Health Guideline of 0.05 pCi/L but well within the EPA’s MCL for radium of 5 pCi/L.
Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs)†
Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) are also commonly produced as an outcome of chemical water treatment. In high concentrations, TTHMs may cause liver and kidney damage and increase the risk of bladder and colon cancers. 61.4 PPB of TTHMs were detected in Jacksonville, Florida tap water – 409x the EWG’s Health Guideline of 0.15 PPB but not exceeding the EPA’s legal limit of 80 PPB.
Compared to other water utilities, Jacksonville doesn’t have many unacceptable water quality issues.
The City’s drinking tap water has some problems with disinfection byproducts, and the presence of even low levels of arsenic is concerning, but the fact that the City uses groundwater definitely helps to minimize its contaminant levels.
🧫 Main Contaminants Found in Jacksonville Tap Water
We’ve listed the contaminants that the Environmental Working Group considers to be an issue – but what about the rest?
There are numerous other contaminants present in Jacksonville drinking tap water that might somewhat affect water quality, but are present in concentrations below EPA legal limits and EWG Health Guidelines:
- Aluminum – An impurity that may enter water through the use of certain water treatment chemicals or from rocks and soils; may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, rashes, and arthritic pain if present in high concentrations in drinking water.
- Antimony – A metal that occurs naturally in soils and rocks; unlikely to be present in dangerous amounts in drinking water but may cause nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting if large concentrations are ingested.
- Barium – A naturally occurring, non-toxic metal present in the environment and the ground; considered harmless in small concentrations but excess ingestion may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, paralysis, and even death.
- Chromium-6 – The toxic form of chromium, otherwise known as hexavalent chromium, that enters water supplies through industrial disposal and hazardous waste sites; may delay skeletal development and affect the liver and reproductive systems if large amounts are consumed.
- Fluoride – A mineral present naturally in Jacksonville water (the City doesn’t artificially fluoridate its water supply); protects the tooth enamel and reduces the likelihood of dental health problems but may also stain the teeth, especially in young children and infants.
- Manganese – A water hardness mineral that is naturally present in water and a normal part of the human diet; has no health effects in low levels but is known to cause scale formation and other hard water issues.
- Molybdenum – A micronutrient for plants and animals that doesn’t cause harm in low levels in drinking water.
- Nitrate and nitrite – Soluble compounds that contain oxygen and nitrogen; have several known health effects including increased heart rate, headaches, nausea, abdominal cramps, and blue baby syndrome.
- Selenium – A mineral that gets into water due to natural deposits, agricultural runoff, and mining; is beneficial to human health in small amounts but may cause brain and nerve problems, brittle nails, and hair loss if long-term exposure to high levels occurs.
- Testosterone – A steroid hormone that pollutes drinking water from treated wastewater; no health guidelines currently exist for this hormone and it’s unclear whether or not testosterone is safe to drink at low levels.
- Thallium – A heavy metal that’s found in the earth’s crust as well as in various agricultural chemicals; may impair energy production and cause mitochondrial damage if ingested in large amounts.
- Total chromium – Refers to both types of chromium present in water: chromium-6 (mentioned above) and chromium-3 (the non-harmful form of chromium that has no effects in the human body).
- Vanadium – A naturally occurring metal that’s non-toxic in low concentrations and is found in food, vitamins, and drinking water.
⛲ Jacksonville Drinking Water in Public Places
The drinking water in Jacksonville’s public places, like bars, restaurants, and hotels, is exactly the same as the water that comes out of your faucet at home.
Public places in the City are on the same water distribution system as homes and businesses, so tap water in a public place should be safe to drink (unless stated otherwise).
The exception is old hotels with lead plumbing. If you’re uncertain whether or not you can drink water from your hotel bathroom tap, ask at the reception.
Restaurants and bars should provide free tap water on request, although this isn’t a legal requirement.
If you have no access to tap water in a public place, you can buy bottled water from any of the City’s supermarkets. Some bottled water brands filter their water more thoroughly than the local water utility, so you can enjoy cleaner, safer, and tastier water. Just try not to make a habit of drinking bottled water since single-use water bottles are bad for the environment.
💬 Frequently Asked Questions
Does Jacksonville have clean water?
Yes, Jacksonville, FL has clean water. The City’s water provider – Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA Major Grid) – treats the water to ensure it complies with EPA enforcement. However, although the water is clean enough to drink, it still contains trace amounts of contaminants including arsenic, disinfection byproducts, and radium. The only way to drink pure tap water at home is to treat it more thoroughly yourself with a water filter.
Is it OK to drink tap water in Florida?
Yes, it’s OK to drink tap water in Florida because it is regulated according to state and federal standards. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, many old homes in Florida have lead in their plumbing, which is highly toxic and may leach into the water, making it unsafe to drink. Plus, tap water in a public place is only guaranteed to be safe to drink if it is labeled as so (for instance, many bathroom taps don’t supply safe drinking water).
Who has the cleanest tap water in Florida?
The most recent data on tap water quality in Florida shows that Bonita Springs Utilities Inc. (BSU) has the cleanest tap water in the state, after winning the 2022 Region V Best Tasting Drinking Water Award, according to a Water World article. Of course, best-tasting doesn’t always mean cleanest. If you’re concerned about the cleanliness of your own water supply in Florida, conduct a water test and consider installing a filtration system.
Is Jacksonville FL water hard?
Yes, Jacksonville FL water has a very high total hardness, according to Florida Water Technologies. In fact, the City’s water hardness is one of the highest in all of Florida. The Baymeadows neighborhood in Jacksonville has an average water hardness of 21 GPG (grains per gallon) to 26 GPG -that’s extremely hard considering a range of 7 GPG to 10.5 GPG is considered “very hard”. You can eliminate signs of hard water, including limescale formation and soap scum, by installing a water softener.
Why does Jacksonville water smell?
There are a couple of reasons why your water in Jacksonville might smell. One reason is that the water is disinfected with chlorine, which gives it a faint chemical, swimming pool-like smell. If the whiff is more like rotten eggs, you’re probably smelling sulfur, which is common in Jacksonville water. It’s not harmful, but gives an eggy smell that makes water unpleasant to drink. A good water filter should remove unpleasant tastes and smells in your water.
How is Jacksonville water disinfected?
Jacksonville water is disinfected with chlorine. Chlorine is the most commonly used disinfectant because it’s easy to obtain and affordable in large-scale applications. Trace levels of chlorine aren’t considered harmful to health; however, when chlorine reacts with organic matter in the water, harmful disinfection byproducts are produced.
Is fluoride added to Jacksonville’s drinking water?
No, fluoride isn’t added to Jacksonville’s drinking water. Around 0.385 mg/L to 1.22 mg/L of fluoride was found in the City’s water supply, depending on the water source and the treatment plant location. Jacksonville’s natural fluoride levels are high enough that the City doesn’t need to further fluoridate its water for dental health benefits.