Is it safe to drink tap water in Miami, FL? Where does Miami tap water come from? And does the drinking water in Miami contain any contaminants above legal limits according to the SDWA?
Read on to learn everything you need to know in this guide.
📌 Key Takeaways:
- The drinking water in Miami, Florida is considered generally safe to drink.
- The City of Miami water contains 24 contaminants, but none of these contaminants are present in amounts that exceed EPA or SDWA legal limits.
- The 5 biggest problem contaminants in Miami tap water are arsenic, chromium-6, disinfection byproducts, PFAS, and radium.
Table of Contents
- 🚰 Can You Drink Miami Tap Water?
- 🗺️ Where Does the Tap Water in Miami Come From?
- 📉 Who Regulates Miami Drinking Water?
- 🧪 Miami Annual Water Quality Report
- ☣️ Contaminants Found Above Guidelines in Tap Water in Miami
- 🧫 Main Contaminants Found in Miami Tap Water
- ⛲ Miami Drinking Water in Public Places
- 💬 Frequently Asked Questions
🚰 Can You Drink Miami Tap Water?
Yes, you can drink tap water in Miami, Florida because Miami Dade Water and Sewer Authority (the City’s water utility) filters and disinfects the water to make it safe to drink according to legal regulations.
This means that there are trace contaminants present in Miami’s water, but none of these contaminants exceed the maximum allowances set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
As far as legalities are concerned, Miami’s drinking water is safe.
However, you might not be comfortable drinking traces of contaminants, and you might feel concerned that these contaminants may cause health effects even at low levels. These concerns are echoed by organizations like the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which believes that the EPA maximum allowances for contaminants should be much lower.
The EWG has conducted its own research and produced Health Guidelines for drinking water contaminants based on its findings. These Guidelines aren’t legally enforceable, but you’ll probably find them interesting if you’re concerned about the health effects of your drinking water.
The EWG Tap Water Database for Miami Dade Water and Sewer Authority highlights 24 contaminants that were detected in water supplied by this Utility, 8 of which exceed the EWG’s Health Guidelines (more on these later).
What else should you know about the safety of Miami’s drinking water supply?
We have to consider lead when we look at the safety of any water source. Lead is a highly toxic heavy metal that is commonly found in drinking water supplies due to leaching from old lead-laced water distribution pipes.
Luckily, an issue with lead has never been highlighted in Miami Dade’s testing data, and most lead pipes have been removed from water distribution systems in Florida. Miami’s water treatment plants also add phosphorous compounds to water to control corrosion. However, in one news article, an environmental engineer at the Florida Institute of Technology said that lead solder, which joins pipes together, is the “biggest issue” in the state.
You’re also more susceptible to lead leaching into your water if you live in a home built before 1960 or 1970, which may have lead plumbing. Test your water with a lead testing kit if you’re concerned.
👨🔧 Curious to learn more about the safety of water in South Florida, or Florida in general? Check out our Florida tap water safety guide.
🗺️ Where Does the Tap Water in Miami Come From?
The majority of the tap water in Miami, FL is sourced from the Biscayne aquifer. This shallow layer of highly permeable limestone sits directly underneath Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County, Broward County, and Monroe County, covering 10,000 square kilometers and serving a population of more than 2.2 million.
The Biscayne aquifer is the closest of all Florida’s aquifers to the surface of the ground, meaning that it interacts directly with surface water bodies, like lakes, streams, reservoirs, and canals. So, like surface water, the aquifer is susceptible to pollution from runoff, which is less of an issue with deep-water wells.
However, Miami-Dade county has numerous plans in place to protect and conserve this water resource. The county is also developing alternative water supplies to meet the growing demand for water as the population continues to increase.
Once the source water is collected, it is treated at one of the numerous local water treatment plants, which includes the following processes:
- Lime softening
- Primary & secondary disinfection
- Sand filtration
- Corrosion control & fluoridation
The treated water is stored in remote storage tanks and reservoirs before it is pumped into the distribution system to meet customer demand.
📉 Who Regulates Miami Drinking Water?
The City of Miami drinking water is managed by the Miami Dade Water and Sewer Authority and regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The EPA has produced National Primary Drinking Water Regulations under the Safe Drinking Water Act, outlining maximum allowances for various drinking water contaminants with known health concerns.
These maximum allowances, known as Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs), must be observed and adhered to by all water utilities in the country. The Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department conducts 100,000 water tests and analyses every year to ensure tap water quality complies with federal, state, and local regulations. The utility monitors surface water quality monthly and collects water quality samples at 87 separate locations along Biscayne Bay.
Miami-Dade’s water utility has several schemes in place to protect its drinking water supply and ensure continued access to clean, affordable groundwater. One of the utility’s main strategies is to regulate activities and land uses around the aquifer to prevent contamination before it can occur.
The City’s Department of Environmental Protection ensures that the Miami-Dade utility is taking the correct steps to test, monitor, and treat its water according to the Safe Drinking Water Act.
🧪 Miami Annual Water Quality Report
The latest Water Quality Report (Consumer Confidence Report) for Miami is the Miami-Dade County 2021 Water Quality Report, which dates from January to December 2021.
This Report shares information including:
- The Miami-Dade water source and facts about the local drinking water
- How the utility tests and conserves its water
- Testing data obtained throughout the 2021 period for water quality and contaminants
- How the trace contaminants in the Miami-Dade tap water supply compare to EPA guidelines
The tables in the Report show that no contaminants in Miami-Dade drinking water are found in concentrations that exceed the legal limit. However, you may still feel uncomfortable drinking even traces of certain contaminants.
For instance, 2021 testing detected an average of 55 PPB (parts per billion) of total trihalomethanes in the utility’s drinking water, but most people would agree that they’d rather drink 0 PPB of this cancer-causing disinfection byproduct.
Some of the contaminants listed in the Report include:
- Total trihalomethanes
- Haloacetic acids
- Nitrate & nitrite
It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with these contaminants and read through the Report to learn about their detected levels in your water. Remember, none of these concentrations exceed the legal limit, but you might prefer to drink filtered tap water if you want to avoid as many contaminants as possible in your water.
If you’re concerned about any contaminant, get your water tested and go from there.
☣️ Contaminants Found Above Guidelines in Tap Water in Miami
As we mentioned above, there are no contaminants in water treated by the Miami-Dade utility that exceed EPA maximum allowances. So, in this section of the guide, we’ve focused on the contaminants that exceed the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Health Guidelines.
Remember, these Health Guidelines aren’t legally enforceable, but they’re interesting to know if you also believe that the EPA’s legal limits are too lenient.
The following contaminants exceeded the EWG Health Guidelines in Miami-Dade tap water:
Arsenic, a carcinogenic heavy metal that’s found naturally in the earth’s core, is considered one of the most toxic drinking water contaminants. 0.971 PPB (parts per billion) of arsenic was detected in Miami drinking water – that’s 243x the Health Guideline of 0.004 PPB set by the Environmental Working Group, but well within the EPA’s legal limit of 10 PPB.
Hexavalent Chromium (Chromium-6)
Hexavalent chromium, or chromium-6, is a form of chromium that may occur naturally or pollute the environment due to industrial activity. 0.0857 PPB of this cancer-causing chemical was detected in the water treated by the Miami-Dade County utility – 4.3x the EWG’s Health Guideline of 0.02 PPB. The EPA doesn’t have an MCL for this contaminant, despite its known health effects – there’s only a legal limit for total chromium (chromium-3 and -6 combined).
Haloacetic acids (HAA5)† and Haloacetic acids (HAA9)†
Miami’s water is disinfected with chloramine, which reduces disinfection byproduct production – but doesn’t eliminate it. Two carcinogenic disinfection byproducts found in the City’s water are HAA5 and HAA9. 28.6 PPB and 37.6 PPB (parts per billion) of HAA5 and HAA9 were detected in Miami drinking water – between 286 and 627x the EWG’s Health Guidelines of 0.1 PPB and 0.06 PPB. HAA5 is currently regulated, with an MCL of 60 PPB, but HAA9 has no legal limit.
Radium (-226 & -228)
Radium-226 and radium-228 are two common types of radium in water that may cause cancer, anemia, and immune system problems if large amounts are ingested. 0.17 pCi/L (picoCurie per liter) of radium combined was detected in Miami tap water – more than 3x the EWG’s Health Guideline of 0.05 pCi/L. The EPA’s legal limit for radium is 5 pCi/L.
PFHPA and PFOS (PFAs Chemicals)
PFAS chemicals are known as “forever chemicals” because they’re not easily broken down in the environment. Several types of these harmful, cancer-causing chemicals were detected in the water treated by the Miami-Dade County utility. 5.50 PPT (parts per trillion) of perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHPA) and 7.17 PPT of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) were detected in the water – that’s 5.5 to 7.2x the EWG’s Health Guidelines of 1 PPT for both.
Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs)†
Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) were the second disinfection byproduct, found alongside haloacetic acids, in concentrations that also exceed EWG Health Guidelines. Long-term exposure to high levels of TTHMs may increase the risk of cancer and damage the kidneys and liver. 33.1 PPB of TTHMs were detected in Miami tap water – 221x the EWG’s Health Guideline of 0.15 PPB but within the EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Level of 80 PPB.
🧫 Main Contaminants Found in Miami Tap Water
The contaminants listed above are those that exceed EWG Guidelines, but there are several other contaminants in Miami drinking water that are present in concentrations below even the EWG’s Guidelines.
These contaminants include:
- Aluminum – A heavy metal that may leach naturally into water or may be added to water during treatment; has no known lasting effects but consuming large amounts in water may cause short-term effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and arthritic pain.
- Antimony – A metal that is naturally found in raw water sources; doesn’t have long-term health effects but short-term exposure to high concentrations may cause diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea.
- Barium – Another non-toxic metal that’s naturally present in the earth and shouldn’t cause harm in small amounts, but may cause vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea if large amounts are ingested in the short term.
- Chlorate – A disinfection byproduct that’s produced when disinfectants react with organic compounds naturally present in the water; may increase cancer risk and damage the liver and kidneys in large concentrations.
- Fluoride – A mineral that’s naturally present in Miami’s water supply; fluoride is also produced synthetically and used to boost the natural fluoride levels for increased dental health effects; low levels aren’t harmful but may cause staining of the teeth (dental fluorosis) in children.
- Manganese – A water hardness mineral that causes limescale formation, poor soap lather, and other hardness effects but is healthy to humans in small amounts; has no known negative health effects.
- Molybdenum – A micronutrient for plants and animals that’s safe to drink in naturally occurring levels in water.
- Nitrate & Nitrite – Natural and man-made forms of nitrogen; large amounts may be harmful in water and could cause headaches, nausea, increased heart rate, abdominal cramps, and (in the case of nitrate) blue baby syndrome.
- Total chromium – Refers to the two types of chromium that are commonly found in water: chromium-6 (mentioned above) and chromium-3, the non-harmful chromium variation that has no known health effects.
- Selenium – A trace mineral that the body needs a small amount of; gets into water due to rock weathering soil erosion, and mining; exposure to this contaminant above the MCL may cause circulation problems, numbness, and hair and fingernail loss.
- Strontium – A contaminant that occurs in some minerals and may disrupt bone structure if large amounts are ingested.
- Uranium – A radioactive metal that occurs naturally in rocks, soils, and water; may damage the kidneys over time if long-term exposure to elevated levels occurs.
- Vanadium – A naturally occurring metal that’s non-toxic in common concentrations and is found in food, vitamins, and drinking water.
Many of these contaminants aren’t harmful in low levels – and, in fact, many are trace minerals and are healthy in low levels. However, some contaminants, like nitrate, nitrite, chromium-6, and uranium, have no use in the human body.
Thankfully, many at-home water filters can remove these contaminants, so you don’t have to drink even trace levels of them if you’re concerned.
⛲ Miami Drinking Water in Public Places
The drinking water in public places in Miami is safe to drink because it’s on the same distribution system as the City’s private homes and businesses.
That means the water is treated to reduce contaminants, so you can safely drink tap water in hotels, restaurants, and bars – for the most part.
Restaurants aren’t legally required to serve tap water, but most will do so. It’s normal for restaurant staff to ask whether you’d like tap water, sparkling water, or bottled water when you request water. In some rare cases, the restaurant might refuse serving tap water, or might require that you buy a separate drink to be given access to free tap water. Bars also offer free tap water, but again, you might need to make another purchase to be eligible.
Most hotels in Miami – and the whole of South Florida, for that matter – now offer free, clean drinking water in their rooms. However, some old hotels may have lead plumbing, which could compromise the safety of their water supplies. If in doubt, check with a member of staff at reception.
You’ll struggle to find drinking fountains in Miami, so even if you have a reusable water bottle, you probably won’t have anywhere to fill it when you’re out and about. As a last resort, you can buy bottled water from one of the City’s grocery stores. You should easily find popular brands like Dasani, Evian, and Smartwater on the shelves.
Related Post: DIY Water Quality Testing: Tips and Techniques
💬 Frequently Asked Questions
Is Miami water fluoridated?
Yes, Miami water is fluoridated – fluoridation is one of the treatment processes for local tap water in the City. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that is said to be beneficial to dental health when used routinely in small amounts. For this reason, despite fluoride being naturally present in most water sources, many public water systems (including Miami Dade) produce synthetic fluoride and add this to their water supplies. In Miami’s groundwater, around 0.2 parts per million (PPM) of fluoride occurs naturally, and the City’s water supplier has increased this amount to 0.6-0.8 PPM.
Where does Miami tap water come from?
Miami tap water is supplied by the Miami Dade Water and Sewer Authority, which extracts water from the Biscayne aquifer. This shallow aquifer covers 10,000 square kilometers and is protected and conserved by the City. Only a very small amount of Miami’s drinking water comes from additional sources as part of the water utility’s alternative water supplies scheme.
Is it OK to drink Florida tap water?
Yes, it’s OK to drink Florida tap water because all the water utilities in the state are legally obliged to treat their water to reduce certain contaminants to within EPA maximum allowances. That means the water is considered safe to drink from a legal standpoint, although it’ll likely still contain trace contaminants. Depending on where in the country you are, you might notice a rotten egg smell or metallic taste in your water, but these aesthetic issues shouldn’t affect safety.
Is Miami water hard or soft?
Miami is one of the hardest-water cities in Florida, with an average calcium hardness of 219 PPM (parts per million). This puts the City in the “very hard” water bracket (anything over 180 PPM). Due to Miami’s hard water status, you may notice that water in the area produces limescale – a chalky, grey-white substance that’s rough to touch and difficult to remove – lathers poorly with soap, and causes dry skin and hair issues.
Is Miami tap water chlorinated?
No, Miami tap water isn’t chlorinated – it’s typically “chloraminated”, which means that chloramine (a combination of chlorine and ammonia) is added to the water supply. Chloramine has a couple of benefits compared to chlorine: it offers longer-lasting protection against contamination in water, and it isn’t as reactive with organic matter in the water so forms fewer disinfection byproducts.
Is Miami hotel water safe to drink?
Yes, the tap water in Miami hotels should be safe to drink because it’s on the same water distribution system as the City’s normal tap water for homes and businesses. However, some hotels may use lead fixtures in their bathrooms, so if you’re unsure about the quality of your hotel room water, check with reception or ask for tap water at the bar.