Is tap water safe to drink in Savannah, Georgia? Where does Savannah get its drinking water? And are there any contaminants in Savannah’s drinking water that are present in concentrations exceeding EPA standards?
Find out in this guide to Savannah’s water safety and quality.
📌 Key Takeaways:
- The tap water in Savannah, Georgia is considered generally safe to drink.
- There are 17 contaminants in Savannah’s drinking water, but all of these contaminants are present in trace amounts that don’t exceed the EPA’s maximum allowances.
- The 2 biggest problem contaminants in Savannah tap water are radium and disinfection byproducts.
Table of Contents
- 🚰 Can You Drink Savannah Tap Water?
- 🗺️ Where Does the Tap Water in Savannah Come From?
- 📉 Who Regulates Savannah Drinking Water?
- 🧪 Savannah Annual Water Quality Report
- ☣️ Contaminants Found Above Guidelines in Tap Water in Savannah, Georgia
- 🧫 Main Contaminants Found in Savannah Tap Water
- ⛲ Savannah Drinking Water in Public Places
- 💬 Frequently Asked Questions
🚰 Can You Drink Savannah Tap Water?
Yes, it’s safe to drink the tap water in Savannah, Georgia because the City’s water utilities treat the water to reduce its concentration of contaminants and kill microorganisms.
Savannah’s water complies with legal limits established by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Plus, the most recent EPA ECHO database for Savannah-Main (the City’s primary water utility) shows that no health-based violations were made by the utility between April 30, 2019 and June 30, 2022.
That means that the water is, from a legal standpoint, safe to drink.
However, being legally safe isn’t the same as being clean and pure. At concentrations below EPA maximum allowances, regulated contaminants aren’t considered harmful to health. However, some organizations, like the Environmental Working Group (EWG), believe that even at low levels, these contaminants may have health effects, and that the EPA’s maximum allowances are too lenient.
The EWG has produced Health Guidelines, which are based on the organization’s own research and are much stricter than the EPA regulations.
According to the EWG Tap Water Database for the Savannah – Main utility (which supplies the majority of the City’s population with water), 8 contaminants were present in concentrations exceeding the EWG Health Guidelines. We’ve shared more about these contaminants later in this guide.
What else should you know about the safety of Savannah’s tap water?
Lead is a contaminant that can significantly affect drinking water safety. This toxic heavy metal is particularly dangerous because it may enter water after the treatment plant, as it travels through old lead-laced pipes to our homes.
The good news is that Savannah Water Resources reports that no detectable lead was found in the City’s water supply, and that the water distribution system is made from ductile iron and PVC – not lead. However, that doesn’t mean that your water is guaranteed to be lead-free. If your home was built between 1970 to 1985, there’s a likelihood that your own plumbing system is made from lead, which could leach into your water.
🗺️ Where Does the Tap Water in Savannah Come From?
Tap water in Savannah, Georgia comes from two sources: the Floridan Aquifer and one of Savannah River’s tributaries: Abercorn Creek.
The Floridan Aquifer is an underground water source, meaning that it supplies groundwater, and is located 800 to 1,000 feet beneath ground level. The aquifer is separated from the surface of the earth by a thick layer of clay, and water is pumped to the surface from around 130 wells.
Abercorn Creek is a surface water source, meaning that the water flows on ground level. The reason why Abercorn Creek is also used for Savannah’s water supply is that the Floridan Aquifer is heavily used by nearly 10 million people already, and there’s a real risk of saltwater intrusion because water is being drawn from the aquifer at a faster rate than it can be replenished.
So, even though groundwater sources like the Floridan Aquifer are preferable because water is naturally filtered by the rocks and requires less treatment, surface water sources like the Savannah River tributaries are just as necessary for supplying the City with a constant water supply. Around 18% of Savannah’s water is supplied by Abercorn Creek.
Water collected from the Savannah River is treated at the Savannah Industrial & Domestic (I&D) Water Treatment Plant. This water treatment plant currently treats around 35 million gallons of drinking water each day, but it’s large enough to treat up to 62.5 million gallons per day – so the City is well prepared for the eventual likelihood that the Savannah River will be relied upon more heavily for its water supply.
This treated water (and water from the Floridan Aquifer) can then be pumped around Savannah to homes and businesses in the distribution system.
📉 Who Regulates Savannah Drinking Water?
The City of Savannah’s drinking water is managed by the Savannah-Main water utility and is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Georgia’s Board of Natural Resources.
The EPA has produced regulations for drinking water contaminants, including maximum allowances for certain contaminants with known health effects. These maximum allowances are known as Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs), and all water utilities must reduce the contaminants in their water down to these concentrations.
To ensure compliance with these EPA regulations, the Savannah-Main water utility continuously tests its drinking water, performing over 120,000 tests for over 150 water parameters per year.
Georgia’s Board of Natural Resources is responsible for conserving Savannah’s drinking water sources and protecting the health of the people who use the water.
🧪 Savannah Annual Water Quality Report
The most recent annual Water Quality Report for the Savannah-Main water utility is the 2022 Report that documents data from January to December 2021.
Annual Consumer Confidence Reports are a legal requirement under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and you should receive a copy of your Report via email or post once a year.
This Report shares useful information on the utility’s water source, treatment method, testing, and distribution. There’s also a drinking water analysis table that highlights the contaminants found in the City’s water system, and how these concentrations compare to EPA maximum allowances.
The good news is that none of the contaminants in Savannah’s drinking water exceed any of the EPA’s legal limits. However, you might prefer to drink pure water that’s completely free from contaminants.
For instance, 101 PPB (parts per billion) of total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) was detected in the City’s tap water, and while this amount meets drinking water standards, you probably don’t want to drink even trace amounts of this cancer-causing disinfection byproduct.
Some of the contaminants detected in the Savannah water supply include:
- Haloacetic acids
Read through the Report and make a note of the contaminants you’re concerned about. If you don’t want to drink certain trace contaminants in your water, you can consider installing a water filtration system in your home.
You can also compare this Report to previous Water Quality Reports by requesting copies of these Reports from your water utility.
☣️ Contaminants Found Above Guidelines in Tap Water in Savannah, Georgia
It’s good to know that none of the contaminants in Savannah water are present at levels that exceed EPA MCLs, which should mean that they’re unable to cause negative health effects at these low levels.
However, if you believe that the EPA’s MCLs are too lenient, then you’ll probably be interested to know which drinking water contaminants exceed the Environmental Working Group’s non-enforceable Heath Guidelines.
These contaminants are:
Haloacetic acids (HAA5)† and Haloacetic acids (HAA9)†
Two common disinfection byproducts are haloacetic acids (HAA5)† and haloacetic acids (HAA9)†. These disinfection byproducts increase cancer risk when they’re found in large quantities in water. 0.797 PPB and 2.70 PPB (parts per billion) of HAA5 and HAA9 were detected in the Savannah water system – between 8 and 45x the EWG’s Health Guideline of 0.1 PPB and 0.06 PPB. The EPA currently only regulates HAA5, which has a legal limit of 60 PPB.
Radium (-226 & -228)
There are two types of radium detected in Savannah, Georgia water: radium-226 and radium-228. Radium is a drinking water contaminant that has several health effects, including cancer and anemia, when present in large amounts. 0.31 pCi/L (picoCurie per liter) of radium combined was detected in Savannah tap water – much lower than the EPA’s MCL of 5 pCi/L but 6.2x the EWG’s Health Guideline of 0.05 pCi/L.
Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs)†
Another disinfection byproduct found in Savannah’s drinking water is total trihalomethanes (TTHMs), known to damage the kidneys and liver and increase cancer risk in large quantities. 4.52 PPB of TTHMs were detected in Savannah’s water – not exceeding the EPA’s legal limit of 80 PPB but 30x the EWG’s recommended Health Guideline of 0.15 PPB.
Other Disinfection Byproducts
Other disinfection byproducts, including bromodichloromethane, chloroform, dibromoacetic acid, and dibromochloromethane, were also detected in Savannah’s water system. These disinfection byproducts increase the risk of various cancers and may cause other health problems, including organ damage. Between 0.121 PPB and 1.36 PPB of these contaminants were detected – that’s 3-20x the EWG’s recommended Health Guidelines. There is currently no EPA enforcement for the majority of disinfection byproducts.
Like many city water supplies in the US, the water in Savannah, Georgia has the biggest issue with disinfection byproducts. These chemicals are a common outcome of chlorine disinfection, which is popular in drinking water treatment because:
- It’s cheap
- It’s easily accessible
If you’re concerned about any of the contaminants detected in your water supply, and you want to improve drinking water quality at home, look into installing a filtered water system.
🧫 Main Contaminants Found in Savannah Tap Water
So, now we know which contaminants are present in Savannah’s water in amounts that may be dangerous according to the Environmental Working Group. But what about the rest?
Some of the contaminants detected in acceptable levels (according to both the EPA and the EWG) in Savannah drinking water are:
- Aluminum – A non-essential and non-toxic metal that gets into water when it’s added at the treatment plant or when it leaches from rocks in the environment; high concentrations may cause vomiting, diarrhea, and arthritic pain.
- Fluoride – A naturally occurring mineral that many water utilities (including Savannah) produce synthetically and add to water to prevent tooth decay; low levels have no health effects apart from dental fluorosis (tooth discoloration, most likely in children).
- Other disinfection byproducts, including bromoform, dichloroacetic acid, and trichloroacetic acid – All occur as a result of chlorine disinfection; no official EPA legal limit for most of these byproducts despite their link to an increased risk of cancer and other health effects.
- Manganese – A water hardness mineral that affects water quality by causing soap scum and mineral deposits; healthy and not dangerous in low levels in drinking water.
- Molybdenum – A nutrient needed by plants and animals; safe in low levels in water.
- Strontium – A mineral and drinking water contaminant that may naturally occur or occur due to mining deposits; is beneficial in small amounts but very high levels may cause nerve and brain problems, hair loss, and brittle nails.
- Total chromium – Both types of chromium: the cancer-causing chromium-6 and the non-harmful chromium-3.
⛲ Savannah Drinking Water in Public Places
The drinking water in public places in Savannah, such as restaurants, bars, and hotels, is supplied by the municipal water utility, so it’s the same water that comes out of your taps at home.
That means it’s safe to drink this water – in the majority of cases.
A restaurant should offer you unfiltered tap water for free on your request, but this isn’t a legal requirement, so some restaurants might turn you down. The same goes for bars – you’ll usually always get tap water on request, especially with an alcohol order.
Most hotels in Savannah also have clean, safe drinking water in their rooms. The exception is very old hotels with lead bathroom fixtures. There should be a clear sign or warning if the bathroom tap water isn’t safe to drink.
Bottled water is always an option if you don’t want to drink public water in Savannah. You can buy bottled water from any supermarket or grocery store in the City.
💬 Frequently Asked Questions
Where does Savannah get its drinking water?
Savannah gets its drinking water from two sources: the Floridan Aquifer (a groundwater source) and Abercorn Creek (a surface water source and a tributary of the Savannah River). Ideally, the City’s entire water supply would be from the Floridan Aquifer, which is cleaner and requires less treatment. However, due to supply issues, the City must also take water from the Savannah River to provide enough water to meet demand.
Is tap water good in Savannah?
Yes, the tap water is good in Savannah. The Savannah water supply is treated to reduce contaminants down to concentrations below the EPA MCLs. However, organizations like the Environmental Working Group believe that the EPA’s maximum allowances for certain contaminants are too lenient, and that these contaminants are dangerous even at trace levels.
Is the Savannah River still polluted?
Yes, from what we can find, the Savannah River is likely still contaminated. A 2018 report showed that over 70% of Savannah River was likely contaminated, with potential sources of contamination including mercury, lead, and other pollutants.
Is it safe to drink sink water in Georgia?
Yes, it’s safe to drink sink water in Georgia as long as the sink is connected to the municipal water supply and is made from food-grade ingredients. Don’t drink from an old sink or from a bathroom sink that could be contaminated with lead, copper, or other harmful heavy metals. It’s best to buy bottled water if you’re unsure.
Does Savannah have hard or soft tap water?
Savannah has an average calcium hardness reading of 57 PPM (parts per million), which puts it in the “slightly hard” category. That means you’re unlikely to experience major problems with hard water, but you might notice some scale buildup around your home’s plumbing and fixtures.
Is Savannah drinking water fluoridated?
Yes, the water treated in the Savannah Main system is fluoridated. Fluoride is a mineral that protects the tooth enamel and reduces dental costs, which is why it’s produced synthetically and added to most public water supplies in the US. However, some people protest the use of fluoride in water because it may cause dental fluorosis (staining of the teeth) and other, more dangerous health effects.
Is chlorine added to Savannah water?
Yes, chlorine is added to Savannah’s drinking water for disinfection purposes. Chlorine is the most commonly used disinfectant because it’s affordable and widely available, but it’s known to produce harmful disinfection byproducts, so it’s not as safe as chemical-free disinfection methods.