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Technician working on the sink tap

Life in the desert can be harsh. With average summer highs exceeding 100 degrees F in Tucson, Arizona, it’s vital to stay hydrated. Of course, this means you need uninterrupted access to clean, safe drinking water.

If you have ever noticed rust stains on your sinks or toilets, hard water spots on your utensils, or dry skin after taking a shower, you may be wondering—is Tucson water safe to drink? The contamination level of your tap water may surprise you. Fortunately, you have several options if you decide Tucson water quality isn’t good enough for your family.

What Contaminants Are Found in Tucson Drinking Water?

The City of Tucson’s 2019 Water Quality Report tells residents where their water comes from, how the disinfection process works, and what substances may be found in the city’s tap water. The report notes that Tucson’s water supply is sourced from the Colorado River and 200 local groundwater wells.

In its natural state, water contains plant matter, sediment, chemicals, microbes, and other contaminants. To make the water safe to drink, it passes through one of the city’s treatment plants before flowing through pipes to your home.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates drinking water quality across the country. It has established several safety standards that potable water must meet to be deemed safe for public consumption. The water in Tucson meets these standards across the board. However, the following measurements may be of interest to you for health and safety reasons.


High arsenic levels are linked to skin damage, circulatory problems, and cancer. The EPA continues to research the health effects of low arsenic exposure. Erosion of natural deposits and runoff from orchards and electronic production waste are the leading causes of arsenic in the water supply.

In 2019, the City of Tucson reported the highest running average of 7.6 parts per billion (ppb). The maximum contaminant level is 10 ppb, meaning the arsenic level in Tucson’s water is approaching a dangerously high amount.


Nitrate is most harmful to newborns because it can cause infant methemoglobinemia, also known as a blue baby syndrome. Older adults may also experience increased health risks when exposed to high nitrate levels.

The maximum allowed contaminant level for nitrate is 10 parts per million (ppm). Water quality test results show nitrate levels between 0.25 and 6.41 ppm.  These levels are already too high for comfort, and they can spike even further due to fertilizer runoff, leaching from septic tanks, and erosion of natural deposits.

What Makes Tucson Water Taste Bad?

The EPA regulates immediately harmful substances, but it doesn’t address nontoxic pollutants that affect your drinking water’s taste, odor, and hardness. Here are the top contaminants found in the Arizona landscape that can impact Tucson water quality.

Chlorine and Disinfection Byproducts (DBPs)

Chlorine is the most common chemical used for water disinfection in the US. While it ensures that drinking water remains free of harmful microbial contaminants, it can affect the taste. Ingesting chlorine and its byproducts also presents health concerns, including increased risk of heart disease, eczema, asthma, and bladder cancer.

The City of Tucson measured an annual average chlorine level of 0.94 ppm out of the maximum allowed level of 4.0 ppm. Various byproducts, including haloacetic acids (HAA5) and trihalomethanes (THMs), were also detected at low levels. However, the report fails to disclose that Arizona municipalities often add more chlorine to the drinking water supply during the summer. As a result, residual disinfectant levels rise this time of year to the point that homeowners can sometimes smell and taste it in their tap water.

Water Hardness

Hardness is determined by the amount of dissolved magnesium and calcium in the water. Water is considered “hard” at 7.0 to 10.5 grains per gallon (gpg). Anything over 10.5 gpg is “very hard.”

Tucson’s water averages over 12.0 gpg hard. This number is off the charts, meaning Tucson water is among the hardest in the country! It’s generally not dangerous to drink hard water (though some think it may lead to kidney stones and other problems), but the minerals clog your pipes, leave behind unsightly scale buildup on your plumbing fixtures and shower door, and make your skin feel dry and irritated.

How to Improve Your Drinking Water Quality

While the City of Tucson adheres to all EPA safety regulations, it may not meet the personal standards you set for your family’s drinking water quality. Fortunately, water filtration systems are available to remove contaminants from your tap water.

Kinetico Quality Water provides several unique solutions to address the needs of Tucson-area residents. You may find that combining a dechlorination system with a water softener provides the whole-home treatment you’re looking for or you may wish to purify your water. If you’re not sure where to start, contact us at 520-428-5497 and schedule a free water analysis today.

Get Started With Innovative & Quality Water Treatment Products From Kinetico Today