2021

Drinking Water Quality Report

divided into two triangles: The upper/left half shows white fluffy clouds scattered across a vibrant blue sky, with a little bit of a river and some trees visible at the very bottom. The lower/right half shows sunlight glistening off rippling water of one of our rivers.
divided into two triangles: The upper/left half shows a scientist with short salt and pepper hair and beard, wearing black glasses and a white lab coat, looking into a microscope. The lower/right triangle shows a scientist with long dark hair in a ponytail, wearing glasses, a white lab coat, and purple gloves, pausing while adjusting some machinery to smile at the camera.
divided into two triangles: The upper/left shows a PWD technician leaning on a railing, looking over a sedimentation basin at one of our treatment plants. The lower/right triangle is empty.
divided into two triangles: The top/left one shows a residential block with several twin houses with green lawns and well-maintained gardens. The lower/right half shows two smiling people wearing Philly Water Bar aprons, one pouring water from a clear pitcher into a metal water bottle, held by a third person mostly out of view.

Your tap is locally sourced.

an illustration of water flowing through mountains and fields to a city and out a faucet, comprised of simple, geometric shapes mostly flat colored, but sections of sky, river, and grass replaced with photos

Water from our rivers is treated to the highest standards.

Contact Information

Philadelphia Water Department
1101 Market St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Public Water System ID #PA1510001

Brian Rademaekers
Public Information Officer, Public Affairs
(215) 380-9327

Sharing this report

water.phila.gov/2021-quality 2021 Drinking Water Quality Report, published in 2022View as PDF

Please share this report with all people who drink this water, especially those who may not have received this notice directly (for example, people in apartments, nursing homes, schools and businesses). You can do this by posting this notice in a public place or distributing copies by hand and mail.

To receive a printed copy of this report, please email: waterquality@phila.gov

PWD Commissioner Randy Hayman stands smiling in front of the windows and an antique desk in his office, wearing a white shirt and blue suit.

A message from the Commissioner

Philadelphia Is Investing in Clean Water

This year’s Drinking Water Quality report is a testament to the fact that we are continuing to meet our mission of providing 1.6 million people with some of the best water in the country.

Delivering hundreds of millions of gallons of safe, clean water every day— and ensuring all of our services are affordable—doesn’t happen by accident.

The maintenance and improvements we have planned require major work and investment, and we are actively securing funds that allow us to make critical investments and reduce costs for our customers.

For example, we recently received a $40.4 million loan for water main replacement from the state-run Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, PENNVEST.

An additional $125 million loan will go toward building new basins at our Baxter Drinking Water Treatment Plant, helping to ensure reliable clean water now and in the future.

Our Torresdale Filtered Water Pumping Station was awarded an $80.8 million loan to fund what amounts to its biggest makeover since it was constructed more than 70 years ago.

We are also currently planning improvements that will essentially rebuild our Queen Lane Drinking Water Treatment Plant in the coming years.

All of these investments will result in direct health and safety benefits for the people of Philadelphia.

Our strong record of planning for big investments will pay off as cities and states begin to access resources made available by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in 2021.

While it is still unclear how much Philadelphia will receive from Pennsylvania’s share of the funds, this is the opportunity of a generation. We look forward to the support of local stakeholders and officials.

Thanks to our team of dedicated staff, Philadelphia is poised to take advantage of this historic moment to further invest in the health and sustainability of our city.

Learn more about our plans to invest in clean drinking water: see Part 2 to read about the 25-year Water Revitalization Plan

Sincerely,

Randy E. Hayman, Esq.
Water Commissioner

How this document is organized

This story follows our water quality work from source and treatment through delivery to your home.

Image of a two-story beige building with trees on either side and a large blue rectangle representing a reservoir full of water behind it
Part One: Source & Treatment

Philly’s local water sources, and what we do to keep water safe

Image of a parking lot, a girl, two cars and a tree. Parking lot's surface is cut away to reveal water pipes underneath.
Part Two: Delivery

Safe transit through the system

Image of a small apartment building and trees on a street. The wall of the house is cut away to show kitchen and basement sinks and water pipes under the street that lead to the house
Part Three: At Home

The final stretch to your tap

a blue magnifying glass, zooming in on a section of water quality data tables
2021 Data Tables & more

Look for these quick guides throughout the report:

A Closer Look

a hypothetical example of a bar chart shows four light blue rectangles at different heights

Charts and graphs let you see the data in a new way. 

Here’s the story of why we do this test

Handwritten notes explain how and why we do these tests. 

☑ RESULT:

All results are better than the recommended federal levels.

Look here for key takeaways. 

Part One: Source & Treatment

We take water from the Delaware River at one of our three treatment plants in Philadelphia

Your water begins in freshwater streams

Philadelphia’s water comes from the Delaware River Watershed. The watershed begins in New York State and extends 330 miles south to the mouth of the Delaware Bay. The Schuylkill River is part of the Delaware River Watershed.

A map showing the Delaware and Schuylkill River Watersheds, which supply Philadelphia's water. The map includes the entire eastern border of Pennsylvania, most of New Jersey, and a bit of Delaware and Maryland (which aren't labeled). The Delaware watershed covers and loosely follows that border,, extending farther west into PA than it does east into NJ. It includes Allentown, Reading, and Philadelphia, PA, Trenton New Jersey, and downstream of us, Wilmington, DE. Scranton is included on the map but is outside the watershed. The Schuylkill watershed is a subsection of the Delaware's, on the west side, extending from north and west of Reading southeast to Philadelphia, where the Schuylkill River joins the Delaware.

Protection starts at the sources.

We take a holistic approach, beginning with Philadelphia’s water supply characteristics. We monitor actual pollution sources, and look for potential sources of contamination. We keep track of water availability and flow.

Our wide range of tools includes:
Research
  • We study regional influences like natural gas drilling, and global influences like sea level rise.
Projects in the field
  • We protect against stormwater and agricultural runoff.
  • We monitor water contaminants.
Partnerships
  • We team up with organizations across the region to protect our entire watershed.

Looking closely for potential threats

Cryptosporidium, a microscopic organism sometimes found in freshwater, can cause illness in humans. We are one of the nation’s leaders in Cryptosporidium research. We work closely with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health to ensure our tap water is free of Cryptosporidium and other organisms.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are potentially harmful chemicals that have been used in industry and many consumer products. We voluntarily test for PFAS in the city’s rivers and creeks. PWD’s water sampling has not detected amounts at or above the EPA’s health advisory levels.

A recent independent test by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection showed no detectable PFAS concentrations in Philadelphia’s treated drinking water.


a simplified map of Philadelphia shows the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers, with Market and Broad Streets indicated for reference. PWD's three drinking water treatment plants are displayed - Belmont on the northern edge of West Philly, Queen Lane on the other side of the Schuylkill in the northwest, and Baxter up in the Northeast by the Delaware.  Areas of the city are shaded in different colors and patterns to indicate which plant(s) provide water to those sections - Belmont is the primary source for the part of Philadelphia west of the Schuylkill - most of that area also recieves a mix of water from the other plants, with only a strip in the northern part of West Philly being served exclusively by the Belmont plant. Queen Lane serves Northwest Philadelphia, and Baxter serves all of the North and Northeast. Those areas meet around north Broad Street, with sections around and slightly west of Broad, and much of Center City and all of South Philly receiving a mix of water from Queen Lane and Baxter.
key indicating what the colors/patterns of shading in the map mean (map's alt text provides a detailed description)

One city.
Two rivers.
Three treatment plants.

Philadelphia has two rivers that provide our drinking water: the Delaware River and the Schuylkill River. PWD operates three water treatment plants: Baxter, Queen Lane, and Belmont.

Where you live in Philadelphia determines which plant(s) treat your water!

Enter your address to find out where you get your water:

A smiling PWD employee stands with arms crossed at one of our water treatment plants, wearing navy blue coveralls with a "Philadelphia Water" patch, black glasses, hoop earrings, a black head wrap, and blue disposable gloves.

High-quality staff.
High-quality results.

The experts working at our treatment plants take pride in using water drawn from our local rivers.

Hundreds of millions of gallons of top-quality drinking water are produced every day.


Drinking Water Treatment Plants:
An important early step in water’s journey.

Treatment processes

Once collected, river water goes through multiple processes to ensure it’s crystal clear and safe.

Gravity settling

River water is pumped to reservoirs. Sediment settles.

Disinfection

We add Sodium Hypochlorite to kill harmful organisms.

Coagulant, flocculation, and pH

Gentle mixing helps particles clump together. We also adjust the acidity.

Additional settling

Clumps of particles settle and are removed.

Additional disinfection

We add Sodium Hypochlorite a second time to kill any remaining harmful organisms.

Filtration

Filters remove more microscopic particles.

Additional treatment

Ingredients like Fluoride, Zinc Phosphate, and Ammonia help keep water healthy and safe.

a scientist with short salt and pepper hair and close cropped beard, wearing a white lab coat and black glasses is seen in profile, peering into a microscope with pencil in hand.

Before it leaves the plant

We test our treated water for about 100 regulated contaminants, ranging from organisms like bacteria to chemicals like nitrate.

In 2021, we found no violations under state and federal regulations.

Final touches

Chlorine + Ammonia

Chlorine protects us from organisms found in untreated water that can cause disease. Ammonia is added to make the chlorine last longer and reduce the bleach-like smell.

Fluoride

All water contains some fluoride. We adjust the natural levels slightly to help protect your teeth against decay.

Zinc orthophosphate

Zinc orthophosphate is a compound that helps form a protective coating on pipes. It prevents corrosion (or breaking down over time).

A Closer Look

Hardness

The hardness of water is determined by the minerals naturally dissolved in it.

Hardness can vary based on natural conditions – for example, a drought can impact hardness.

Hardness matters if you use your water for activities like brewing beer or keeping a home aquarium. Customers often ask about hardness when researching appliances like dishwashers.

2021 Results
A chart showing water hardness measured in parts per million (ppm, marked on the vertical axis up the left side from 0 to 200) at each of Philadelphia's water treatment plants (on the horizontal axis, labeled across the bottom). Blue bars indicate: Belmont's hardness is 139ppm (considered "hard"), Queen Lane's is 169ppm (approaching "very hard"), and Baxter's is 92ppm ("moderately hard").
What this means for you

Hardness matters if you use your water for activities like brewing beer or keeping a home aquarium.
Most customers don’t need to monitor their water’s hardness.

☑ Result:

Philadelphia’s water is moderately hard or hard, depending on which treatment plant serves your neighborhood.

Part Two Delivery

Large scale water mains help transport water from treatment plants to customers.

A safe path through the system

We have about 3,100 miles of water mains that deliver clean tap to customers. To ensure water stays safe as it moves from the plant to you, we take samples and monitor real-time water quality data, 24/7.

A Closer Look

Residual Chlorine

This test is done throughout the system. It checks that the chlorine added at plants remains at levels that keep water fresh and safe while staying within regulations.

2021 Results
A chart showing the range of acceptable levels of Residual Chlorine in parts per million (ppm). The lowest level allowed is indicated at 0.2 ppm, while the highest level allowed is indicated at 4.0 ppm. PWD's monthly average is shown to be right in the middle, indicated as a range shaded with diagonal lines from a little below 2.0 to just below 2.5 ppm. (Exact range is 1.86-2.46ppm)
What this means for you

We travel the city to collect samples of drinking water from fire and police stations, pumping stations and more.
We do over 400 of these tests every month!

☑ Result:

Better than standards.


Water Revitalization Plan

Philadelphia has a 25-year plan to upgrade and strengthen essential drinking water infrastructure.

From facilities to water mains, we’re keeping the system safe, reliable, and resilient for the future.

We’ve coordinated several large-scale projects to maximize benefits for Philadelphians while reducing interruptions and service impacts.

PWD Water Revitalization Plan: Working together to bring you safe, reliable drinking water today and tomorrow. (Issued June 2022)
Plan Spotlight:

A Mini Water Treatment Plant

A photo taken inside the mini treatment plant container, from a high vantage point in one corner looking down the length towards the opposite corner, shows a large rack of equipment taking up nearly all of the space, leaving just enough space to walk around it on all sides. In the photo, two scientists, both with long, dark hair in ponytails, wearing white lab coats and purple gloves. One is on the left, doing something with the machinery, and the other is blurred, walking towards the right corner of the frame.

Within a container about the size of a trailer, PWD scientists are testing the methods planned for an upgraded treatment plant. This mini laboratory allows us to test processes before they’re used at a larger scale.

A diagram of the mini treatment plant container shows it at an angle with semi-transparent sides so the large rack of equipment taking up most of the interior is visible. The silhouette of a person is shown standing outside the end for scale, which suggests it's twice as tall as an average man, and about as wide as it is tall. The length is marked as 42.9 ft.

Learn more: water.phila.gov/revitalization

Part Three: At Home

Every home on your block relies on a service line to carry water from the main to the property.

Your Service Line: The final stretch

Once it leaves our water main and enters your service line, you and your property’s plumbing can play a role in keeping water safe.

a cutaway diagram showing the basement of a home and the pipes underground outside it. a larger pipe running under the street is labeled "City's water main" and a pipe running from the main into the basement of the home to the water meter is labeled "Your service line"

The service line leading to your water meter is part of your home’s plumbing.
(above)

Corrosion Control

Philadelphia has a corrosion control program mandated by federal law and optimized over the past two decades. It minimizes the release of lead from service lines, indoor pipes, fixtures, and solder by creating a coating designed to keep lead from leaching into the water.

illustration of a pipe with very little buildup on the inside, so water can flow through it easily and remain clean and clear
With corrosion control
pipe shown with corrosion and residue built up on the inside, impeding the flow, and particles that have broken loose are visible in the water.
Without corrosion control

What do we mean by “flushing your pipes”?

Flushing pushes the water that is sitting in pipes out and down your drain until fresh water comes through the tap. When pipes are disturbed during construction or repairs, they might require flushing.

Fresh water starts at
our water mains.

diagram shows a section of water main with an arrow labeled "start" pointing away from it, along a customer's service line. The pipe enters the basement, where the water meter is, and then another section of pipe carries it to the rest of the house. A second arrow points upward to the first fixture it reaches where water can be run, to flush the pipes, typically a basement utility sink or bathtub or sink with aerator removed on the lowest level with a bathroom.

Running the tap gets rid
of water sitting in pipes.

Healthy home habit

If you haven’t used water for 6 hours or more: Run your cold water for 3-5 minutes. This will flush out water that’s been sitting in your pipes.

It only costs a penny or two to ensure top-quality tap!

Residents stop by the Philly Water Bar table at summer events to learn about our safe, high-quality, affordable, convenient, and refreshing tap water - and grab an ice-cold glass!

Talking about tap water

In neighborhoods across Philadelphia, our customers tell us what matters to them. When it comes to tap water, there’s a lot to talk about!

For starters, some residents are surprised they can get great drinking water right at home for less than a penny per gallon.

In each conversation, we hear loud and clear: Safe drinking water is a top priority, and lead is a topic people want to learn more about.

Our drinking water mains are not made of lead.
However, some older buildings may have lead plumbing.

Lead in a property’s plumbing

A home’s older fixtures & valves:

Lead can be found in older fixtures and valves, and in old solder, where pipes are joined.

Service Line:

This pipe connects a property’s plumbing to the water main in the street and is the responsibility of the property owner.


A Closer Look

Carefully monitoring Lead

In addition to regular tests in customer homes, every three years we complete a rigorous round of sampling for lead and copper. We take samples from homes that have lead service lines.

We share the results with the EPA and the public.

The EPA requires that 90% of homes show lead levels less than 15 ppb.

Recent results
lead levels plotted on a chart with a vertical scale of 0 to 16 parts per billion, with lines at 2 ppb intervals. The highest level allowed is indicated at 15 ppb. Results from 2011 are plotted with a dot below the 6 ppb line. The 2014 dot is slightly lower, right about 5 ppb. The 2017 indicator is just above 2 ppb, and 2019 is marked slightly higher, a little below 3 ppb. A note to the right says "The last 4 rounds of testing show levels well below limits."
What this means for you

Soon, the EPA will update their guidelines for sampling. This will impact future results. We support this effort to make sure the sampling is accurate, and to help identify homes with lead plumbing.

☑ Result:

Lead levels are consistently lower than limits set by the EPA.


US EPA Guidance

The EPA requires public water providers like the Philadelphia Water Department to monitor drinking water for lead at customer taps. If lead levels are higher than 15 parts per billion (ppb) in more than 10% of taps sampled, water providers must inform customers and take steps to reduce lead in water.

If present, elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. Lead in drinking water is primarily from material and components associated with service lines and home plumbing.

The Philadelphia Water Department is responsible for providing safe drinking water but cannot control the variety of materials used in plumbing components. If you haven’t turned on your tap for several hours, you can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing your tap before using water for drinking and cooking. If you are concerned about lead in your water, you may wish to have your water tested. Information on lead in drinking water, testing methods, and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800) 426-4791 or at: www.epa.gov/safewater/lead.


a worker in blue shirt and overalls, yellow hard hat, reflective vest, and work gloves, is seen from the hips upward while digging a hole in the sidewalk in front of a brick building. The bottom of the front steps and an orange cone are visible in the background..

We offer a zero-interest loan for replacing lead service lines.

The Homeowners Emergency Loan Program (HELP) can cover the cost of a replacement.

Learn more & apply: www.phila.gov/water/helploan

2021 Data tables & more

All of PWD’s results are better than the required and recommended federal levels designed to protect public health.

This data shows how our process keeps your drinking water safe.

By reporting these results in these tables, we are meeting a requirement of the EPA.

Some contaminants may pose a health risk at certain levels to people with special health concerns. Others are used as indicators for treatment plant performance.

What’s a “PPM”?

Many of these results are reported as “parts per million (ppm)” or “parts per billion (ppb)”.

Here’s what that looks like:
PPM vs. PPB

ppm (parts per million):
Denotes 1 part per 1,000,000 parts, which is equivalent to two thirds of a gallon in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

ppb (parts per billion):
Denotes 1 part per 1,000,000,000 parts, which is equivalent to half a teaspoon in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

For more abbreviations and their definitions, visit the Glossary.

Illustration: GoodStudio / Shutterstock.com, and Philadelphia Water Department

What we test for and how

Public drinking water systems monitor their treated drinking water for approximately 100 regulated contaminants. These regulatory parameters are defined within federal rules such as the Revised Total Coliform Rule, Surface Water Treatment Rule, Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rules, Lead and Copper Rule and the Radionuclides Rule.

We monitor for the regulated parameters listed below.

Any contaminants found are noted in the tables on the following pages:
Inorganic Chemicals

Antimony
Arsenic
Barium
Beryllium
Cadmium
Chromium
Copper
Cyanide

Fluoride
Lead
Mercury
Nickel
Nitrate
Nitrite
Selenium
Thallium

Synthetic Organic Chemicals

2,3,7,8 – TCDD (Dioxin)
2,4 – D, 2,4,5 – TP (Silvex)
Alachlor
Atrazine
Benzopyrene
Carbofuran
Chlordane
Dalapon
Di(ethylhexyl)adipate
Di(ethylhexyl)phthalate
Dibromochloropropane
Dinoseb
Diquat
Endothall
Endrin

Ethylene Dibromide
Glyphosate
Heptachlor
Heptachlor epoxide
Hexachlorobenzene
Hexachlorocyclopentadiene
Lindane
Methoxychlor
Oxamyl
PCBs Total
Pentachlorophenol
Picloram
Simazine
Toxaphene

Volatile Organic Chemicals

Benzene
Carbon Tetrachloride
1,2-Dichloroethane
o-Dichlorobenzene
p-Dichlorobenzene
1,1-Dichloroethylene
cis-1,2-Dichloroethylene
trans-1,2-Dichloroethylene
Dichloromethane
1,2-Dichloropropane
Ethylbenzene

Monochlorobenzene
Styrene
Tetrachloroethylene
Toluene
1,2,4-Trichlorobenzene
1,11-Trichloroethane
1,1,2-Trichloroethane
Trichloroethylene
o-Xylene
m,p-Xylenes
Vinyl Chloride

Other factors that can impact drinking water
Appealing to Your Senses

We work to ensure your water looks, tastes and smells the way it should.

To meet all water quality taste and odor guidelines, we test for the following: alkalinity, aluminum, chloride, color, hardness, iron, manganese, odor, pH, silver, sodium, sulfate, surfactants, total dissolved solids, turbidity and zinc.

Temperature and Cloudiness

The temperature of the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers varied seasonally in 2021 from approximately 34°–82° Fahrenheit. PWD does not treat the water for temperature.

Cloudiness in tap water most commonly happens in the winter, when the cold water from the water main is warmed up quickly in household plumbing. Cold water and water under pressure can hold more air than warmer water and water open to the atmosphere.

When really cold winter water comes out of your tap, it’s simultaneously warming up and being relieved of the pressure it was under inside the water main and in your plumbing. The milky white color is actually just tiny air bubbles. If you allow the glass to sit undisturbed for a few minutes, you will see it clear up gradually.

2021 Data tables

Lead & CopperTested at Customers’ Taps: Testing is done every 3 years.  Most recent tests were done in 2019.
EPA’s Action Levelfor a representative sampling of customer homes Ideal Goal (EPA’s MCLG) 90% of PWD customers’ homes were less than Number of homes considered to have elevated levels Violation Source
Lead 90% of homes must test less than 15 ppb 0 ppb 3.0 ppb 2 out of 99 No Corrosion of household plumbing; Erosion of natural deposits
Copper 90% of homes must test less than 1.3 ppm 1.3 ppm 0.28 ppm 0 out of 99 No Corrosion of household plumbing; Erosion of natural deposits; Leeching from wood preservatives
Inorganic Chemicals (IOC)PWD monitors for IOC more often than required by EPA.
Chemical Highest Level Allowed (EPA’s MCL) Ideal Goal (EPA’s MCLG) Highest Result Range of Test Results for the Year Violation Source
Antimony 6 ppb 6 ppb 0.3 ppb 0–0.3 ppb No Discharge from petroleum refineries; fire retardants; ceramics; electronics; solder
Barium 2 ppm 2 ppm 0.051 ppm 0.028–0.051 ppm No Discharges of drilling wastes; Discharge from metal refineries; Erosion of natural deposits
Chromium 100 ppb 100 ppb 3 ppb 0–3 ppb No Discharge from steel and pulp mills; Erosion of natural deposits
Fluoride 2 ppm* 2 ppm* 0.71 ppm 0.62–0.71 ppm No Erosion of natural deposits; Water additive which promotes strong teeth; Discharge from fertilizer and aluminum factories
Nitrate 10 ppm 10 ppm 3.84 ppm 0.64–3.84 ppm No Runoff from fertilizer use; Leaching from septic tanks; Erosion of natural deposits
* EPA’s MCL and MCLG is 4 ppm, but PADEP has set this lower MCL and MCLG which takes precedence.
Total Chlorine ResidualContinuously Monitored at Water Treatment Plants
Sample Location Minimum Disinfectant Residual Level Allowed Lowest Level Detected Yearly Range Violation Source
Baxter WTP 0.2 ppm 2.39 ppm 2.39–3.88 ppm No Water additive used to control microbes
Belmont WTP 1.63 ppm 1.63–2.87 ppm
Queen Lane WTP 2.02 ppm 2.02–3.99 ppm
Total Chlorine ResidualTested throughout the Distribution System. Over 360 samples collected throughout the City every month.
Sample Location Maximum Disinfectant Residual Allowed Highest Monthly Average Monthly Average Range Violation Source
Distribution System 4.0 ppm 2.46 ppm 1.86–2.46 ppm No Water additive used to control microbes
Total Organic CarbonTested at Water Treatment Plants
Treatment Technique Requirement Baxter WTP One Year Average Belmont WTP One Year Average Queen Lane WTP One Year Average Violation Source
Percent of Removal Required 35–45% 25–35% 15–35% n/a Naturally present in the environment
Percent of Removal Achieved* 0–72% 7–67% 19–72% No
Number of Quarters out of Compliance* 0 0 0
* PWD achieved TOC removal requirements in all quarters of 2021 at all WTPs. Compliance is based on a running annual average computed quarterly. The numbers shown represent a range of TOC results in weekly samples.
Turbidity, A Measure of Clarity – Tested at Water Treatment Plants
Baxter WTP One Year Average Belmont WTP One Year Average Queen Lane WTP One Year Average Violation Source
Treatment Technique Requirement: 95% of samples must be at or below 0.300 NTU 100% below 0.300 NTU 100% below 0.300 NTU 100% below 0.300 NTU n/a Soil runoff, river sediment
Highest single value for the year 0.096 NTU 0.080 NTU 0.196 NTU No

The turbidity of Philadelphia’s water in 2021 was 86 percent below the maximum level of 0.3 NTU allowed by the State and Federal Regulations and was 57 percent below the Partnership for Safe Water turbidity goal of 0.1 NTU.

We are required to monitor your drinking water for specific contaminants on a regular basis. Results of regular monitoring are an indicator of whether or not your drinking water meets health standards. PWD continuously operates and monitors water quality from a total of 160 filters at three drinking water treatment plants.

Disinfection Byproducts
Highest Level Allowed (EPA’s MCL)One Year Average Running Annual Average 2021* System Wide Range of Results Violation Source
Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) 80 ppb 49 ppb 13–101 ppb No Byproduct of drinking water disinfection
5 Haloacetic Acids (HAA5) 60 ppb 46 ppb 10–88 ppb No Byproduct of drinking water disinfection
* Monitoring is conducted at 16 locations throughout the City of Philadelphia. This result is the highest locational running annual average in 2021.
Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring (UCMR)1
Chemical Testing Period Average Range
Anatoxin-a 7/14/2020–10/20/2020 0.00125 ppb 0–0.03 ppb
Bromide2 1/14/2020 0.034 ppm 0–0.052 ppm
Total Organic Carbon (TOC)2 1/14/2020 2.27 ppm 2.19–2.34 ppm
HAA5 Total3 1/14/2020 21.3 ppb 14.8–31.3 ppb
HAA6Br Total4 1/14/2020 7.1 ppb 3.8–10.3 ppb
HAA9 Total5 1/14/2020 28.2 ppb 23.6–35.5 ppb
Manganese 1/15/2020 0.55 ppb 0–0.95 ppb
  • 1 Unless otherwise noted, samples were collected from finished water sampling locations.
  • 2 Bromide and TOC represent source water samples.
  • 3 HAA5 Total – Dibromoacetic Acid, Dichloroacetic Acid, Monobromoacetic Acid, Monochloroacetic Acid, and Trichloroacetic Acid
  • 4 HAA6Br Total – Bromochloroacetic Acid, Bromodichloroacetic Acid, Dibromoacetic Acid, Dibromochloroacetic Acid, Monobromoacetic Acid, and Tribromoacetic Acid
  • 5 HAA9 Total – Bromochloroacetic Acid, Bromodichloroacetic Acid, Chlorodibromoacetic Acid, Dibromoacetic Acid, Dichloroacetic Acid, Monobromoacetic Acid, Monochloroacetic Acid, Tribromoacetic Acid, and Trichloroacetic Acid

In 2020, PWD performed special monitoring as part of the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR), a nationwide monitoring effort conducted by the EPA. Unregulated contaminants are those that do not yet have a drinking water standard set by the EPA. The purpose of monitoring for these contaminants is to help the EPA decide whether the contaminants should have a standard. For more information concerning UCMR, visit these websites: https://www.epa.gov/dwucmr/fourth-unregulated-contaminant-monitoring-rule or https://drinktap.org/Water-Info/Whats-in-My-Water/Unregulated-Contaminant-Monitoring-Rule-UCMR

Unregulated Contaminants Not Detected At Any of the Sampling Locations:
1‑Butanol, 2‑Methoxyethanol, 2‑Propen‑1‑ol, alpha‑Hexachlorocyclohexane, anatoxin‑a, Butylated Hydroxyanisole, Chlorpyrifos, Cylindrospermopsin, Dimethipin, Ethoprop, Germanium, Microcystin Total, Nodularin, o‑Toluidine, Oxyfluorfen, Permethrin Total, Profenofos, Quinoline, Tebuconazole, Tribufos
CryptosporidiumTested at Source Water to Water Treatment Plants Prior to Treatment in 1/1/2017–3/31/2017
Treatment Technique Required Baxter WTP One Year Average Belmont WTP One Year Average Queen Lane WTP One Year Average Source
Total Number of Samples Collected 6 6 6 Naturally present in the environment.
Number of Cryptosporidium Detected 15 2 6
0.250 count/L 0.033 count/L 0.100 count/L
Cryptosporidium is a microbial pathogen found in surface water throughout the U.S. Although filtration removes Cryptosporidium, the most commonly-used filtration methods cannot guarantee 100 percent removal. Our monitoring indicates the presence of these organisms in our source water. Current test methods do not allow us to determine if the organisms are dead or if they are capable of causing disease.

Secondary Chemicals

EPA has established National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations (NSDWRs) that set nonmandatory water quality standards. EPA does not enforce these “secondary maximum contaminant levels” (SMCLs). They are established as guidelines to assist public water systems in managing their drinking water for aesthetic considerations, such as taste, color, and odor. These contaminants are not considered to present a risk to human health at the SMCL.

Secondary MCLs: Aesthetic Impacts in Tap Water
EPA’s SMCL Baxter WTP One Year Range* Belmont WTP One Year Range* Queen Lane WTP One Year Range* Violation**
Chloride 250 ppm 50–143 ppm 64–171 ppm 75–261 ppm No
Copper 1.0 ppm <0.001–0.002 ppm 0.006–0.019 ppm 0.020–0.046 ppm No
Fluoride 2 ppm*** 0.62 ppm 0.71 ppm 0.71 ppm No
Iron 0.3 ppm <0.010–0.016 ppm <0.010 ppm <0.010–0.020 ppm No
pH 6.5–8.5 7.10–7.25 7.10–7.30 6.97–7.34 No
Sulfate 250 ppm 7.35–34.20 ppm 12.30–49.50 ppm 17.40–47.90 ppm No
Total Dissolved Solids 500 ppm 136–346 ppm 200–468 ppm 230–576 ppm No

PWD also monitored for Aluminum, Color, Manganese, and Silver in 2021; all results were below respective parameter detection limits.

*Ranges with a less than symbol “<” indicate some results were below the method detection limit for 2021.

**Individual results are averaged monthly. Compliance is based on locational running annual average.

***EPA’s MCL and MCLG is 4 ppm, but PADEP has set this lower MCL and MCLG which takes precedence.

Sources of Secondary Chemicals
Chloride Main component of many salts, may increase in winter months; Erosion of natural minerals; Used in the water treatment process in the form of ferric chloride. Copper Corrosion of copper pipes in premise plumbing; Erosion of natural deposits. Fluoride Erosion of natural deposits; Water additive that promotes strong teeth; Discharge from fertilizer and aluminum factories. Iron Corrosion of iron water mains and premise plumbing; Erosion of natural minerals; Used in the water treatment process in the form of ferric chloride. pH Adjusted during the water treatment process. Sulfate Erosion of natural minerals; Runoff from mining operations. Total Dissolved Solids Erosion of natural minerals; May increase during winter months due to road salt runoff or during drought conditions.

Sodium, Hardness, and Alkalinity in tap water

The parameters listed below are not part of EPA’s requirements and are provided for information purposes.

WATER TIP :

Parameters like these matter if you use your water for activities like brewing beer or keeping a home aquarium.

Sodium in tap water
Baxter WTP One Year Average Belmont WTP One Year Average Queen Lane WTP One Year Average
Average (ppm) 24 ppm 43 ppm 44 ppm
Average (mg in 8 oz. glass of water) 6 mg 10 mg 10 mg
Range (ppm) 16–64 ppm 30–84 ppm 29–121 ppm
Range (mg in 8 oz. glass of water) 4–15 mg 7–20 mg 7–29 mg
Hardness in tap water
Baxter WTP One Year Average Belmont WTP One Year Average Queen Lane WTP One Year Average
Average 92 ppm or 5 gpg 139 ppm or 8 gpg 169 ppm or 10 gpg
Minimum 75 ppm or 4 gpg 110 ppm or 6 gpg 123 ppm or 7 gpg
Maximum 114 ppm or 7 gpg 170 ppm or 10 gpg 209 ppm or 12 gpg
Hardness defines the quantity of minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, in water. These minerals react with soap to form insoluble precipitates and can affect common household chores such as cooking and washing. Philadelphia’s water is considered “medium” hard.
Alkalinity in tap water
Baxter WTP One Year Average Belmont WTP One Year Average Queen Lane WTP One Year Average
Average 35 ppm 68 ppm 77 ppm
Minimum 25 ppm 41 ppm 53 ppm
Maximum 45 ppm 92 ppm 98 ppm

Glossary

Some of the words we use in the charts above may not be familiar to you. Here are definitions of technical and other terms.

  • Action Level: The concentration of a contaminant which, if exceeded, triggers treatment or other requirements that a water system must follow. The action level is not based on one sample; instead, it is based on many samples.
  • Alkalinity: A measure of the water’s ability to resist changes in the pH level and a good indicator of overall water quality. Although there is no health risk from alkalinity, we monitor it to check our treatment processes.
  • E. coli (Escherichia coli): A type of coliform bacteria that is associated with human and animal fecal waste.
  • gpg (grains per gallon): A unit of water hardness. One grain per gallon is equal to 17.1 parts per million.
  • MCL (Maximum Contaminant Level): The highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. MCLs are set as close to the MCLGs as feasible using the best available treatment technology.
  • MCLG (Maximum Contaminant Level Goal): The level of a contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MCLGs allow for a margin of safety.
  • mg/L (Milligrams per liter): One milligram per liter is equal to one part per million.
  • MRDL (Maximum Residual Disinfection Level): The highest level of disinfectant that is allowed in drinking water. The addition of a disinfectant is necessary for the control of microbial contaminants.
  • MRDLG (Maximum Residual Disinfection Level Goal): The level of a disinfectant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MRDLGs do not reflect the benefits of the use of disinfectants to control microbial contaminants.
  • Minimum Residual Disinfectant Level: The minimum level of residual disinfectant required at the entry point to the distribution system.
  • NTU (nephelometric turbidity units): Turbidity is measured with an instrument called a nephelometer. Measurements are given in nephelometric turbidity units.
  • Pathogens: Bacteria, virus, or other microorganisms that can cause disease.
  • pCi/L (Picocuries per liter): A measure of radioactivity.
  • ppm (parts per million): Denotes 1 part per 1,000,000 parts, which is equivalent to two thirds of a gallon in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
  • ppb (parts per billion): Denotes 1 part per 1,000,000,000 parts, which is equivalent to half a teaspoon in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
  • μg/L (Microgram per liter): One microgram per liter is equal to one part per billion.
  • ppt (parts per trillion): Denotes 1 part per 1,000,000,000,000 parts, which is equivalent to one drop in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
  • Service Line: The pipe that brings water from the water main into your home or business.
  • SMCL (Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level): Non-enforcable Federal water quality guidelines that are established for managing aesthetic and cosmetic conditions of water (e.g. taste, odor, color).
  • SOC (Synthetic Organic Chemical): Commercially made organic compounds, such as pesticides and herbicides.
  • Total Coliform: Coliforms are bacteria that are naturally present in the environment. Their presence in drinking water may indicate that other potentially harmful bacteria are also present.
  • THAAs (Total Haloacetic Acids): A group of chemicals known as disinfection byproducts. These form when a disinfectant reacts with naturally occurring organic and inorganic matter in the water.
  • TOC (Total Organic Carbon): A measure of the carbon content of organic matter. This measure is used to indicate the amount of organic material in the water that could potentially react with a disinfectant to form disinfection byproducts.
  • TTHMs (Total Trihalomethanes): A group of chemicals known as disinfection byproducts. These form when a disinfectant reacts with naturally occurring organic and inorganic matter in the water.
  • Treatment Technique: A required process intended to reduce the level of a contaminant in drinking water.
  • Turbidity: A measure of the clarity of water related to its particle content. Turbidity serves as an indicator for the effectiveness of the water treatment process. Low turbidity measurements, such as ours, show the significant removal of particles that are much smaller than can be seen by the naked eye.
  • VOC (Volatile Organic Chemicals): Organic chemicals that can be either man-made or naturally occurring. These include gases and volatile liquids.
  • WTP: Water Treatment Plant
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Top Customer Questions

How do I get my water tested?

We offer free lead and copper tests for residential customers who have concerns about their water.

To request an appointment Call (215) 685-6300

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How hard is Philadelphia’s water?

Philadelphia’s water is considered moderately hard. Hardness depends on the treatment plant that serves your area of the city.

See A Closer Look at Hardness

Why does water have an earthy flavor sometimes?

Earthy or musty flavors occur naturally in drinking water and are among the most commonly reported worldwide. When certain algae-type organisms grow in our rivers, detectable levels of these odors can make their way into the treated drinking water.

These natural compounds have no known health effects at their natural levels, and are found in various foods.

We take steps to reduce their presence when detected.

Why do water utilities add fluoride to water?

It’s a natural element that helps prevent cavities. Philadelphia’s Health Department (and dentists) recommend that we add fluoride to a level that helps protect children’s teeth.

Can I replace a lead service line?

Yes. If you don’t want to contact a plumber directly, apply for our Homeowners Emergency Loan Program (HELP).

A zero-interest loan can cover the cost of replacement.

Learn more & apply

Also: PWD will replace lead service lines for free if they are discovered during planned work on water mains.

Why does my tap water smell like a pool sometimes?

The smell of chlorine means your water is safe and treated to remove harmful organisms. You can reduce the smell by keeping a pitcher of fresh water in the refrigerator. This also reduces the earthy odor sometimes produced by algae in the rivers during spring.

Working Together


You can help protect Philadelphia’s water quality.

Keep trash out of our waterways.

Protect our rivers and streams by properly disposing of garbage and recyclable materials.

Don’t flush anything but toilet paper.

Even “flushable” wipes can lead to clogs and backups affecting our homes and streets.

Always properly recycle or dispose of household hazardous wastes.

Don’t flush them down the toilet or down the sink, and don’t pour them into storm drains.

Stay Informed

Sign up for email or text message updates from PWD.

Get the latest news, useful information, and find out about upcoming events. Sign up for email and text alerts at phillyh2o.info/signup.

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Sharing this report

water.phila.gov/2021-quality

Please share this report with all people who drink this water, especially those who may not have received this notice directly (for example, people in apartments, nursing homes, schools and businesses). You can do this by posting this notice in a public place or distributing copies by hand and mail.

To receive a printed copy of this report, please email: waterquality@phila.gov

People with special health concerns

Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population. Immunocompromised persons, such as persons with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, persons who have undergone organ transplants, people with HIV/AIDS and other immune system disorders, and some elderly people and infants can be particularly at risk from infections. These people should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)/Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Guidelines on appropriate means to lessen the risk of infection by Cryptosporidium and other microbial contaminants are available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline: (800) 426-4791.


Philadelphia Water Department

Philadelphia Water Department
1101 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 685-6300 • water.phila.gov


Images: JPG Photo & Video, Sahar Coston-Hardy, Philadelphia Water Department