How Does Tap Water Taste in Your State?

Many people say water tastes like nothing. At least it should. The truth is, drinking water comes out of our sinks in a wide range of flavors and odors, especially if it hasn’t been through a residential water treatment system. Many of the flavors—ranging from musty to metallic—can be quite off-putting.

Recently, we investigated variations in tap water flavor across different regions of the US. We found that thousands of Americans bemoan bad water taste in their Google search bar each month, entering searches like “Why does my tap water taste bitter” or “my water smells like rotten eggs.”

The twelve tastes most frequently mentioned are enough to send a shiver down your spine. No wonder bottled water is a $200+ billion industry worldwide. In order of frequency:

  1. Eggs / sulfur
  2. Metallic
  3. Sweet
  4. Chlorine
  5. Salty
  6. Earthy
  7. Musty
  8. Plastic
  9. Bitter
  10. Fishy
  11. Wet dog
  12. Moldy

In most places, the “eggs / sulfur” profile is the most mentioned, by a wide margin. But we wanted to learn which tastes are unusually popular in different areas, thereby identifying local trends. The following graphic presents those trends in all 50 states and the 26 most populous metropolitan areas.

Statistics related to tap water taste in the USWhile there was a small but noteworthy trend nationally for references to water tasting moldy and like wet dog, thankfully no specific state or city had an outsized volume of either taste profile.

Among the regional trends we spotted: the eggs / sulfur seems most concentrated in the midwest and northeast; both Louisiana and Florida report a similar plastic taste, and America’s sweethearts are Oregon, Colorado and Oklahoma, each claiming “sweet” as the most unusually popular taste in their state.

In addition to investigating specific taste profiles, we also measured the volume of searches indicating that local water tastes bad, without specifying details about the taste.

Statistics related to tap water taste in the USFinally, we measured the volume of searches indicating concerns about water safety. While in many cases off-putting flavor and odor do not correlate with water’s cleanliness and safety, we consider concerns about water safety to be a natural part of this discussion. And of course, if there’s any doubt about the safety of your water, speak with your water provider or have it tested for contaminants. For high quality water throughout your home, invest in a premium water filtration system like one of our Chlorostatic® water softeners.

Statistics related to tap water taste in the USMethodology

In September 2021, we used Google AdWords to analyze 164 nationally popular search terms related to the taste and odor of drinking water, and whether tap water is safe to drink.

Our localized results are based on search terms that are disproportionately popular in different areas of the country. For example, search terms related to “eggs / sulfur” were most popular in nearly every state, including California, but the volume of searches related to “bitter” water was disproportionately high in California when compared to search terms in other states.

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