You grab a clean cup from the cabinet, turn on the tap, and fill your glass with cool, refreshing water. You bring the cup to your lips but, before you can take a sip, you pause. Is this tap water okay to drink?
There have been enough stories of contaminated tap water in recent years to give you a reason to pause before drinking the water from your home’s faucet. California residents may have even more cause for concern as droughts, wildfires, and pollution have wreaked havoc on drinking water quality.
The good news is that the tap water in towns like Bakersfield, CA is generally safe to drink. However, the potential for Bakersfield water contamination paired with water shortages might threaten your tap water.
Are There Contaminants in Bakersfield’s Tap Water?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a contaminant is “any physical, chemical, biological, or radiological substance or matter in water.”1 This definition essentially means that anything other than water molecules in drinking water is considered a contaminant.
Thus, not all contaminants in drinking water are harmful if consumed. Others might only be harmful if ingested in excessive amounts. In Bakersfield, CA, the 2020 Cal Water report shows that the levels of contamination in Bakersfield’s water are within the range considered safe for the following:2
- E. coli
It’s important to note that these are levels designated as safe by the federal government. It doesn’t mean these contaminants aren’t in the tap water at all, just that the levels are low enough to not be a risk to you.
What About the Taste of My Tap Water?
Most municipalities treat drinking water with chlorine to kill bacteria. This might leave an unappealing odor or aftertaste in your clean drinking water, although it isn’t harmful.3 If you find yourself put off by the smell or taste, you can try filling a pitcher and leaving it open in your refrigerator for a little while. This will help eliminate some of the unpleasantness.
Where Does Bakersfield Get Its Water?
The water used for drinking, bathing, laundry, and other daily tasks in the United States is sourced from one of two places:4
- Bodies of freshwater – Streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes provide a significant amount of the water that comes out of our taps. These bodies of water are a great water source. Before it gets to our homes, it undergoes an extensive filtration, purification, and testing process from the public water system to ensure that it is safe to use and consume.
- Groundwater – Water sourced from beneath the earth’s surface is called groundwater. This water is able to travel through the pores in soil and rock. The water is pumped to the surface for use by cities and towns nearby. Unfortunately, groundwater is often used more quickly than it can be replenished, leading to water shortages in many areas.
Bakersfield tap water comes from several sources, including:2
- Groundwater from 68 active wells
- The Kern River’s surface water
- The city buys treated water from the Kern County Water Agency
The clean water flowing through your taps is continually monitored and tested regularly for contamination. However, there are still threats to your health and safety.
Threats to Bakersfield’s Water Quality
Continuous testing is required to ensure that your drinking water remains safe for human consumption. Unfortunately, in Bakersfield and around the country, water supplies are under constant threat of contamination. Many of the potential risks to our drinking water are caused by human activities. These include:2
- Wastewater treatment plants
- Gas stations
- Car washes
- Automobile repair shops
- Waste dumps and landfills
- Agricultural activities
- Other farm chemicals
- Electronic manufacturing
- Dry cleaners
- Construction sites
- Other manufacturing activities
This list could go on and on. Since most of the water consumed in homes comes from groundwater, any human actions that cause contaminants to seep into the ground can impact the quality of our water, making it unsafe drinking water. This is why city and country monitoring of the water supply is a critical component of safety.
Droughts and Bakersfield Water Supply Issues
The increase in frequency and intensity of wildfires in California paired with the hot, dry conditions have also contributed to a shortage of water for residents in many areas, including Bakersfield.
Kern County, where Bakersfield is located, has a very dry climate to begin with. The average rainfall is typically only about 6.5 inches per year.5 Thus, when drought conditions set in, an already strained public water system becomes even more overloaded.
To illustrate how much water is needed in Bakersfield, picture a football field. If that entire field was covered with one foot of water, it would equal approximately 326,000 gallons. This is only enough water for two families for one year. Bakersfield is also home to many farms which grow a number of crops necessary for the food supply chain throughout the country.
Therefore, you can see how insufficient or contaminated water in Kern County can have a negative impact that reaches across the country.
How Does Bakersfield Water Compare to Other California Cities?
Most of California struggles with the same problem of not having enough safe drinking water to support the demand. The quality of clean drinking water throughout the state varies widely depending on the location of the municipality and the source of the water. A report from the U.S. News and World Report ranked the state of California’s water 15th out of 50 states.6
However, several cities in California scored poorly in a study of the 100 largest drinking water districts in the country by the Environmental Working Group, including:7
- San Diego
- Los Angeles
These three cities were all in the bottom 20. On the other side of the spectrum, some California cities ranked in the top 40, including:
- San Francisco
- Long Beach
Bakersfield wasn’t included in this study because it is a smaller city than those analyzed. However, a separate study showed that the contaminant levels in Bakersfield water were comparable to many of the problematic Southern California cities.8 While it still passes federal safety standards, Bakersfield tap water isn’t completely without concern.
What Can You Do to Ensure Clean Tap Water?
If you’re a little overwhelmed by all of this information, you’re not alone. Drinking water quality is in a constant state of flux and it faces threats from countless contaminants and environmental events. Furthermore, federal limitations on contaminants in tap water don’t prohibit them entirely.
However, there are actions that you can take to ensure your home’s water is clean and safe. These include:
- Making your voice heard about the water quality in your city
- Being cognizant of your environmental footprint
- Investing in a water filtration system
Let’s take a closer look at each of these.
Use Your Voice to Push for Cleaner Water
Cities need money to keep tap water safe for their residents. Investments in critical infrastructure improvements are a must, as are stricter laws against pollution. However, these often don’t happen because money is funneled elsewhere. Educating yourself about where the water in your city comes from and the risks to the supply will help you better understand where the problems originate.
Use your knowledge to speak up in city forums and to communicate with your local representatives about your concerns.
Actively Work to Reduce Your Wasteful Water Practices
You can also take steps in your home to conserve water and lessen the strain on the supply. These include:
- Take shorter showers
- Only run your washing machine for a full load
- Check your toilet, sink, and other pipes for leaks
- Invest in low-flow toilets, faucets, and showerheads
- Turn off the water when you brush your teeth
- Water your outdoor plants in the evening
Being cognizant of the amount of water you use each day will help reduce your home’s overall water consumption.
Invest in a Water Filtration System
A water filtration system will ensure that your water is safe to drink and eliminate the need for environmentally harmful bottled water in your home. When water quality concerns rise, most people turn to bottled water. However, it’s far better for the environment (and thus the future of our drinking water supply) to use a water treatment system. These include:
- Water softeners
- Filtration systems
- Water conditioners
The best system for you depends on your location, your budget, and your existing drinking water quality.
Clean, Safe, and Fresh Drinking Water Every Time with Rayne Water
Is tap water safe in Bakersfield, CA? Yes, in most cases you can drink the water without too much concern. However, contaminants threaten the water supply, along with the looming possibility of restrictions and shortages. One way to ensure that the water you and your family drinks remain safe is to invest in a water filtration system.
At Rayne Water, we’ve been helping to ease concerns over tap water quality since the 1920s. Contact us today to learn more about our water filtration solutions.
Next time you fill your glass from the tap, you won’t have to hesitate before taking a sip.
- EPA. Types of Drinking Water Contaminants. https://www.epa.gov/ccl/types-drinking-water-contaminants
- CalWater. Bakersfield 2020 Water Quality Report. https://www.calwater.com/ccrs/bk-bk-2020
- The Bakersfield Californian. Tap vs. Bottled: Bakersfield’s Drinking Water. https://www.bakersfield.com/entertainment/tap-vs-bottled-bakersfields-drinking-water/article_833cb93e-ff87-5e42-9207-64fb04d3cf73.html
- National Groundwater Association. Information on Earth’s Water. https://www.ngwa.org/what-is-groundwater/About-groundwater/information-on-earths-water
- Water Association of Kern County. Water in Kern County. https://www.wakc.com/water-overview/kern-county/
- U.S. News and World Report. Air & Water Quality Rankings. https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/rankings/natural-environment/air-water-quality
- Public CEO. The Quality of Your Water? See Where California Water Districts Rank. https://www.publicceo.com/2009/12/the-quality-of-your-water-see-where-california-water-districts-rank/
- Environmental Working Group. EWG’s Tap Water Database. https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/search-results.php?stab=CA&searchtype=largesys