Is NYU’s Cloudy Water Safe to Drink?


Tayler MacMillan

Pulled from the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, Manhattan’s water makes a long journey before finally leaving the faucet. Thanks to New York’s extensive water system, the tap water is surprisingly clean.

Kate Holland, Staff Writer

NYC tap water is world renown for its quality and freshness, ranking among the most pristine drinking water in the world. However, some students who are new to the big city are skeptical of tap water because it can come out of the faucets looking cloudy. But is what we see really what we’re getting?

Like many students, CAS freshman Vinnie Zhang has made a habit of filtering her tap water through a Brita filter.

“I feel like without filtering it, the water wouldn’t be clean enough to drink,” Zhang said. “Sometimes it comes out of the tap looking cloudy.

Reports of cloudy tap water are common in many NYU buildings, however, the murkiness is not indicative of the water’s quality. The cloudiness is a result of tiny air bubbles suspended in the water caused by the dramatic shift in pressure from the pipes to the cup. In fact, New York City is one of only five major cities in the US that does not require filtration as a form of treatment, according to the 2015 New York City Drinking Water Supply and Quality Report.

Manhattan’s tap water comes from the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. It travels from the Ashokan Reservoir to the Catskill Aqueduct and from the Delaware River to the Delaware Aqueduct, before ending up in the smaller Hillview Reservoir closer to the city. The water is then distributed through three separate tunnels under New York City and to our sinks through the force of gravity alone.

Any contamination that has occurred in Manhattan tap water over the years has not come from the source, but from the pipes used for distribution. When the pH of the water falls below 7.0, its neutral point, the water becomes corrosive, causing lead from the pipes to run through our taps. According to the NYC Department for Environmental Protection, all known lead piping in city owned buildings — schools, hospitals, libraries — were replaced between 2008 and  2010. The city is still searching for any lead piping that may remain.

A recent case of lead contamination occurred in Newark, N.J., and caused the city to invest billions of dollars into ensuring that the quality of NYC water goes unaltered during distribution.

New York City has one of the most extensive municipal water systems in the world, providing 1 billion gallons of drinking water every day to millions of New York City residents, including Tisch freshman Mickey Galvin.

“I think the water from the tap in Manhattan tastes better than any water I’ve ever had in my life,” Galvin said. “I think it tastes just as good as bottled water.”

Climate change has also had a significant impact on water quality in the past decade. Fluctuating precipitation patterns, fauna health and rising temperatures all affect the quality and availability of water. Heavy rain and winds can sweep fine silt and clay into the system and inhibit the treatment of the water. However, these concerns are not what drive LS freshman Carmen Colosi to filter her water.

“I filter my water just because I always have,” Colosi said. “I’m used to dealing with drought conditions so I’m just thankful I can take long showers.”

Among the many benefits of living in Manhattan, the clean tap water is one of them. The NYU community should be aware of how the amount of work behind our clean water and work with NYU to conserve as much of it as possible.

Only one percent of the world’s water can be used for drinking. Many people believe that water is a renewable resource, but the rate at which it is consumed makes it a precious resource. The average American family of four uses upwards of 400 gallons each day.


The world is currently experiencing a global water crisis. Water is quickly becoming the world’s hottest commodity as the population goes up and our consumption increases exponentially, depleting bodies of water without allowing time for natural replacement to occur.

NYU’s student body is among the most actively liberal in the nation, leading the way in numerous social movements. Among its other passions, NYU should not forgot to preserve its most precious and coveted resource: tap water.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 6th print edition. Email Kate Holland at [email protected].