Water filter: to buy or not to buy?

I am a new student and moved to Chicago just over 2 months ago. So far I and my roommates have not invested in a water filter. I avoid drinking tap water directly but use it for cooking assuming it will be relatively safe because of heating.

I have been wondering what other people do. Do we know that the city provided water is safe enough to drink? I would love to hear from other students.

If you do use water filters would also like to know what kind.


I think it depends on your building / area. If you live in a building with copper pipes, tap water is safe to drink, but if you don’t know, you might want to test for lead (Pb). A lot of older buildings have pipes with lead in them which leaches into the water. One sign of this (but not always present) is if your water tastes slightly sweeter than normal; dissolved lead makes water slightly sweet. (Fun Fact: In ancient Rome, they added lead to water as an artificial sweetener)

One way to reduce risk is to run your water for a few minutes to flush the lines before drinking, as the most risk comes from water that has been sitting in the pipes for a while. To reduce water waste, you could use this time to wash a few dishes.

If you’re not sure, I would first check with your landlord and if they can’t confirm the pipes are lead-free, then you can buy lead test kits online, or just flush your pipes.

As for biological contaminants, the water should be safe without boiling, as it is pre-treated as part of the city water management. My building has copper pipes but I still run the water for a little while (maybe paranoid) and then drink without boiling.

A water filter may help but for the most part, unless you have reason to believe you need one, such as some fine particulates in the water or it being off-color, you probably don’t need one. But others might argue with me on this.

If you want to go the filter route, these will will not reduce lead content unless you buy expensive specialty filters. Pur or Brita are the most common low-cost filters for lead-free water.

In my experience, the water here is actually very nice; in Los Angeles the water is “hard” i.e. high ion content.

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Thanks for such a detailed response @anon49885067. I will check in with my landlord before taking any other steps.

Kartik, you can get Brita water pitchers for relatively cheap and you don’t have to replace the filters more than 3-4 times a year. :slight_smile:

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+1 for brita pitchers. Have been using since 2014.

I should probably get that lead test done: