Much like the rest of the world, our city's tap water is not acceptable to many Davis residents for drinking. While some may view fresh, clean free water as a basic right and necessity, many corporations offer some filtered or purified water of varying quality, often at prices 3 or 5 times as expensive as gasoline! Home filtration systems may be one of the least expensive ways to get drinkable water.

  • Municipal water, also known as tap water, is drinking water that comes from the City.  The City of Davis uses a combination of water provided by the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency (WDCWA), as well water from wells that are actually in Davis. The water that is supplied from WDCWA comes from the Sacramento River and is treated at their treatment facility located just outside of the City of Woodland.  Municipal water is better for the environment than bottled or filtered water because it does not require material to be shipped into Davis from far away. Municipal water may be drunk from hose or tap, with hose possibly giving a better taste. Drinkers of water in Davis are lucky to have the privilege of drinking water with lots of nice minerals like calcium.
  • Spring water is bottled directly from mountain springs, or wherever the company says it comes from, and may be high in mineral content — high mineral content means more flavor. Since this is essentially why you may not want to drink the local tap water, you may have to do a taste test to determine which spring suits you best.
  • What some people refer to as Drinking water is essentially filtered water; it's usually just some municipal water (though not necessarily from Davis) that has been run through a filtering process. The source of filtered drinking water can vary, as can the process by which the water is filtered. If you are particular about your water, you would do well to do a bit of research to find out how the water the drinking water you purchase is treated.
  • Distilled water may also be found within supermarkets & grocery stores, but this is not typically sold as "drinking water," and is intended for use in appliances, such as irons. Distilled water is actually boiled in a still and the condensate collected and bottled — this process removes both ionic and non-ionic organic contaminants including minerals. Mineral deposits left by drinking waters can damage clothing, affect appliance performance, or otherwise screw up the results of your experiment.
  • Deionized water isn't typically readily available to the average consumer and requires a fairly expensive process. It is most often used in labs to ensure that chemistry results aren't skewed by dissolved impurities in modern water supplies: ions such as calcium, sodium, chlorides, etc. Y'all shoulda lernt this in high school chem! Deionization removes ions from water via ion exchange, much like those things in clubs that make smoke stick to your clothing. Safeway sells purified water under its own label by the gallon, which is indicated as having been either deionized or filtered by reverse osmosis.
  • Purified water may also be found in your supermarket aisle, and this water has been treated to remove both minerals and smaller particles. Hikers are familiar with this difference, because water purifiers remove particles smaller than a micron, while microfilters typically filter down to about 1 micron — an absolute 1 micron filter is sufficient to eliminate cryptosporidium and giardia cysts, but not small enough to get rid of bacteria and viruses. Water may be treated by reverse osmosis or chemically, e.g. addition of iodine, to remove contaminants to this level. Most home systems don't filter down to this level and won't produce purified water. Not so much a problem unless you think livestock may have been using your water source, but something to keep in mind when purchasing a filtration system... it may not be filtering everything you think! And ideally, we want a little bit of flavor in our water, so it's not necessarily desirable to filter out everything — "potable water" isn't necessarily "purified water."
  • Softened Water is regular tap water which has been treated with sodium chloride via a water softener. Davis tap water is considered "hard", meaning that it contains high levels positively-ionized minerals like calcium and magnesium. Essentially, a softener replaces the hard minerals with sodium and potassium ions, giving the water a salty taste. Hard water leaves mineral deposits on metal piping and cleans less effectively than purified or softened water, so many homes in Davis have softeners that pump softened water into bathrooms and kitchens for cleaning purposes. Though softened water is fine to drink or use in cooking, most people don't like the taste, and so people either have an additional tap for filtered or tap water, or drink bottled water instead. It also should not be used to water plants, though, since many plants cannot tolerate high levels of sodium.

Bulk Retail Purchase

This type of system allows you to fill your own container from a filtration system hooked up to the city water supply. Keep in mind, that outdoor vending machines are subject to fine dust and dirt particles, especially if there's no door protecting the spigot. You should also be aware that others may be touching the spigot or using unclean containers that may contaminate the spigot (I've seen lipstick stains from coworkers' water bottles on our office cooler... yuck!). To determine the degree of filtration provided by the system, you'll need to ask questions and do some research.

  • Circle K — $0.35/gallon (vending machine in front of store)

  • CVS — $0.30/gallon (vending machines in front of store)

  • Davis Food Co-Op — $0.39/gallon (machines in back of Bulk Department)

  • Grocery Outlet — $0.35/gallon (machines at side of building)

  • H2O to Go — $0.70/gallon ($0.43 cents if purchasing 100 Gal in advance), distillation/reverse osmosis, charcoal filter and UV light

  • Nugget — $0.33/gallon (machine inside front of South Davis store, between produce and seafood counter in North Davis store), $0.35 (vending machine outside South Davis store)

  • Safeway — $0.35/gallon with Safeway card. (vending machines inside, by the registers in The Marketplace store, and by the produce in the South Davis store.)

  • Save Mart — $0.30/gallon (vending machines in front of store)

  • Westlake IGA — $0.35/gallon (vending machine in front of store)

Home Purification Systems and Softeners

These type of systems filter to varying degrees, so do some reading online before committing to a specific system.

  • ACE Hardware
  • Target — Faucet filters and counter-top purifiers usually cost about $30 here, with replacement filters about $15 a pop. However, they last pretty long, and you never have to worry about running out of potable water.
  • Brita filter
  • PUR tap filter
  • Whole-house water softeners (using the standard mineral tank with polystyrene beads, also known as resin or zeolite) and under-sink filters for drinking water (activated carbon and reverse-osmosis). Blue Fountain Water is a local, though somewhat pricey, outfit that sells softeners and filters. Their water softener is completely mechanical and uses on-demand backflush timing instead of fixed timing so the salt usage is based on actual, not average, water use.

Home Delivery

Home delivery of one-, three-, and five-gallon containers is widely available within Davis from the following vendors. Typically, to set up service, you need to determine your weekly water needs and pay a deposit on bottles which are replaced weekly or biweekly by your carrier. Weekly needs can be adjusted as needs vary, and you only pay for empties that are replaced the following week. Billing typically occurs monthly. When you close out your service and return the empties, you'll get your bottle deposit back. Additional services are available such as water dispenser rental, chiller rental (including a hot/cold option), paper cups, and even small bottles of drinking water.

Bottled Water

Bottled drinking water can be bought almost everywhere. However, recently the Davis City Council decided that they would no longer purchase inividual water bottles for city events and employees, instead beginning the sale of reusable Nalgene bottles. The profits made by the sale of these bottles will go towards other sustainability programs. (See the resolution here.) Be sure to recycle the containers!


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Bottled water is for the faint of heart or the tourists traveling in third world countries. You think Ernest Hemingway drank bottled water? Get some cahonies and gulp it down right from the tap. —RobRoy

I agree! Davis water is great stuff! —NickSchmalenberger

cahonies must be some spelling of "cancer" that i was not previously aware of —ArlenAbraham

I don't know if Hemmingway was facing quite the same industrial contaminants. The food science team at Hunan determined that only by placing a whole lemon, sliced in two into a pitcher of water can the davis water harshness be disguised. —JaimeRaba

I'm adding a dozen of lemons to my weekly shopping list. —CristinaPerdomo

2005-11-19 22:40:10   Tap water with pesticides or plasticizer leached from plastic bottles, which shall I have today? —SteveDavison

2006-02-21 16:35:37   Sadly, I've seen those stupid plastic water bottles floating and tumbling everywhere from the Colorado to the Coruh River, tumbling in Arches, and littering the streets of Asia and Europe. I find it pretty disgusting that the same people who would stand high and mighty when it comes to cars, WalMart, IKEA and the like would buy obscene volumes of bottled water in a country that offers potable water virtually everywhere. At least in second and third world countries, bottled water can be justified, but even then you purchase larger bottles or just boil your water! —AlphaDog

2006-02-21 18:20:15   Super-purified water (devoid of minerals of any sort) can drain the body of minerals and should only be used to chemical experiments and not for drinking. —TusharRawat

Not really. Water that is without any dissolved substances in it (water for injection) is not commercially available to consumers. You pretty much have to get it from chemical supply companies, is extremely expensive, and would come with plenty of warnings against drinking. "Purified water" in the grocery store will not drain your precious minerals away from you. If you don't eat any more iron, that will be a problem, but not because the purified water will be taking it out of you. -PhilSpear

I'm referring to deionized water, found in any chemistry lab on campus. Drinking that water is not a good idea, and I mention this only because I've seen people filling their water bottles from that tap. —TusharRawat

2006-11-27 13:31:03   This page is titled "Drinking Water." Do water softening systems really belong here, or should this page be expanded beyond drinking water?? Another thought might be to simply transfer the information about water softeners to the Tap Water page or combine the whole lot into a big Water page. Thoughts? —AlphaDog

Moved from Car-Free In Davis:

2007-01-15 22:35:35   What is the issue with water? I know a lot of people in Davis get bottled water, but I'm not sure why somebody on a bicycle would bother. —NickSchmalenberger

2007-01-20 11:17:56   For the record, Davis water is slightly toxic. If you read the report the city sends out to the residents, the water does test positive for carcinogens, although the findings are below levels considered dangerous to one's health according to the government group doing the testing. Thus, buying un-toxic water is more a necessity than a trend in Davis. —ImNotABear

More people probably drown than get cancer from bad water, so I don't think it is particularly dangerous. Did you know that sunlight is a carcinogen? Do you have a degree in environmental toxicology? Because I don't and I have other things to do which is why I am willing to take the government's word on this. —NickSchmalenberger

Choose to drink the water or don't. I don't particularly care what a person does. But, you also cannot claim that the Davis water is 100% safe, if you don't even read the report the city sends out. You seem to trust the goverment, then why don't you believe the pamphlet that the city publishes that tells everyone that the water is slightly contaminated. Does it violate standards set by the US government? No, Davis water doesn't for the most part; however, there was a high level of bacteria that was found in 2005 (the last year published). In really bold letters it says "Adverse Health Effects" and then lists the trace amounts that are present in Davis water. Therefore, Davis water has trace amounts of some poisons and carcinogens in it. A degree in chemistry or toxicology is not necessary, but helpful (if one wants to know why these particular chemicals are tested for). I never said Davis water will give one cancer; I only said the report from the city states that some carcinogens are in the water in trace amounts. Research that links carcinogens and cancer are rarely definitive because of the interactions of an individual's predisposition for the disease and the environment of the individual. Some people try to lessen their contact with carcinogens because they have a predisposition to the disease or as a general precautionary measure. And, yes, of course I know sunlight is a carcinogen in high doses, but it's also a source for vitamin D. Should people run out and spend hours and hours in the sun without some protection for the vitamin D? Probably not. But, if they choose to, I don't particularly care. I care that people understand what information is around them. And, yes, I do have a PhD. —ImNotABear

Nice job changing the subject, we were talking about cancer, which harmless bacteria in Davis water have little to do with. I never said "Davis water is 100% safe", just that I don't think it is particularly dangerous. This conclusion is based on its potentially dangerous contents being below the levels for unsafety as defined by relevant standards and described in the document you cite. These standards are a useful, practical, and arbitrary definition of safety for most people, including myself, and they were written for just that purpose, not to define safety absolutely. Exceptional people for whom these standards are not appropriate will either be aware of that or suffer the effects of their ignorance until they learn or die. Meanwhile, it is not helpful for people like you to make scary but not very meaningful statements. I think that somebody who, as a general precautionary measure and not being predisposed to cancer, tries to lessen their contact with water because it contains carcinogens below levels defined to be unsafe is paranoid. Who knows what other materials are in the bottled or filtered water? I have read that some municipal water supplies have stricter regulations than private sources. I'm glad that you know that sunlight is a source of vitamin D, because then you know that it is helpful in small doses. Maybe you also know the quote from the alchemist Paracelsus: "All things are poison and nothing is without poison, only the dose permits something not to be poisonous." If you care so little for whether or not people drink Davis water, only that they understand the risks, then why do you state "buying un-toxic water is more a necessity than a trend in Davis."? Also, I didn't ask if you had a PhD. I asked if you had a degree in environmental toxicology. I don't think the benefits of not drinking municipal water in Davis are so great as to be worthwhile for most people, certainly not a necessity, and even less worthwhile for somebody who does not have a car. —NickSchmalenberger

2007-01-23 03:42:31   Drinking too much water, in events such as hazing or odd radio station contests, can be fatal. Google "water intoxication" for details. —GreggAlexander

2008-01-21 21:27:46   an interesting study: plastic water bottle cancer causing effect (pollutants from excessive purification process, transportation emissions, and plastic creation and leaching) vs. cancer causing pollutants in municipal water —KyleLanderhoffis

2008-06-26 20:28:53   YUCK!! Davis water is gross! People who drink this are fools, Davis and the surrounding area is POISONED people. Research it! This "quant little town" has 2, thats right, 2 toxic dump sites, toxins that have seeped into the well water and that is what makes the water here so foul. Ever drive down 2nd street-all the way? If you look to your left there is f#$%ing biohazard signs, the place is fenced off because for TWENTY years a pesticide company was dumping posion in UNLINED you know what this means? The pesticides are leaking all over this "happy f*^& place" And there is also a posion site in North or West Davis, Im not sure of the exact location...This place is so gross, I had no idea about how toxic it was here and I DEEPLY REGRET ever moving here. This entire town should be condemned. —realitycheck

  • Actually, the two sites you speak of are Superfund sites, and as such they are regulated by the federal government. The amount of cleanup that occurs is related to how much of a danger is posed, and obviously in the two sites here it is not very dangerous. The pollutants created by the two factories spreads out in an underground 'plume', the extent of which is fairly easy to map and, thus, avoid. Beyond that, most water wells are very deep, some going as much as 1800- feet underground, well below the plume. In any event, the water is regularly tested and there are strict federal guidelines that water quality must adhere to. The main cause of any flavor in Davis water is simply the hardness, which is primarily calcium. —JoePomidor

2009-12-01 22:52:54   Davis water is pretty gross. Lots of hardness. Personally I use an RO (reverse osmosis) and a whole house water softener to treat my water, both from the mentioned Blue Fountain Water. I have been very satisfied with my purchase, while not very cheap, their water softeners (Kinetico) are the best and most advanced in the business. They use the least salt and much less water than other units. So they are really the only option when looking to go greener. I did my research, and I decided to go with Blue Fountain. Their owner/salesman is a local guy who lives in Winters and has been here for years. So I felt more than ok supporting the local economy.

The water from the RO is very tasty, and I never have trouble when the come to change the filters, very respectful staff, and very helpful. The technician was very knowledgeable and definately knew what he was doing

over all very good —WaterWesley

2010-06-27 00:24:39   To the best of my knowledge, diH2O won't hurt you as long as you don't drink excessive amounts of water in general.

My answer to all this: run it through a Brita filter and drink it. Bottled water is such a damned waste to the consumer, the environment, and a huge scam in terms of 'water quality'. I'd also like to believe I'm getting my daily dose of vitamins, minerals, and Adderall to keep me going in the day from this delicious delicious Davis water. —AmyOhe