Infrastructure

This Is the American City With the Worst Water

Water quality in America’s big cities hit the front pages with the Flint Water Crisis of 2014. The litigation over who was to blame continues almost seven years later. Since then, major floods and storms have fouled other city water supplies. The quality of water in some cities has been poor for years.

LawnStarter evaluated water quality in 200 American cities. It used these seven metrics:

  • Satisfaction with water quality
  • Satisfaction with drinking water quality
  • Water quality violations
  • The increase in these violations
  • The share of homes that lack plumbing
  • The share of households with sewage disposal breakdowns in the past three months
  • An index for natural hazards


The study was conducted by Mike Daniels, Ph.D., Extension Soil and Water Conservation, CSES Associate Department Head, Extension University of Arkansas.

Garden Grove, California, ranked the worst. It came in at 157 in customer satisfaction and 196th in infrastructure vulnerability. Its overall score was 37.90. That compared to Columbus, Ohio, which ranked first with a score of 81.03.

Garden Grove has a population of just over 173,000 people. It is located in Orange County, about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

According to the U.S. Census, the Garden Grove population is 20% white, 41% Asian and 36% Latinx. The median household income of $68,278 is about the same as the national average. The poverty rate of 14% is above the national figure.

The 25 American Cities With the Worst Water

City Score
Mesquite, Texas 46.16
Garland, Texas 46.00
Pasadena, Texas 45.67
Irving, Texas 45.55
Killeen, Texas 45.21
Shreveport, Louisiana 44.08
Fresno, California 43.92
Sunrise Manor, Nevada 43.78
Enterprise, Nevada 43.78
Bridgeport, Connecticut 43.40
Joliet, Illinois 42.58
Yonkers, New York 42.45
Orange, California 42.35
Fullerton, California 42.35
Paterson, New Jersey 41.74
Pomona, California 41.69
Lancaster, California 41.68
Midland, Texas 41.55
Torrance, California 41.39
Laredo, Texas 41.36
Grand Prairie, Texas 41.10
Metairie, Louisiana 41.08
Cape Coral, Florida 40.86
Oceanside, California 39.79
Moreno Valley, California 39.54
Garden Grove, California 37.90

Click here to see which U.S. city has water awash with dangerous COVID-19 variants.