This might sound silly but I come from a place where we would typically have to buy bottled water or boil tap water to drink, so now that I'm spending 5 weeks at a Yale dorm, is it safe to drink from the taps here (specifically in the dorms)?
Also, I don't see any bottled water station with 20 litre bottles and dispensers to drink from, so I assume the college expects the students to drink from the taps (I've read various sources that it's safe to drink from most US taps) or go out and buy a bottled water.

One thing I noticed is that it does taste a little bleachy, but that might just be me.

EDIT: The dorm's sinks themselves don't look too clean and also it is a collection of pretty old buildings (at least on the outside, the inside does look more modern though). Pipes that are not behind walls in some areas have been covered in paint, so it's hard to tell whether it's prone to lead leaks or not. Doubt I could carry out a lead concentration level test either.

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    Mostly safe, but there are a few exceptions here and there Jul 9, 2016 at 20:10
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    The "bleachy" taste is likely due to treatments to kill bacteria and such. If you are used to reverse osmosis processed, bottled water, you will notice a different taste, but after drinking it for a while your taste buds will ignore the bleachy flavor.
    – user13044
    Jul 9, 2016 at 21:17
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    @Tom many people use activated charcoal filters, which are very effective inremoving the bleachy taste.
    – phoog
    Jul 9, 2016 at 22:39
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    @phoog - Yes they could plunk down some change to get a charcoal filter. Then they could plunk down some more change to get stainless steel water carafes to chill the water in the avoid plastic taste. And then they can get some lemon drops to add a touch of taste back in and perhaps some baking soda for their fridge to absorb other odors from foods to avoid cross contamination..... ;-)
    – user13044
    Jul 10, 2016 at 0:02
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    Safe except Flint :) Jul 10, 2016 at 0:27

2 Answers 2


Virtually all municipal water systems in the United States provide clean and safe drinking water. Water supplies are regulated by the government and must be tested regularly. Water safety problems are generally well publicized, often national news if they are significant, and emergency notices are issued if a rare temporary situation, such as a water main break, results in unsafe water. Note that the situation may be different for well water in remote areas, but if you're in such a place, chances are good you're talking to the owner of the well, who can advise you.

Specifically at Yale, you might see this 2010 article from the Yale Daily News about New Haven tap water. You may read the most recent water quality report from the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority for up-to-date information. The local water meets all regulatory standards.

Some old buildings may have old pipes that can impart an off taste or even leach lead into the water. While it may be worth testing for lead someplace where small children will be living for years, I wouldn't be concerned about an adult taking a five week course. You should also avoid eating peeling paint.

If you don't like the taste of your water, you could consider investing in a pitcher filter, which you can keep in a refrigerator to ensure you have a supply of cold drinking water. I can't say whether you'll like that taste better, but it should be at least a bit different after passing through the filter. Bottled water is another choice, but note that most bottled water is simply US tap water, and that the legal requirements for bottled water are actually less stringent than the ones for tap water. You can also fill up a water bottle at drinking fountains or water bottle refilling stations on campus.

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    I have notice that if you fill a plastic bottle from a tap, store is for a few days, that bleachy taste is much less.
    – Willeke
    Jul 9, 2016 at 20:22
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    someone should fact-check me, as i'm not confident enough to post this as an answer, but... i believe tap water is regulated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and bottled water is regulated by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration). Both have stringent standards to ensure the respective products are safe to drink, but may have different specific standards. Jul 10, 2016 at 5:59
  • tap water is regulated by the EPA, but only the municipal system itself, so the private piping that brings the water from the municipal service line into the home or business can theoretically be a vector for all sorts of dangerous bacteria or heavy metals. @Willeke, your observation makes a lot of sense chemically. For one, free chlorine (and chlorates, etc) in the water will evaporate over time, but also, they will readily combine with organic and inorganic substances in the water to create new chlorates that might not taste as strong but can be in fact more or less unhealthy for us.
    – sig_seg_v
    Jul 10, 2016 at 9:53
  • "most bottled water is simply US tap water" -- but usually it's tap water from a different place than the place you're drinking it. So like the pitcher filter, even bottled tap water is a new roll of the dice if you didn't like the first result. Sep 19, 2016 at 14:29

Generally, tap water in the US is drinkable. You can read the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act for how it is regulated. So, yes, it is usually safe to use tap water for drinking, brushing your teeth, etc.

It does happen that water that should be safe is not. In this case, a warning is issued once the issue is discovered. There will be public notices until water becomes drinkable again.

The chlorinated taste comes from the process used to make it drinkable, so you should be reassured by it! You are also right that there are bottled water is less common when water is drinkable. There are also often water fountains which are simply unfiltered cooled down tap water. You will find those near public washrooms in many places.

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    The chlorinated taste comes from the process used to make it drinkable, so you should be reassured by it! – Somehow in Europe, we manage to obtain safe drinking water without that disgusting chlorine taste/smell.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jul 10, 2016 at 8:09
  • @Wrzlprmft For people, living in an area then it doesn't have said taste, the taste only occurs in people such as the asker who are used to bottled water.
    – Benjamin
    Jul 10, 2016 at 11:04
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    @Benjamin: … or people like me who are used to non-chlorinated tap water, which is the standard in many (if not all) European countries.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jul 10, 2016 at 11:06
  • @Wrzlprmft What countries are you referencing specifically?
    – Benjamin
    Jul 10, 2016 at 11:22
  • @Benjamin: This certainly applies to Germany. Also, I never encountered chlorinated tap water in any of my many visits to other European countries.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jul 10, 2016 at 11:28

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