Poor Water Quality Persists in Diverse Urban Communities

Rae Cade, Danlin Yu, Kyle Whyte, Pankaj Lal, Cortni Borgerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While humans need water to survive, water can also efficiently transmit microbial diseases and heavy metals to consumers. Over 50,000 water violations occurred in 2020 and such burdens were not borne equally amongst consumers. Yet, the factors that drive such variation remain unclear. We examined the interactions between water quality and inherited equity gaps in one of the most diverse urban areas in the United States. We used publicly available drinking water datasets to determine which contaminant was most prevalent between 2010–2020 and who was significantly more likely to be affected by this contamination. We found that a lack of legal rights to control the water quality in one’s home (i.e., renting) was the number one predictor of heavy metal violations in a municipality. Individuals who spoke a language other than English were significantly more likely to rent homes with unsafe drinking water. To ensure equity in public health outcomes, current mandates must expand to include the design of actionable plans which include linguistically and culturally diverse residents, landlords, and tenants, as stakeholders in public water and housing decision making and remediation processes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3446
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • heavy metal
  • inequality
  • language
  • lead
  • public health


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