What’s the Best Water Filter System Based on Where You Live?

The best water filter system for you based on where you live.

A good water filter is one of the most important tools for both preventing and healing chronic health issues, but there’s a lot of (confusing) information out about which is the best water filter system for you. In 2017, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) began publishing its database of pollutants found in American tap water, using data from 32 million state water records. The database reveals some pretty frightening stuff about the contaminants found in tap water across the U.S., and should motivate all of us to get a hold of the best water filter system possible. Of course, there are many types of water filters, and as the EWG data shows, the best home water filter will be different depending on where you live. All these variables can make finding the best water filter system very confusing! And confusion tends to breed paralysis, and that’s not good for your health.

Listen to this guide on The WellBe Podcast. 

Since our goal is to help you make these small changes that have a big impact on your health, we took the incredible trove of data from EWG and used it to do our own research and create a handy guide for finding the best water filter system for your area. See, while the tap water database includes a very useful tool for looking up what’s in your city’s water supply, it makes it a bit hard to figure out what kind of filter works for your particular set of contaminants. That’s where we come in. In this comprehensive guide on how to choose the best home water filter, we break down what contaminants are in your tap water, what health risks they pose, the different types of water filters, and the best water filter system for you.

Here’s what you’ll find in our water filter guide:

How We Made Our Water Filter Recommendations 

We looked through the EWG’s water filter guide to find products that are certified to filter out contaminants found in five major cities: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco. If you’re in any of these metropolitan areas, this guide will help you make an informed choice about the best water filter system to buy. If you’re not in one of these metropolitan areas, just look up your zip code in the EWG database to find out what contaminants are in your water, and then take a look at the water filter options laid out here to see which filter out the relevant toxins.

To make our recommendations for the best water filter system, we first looked at each city’s results for contaminants detected above health guidelines. Note that there was quite a bit of overlap between the five cities (which may tell us something about city water more generally).

Then, we cross-referenced the EWG water filter guide to see which NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) International- or Water Quality Association-certified filters were certified for the contaminants, and then as a final step we looked at reviews for these filters to find the best options. Armed with the information below, you can feel confident that you’re choosing the best water filter system for your health. Now let’s get into it.

Different Contaminants and Their Risks

The NRDC reports that nearly 77 million Americans (almost a quarter of the population!) drink water from systems that don’t meet federal standards, and the EPA has identified more than 80 contaminants that can occur in drinking water and pose a health risk to humans. The EWG report found a lot of different contaminants in different water sources — too many to name here, so we’re going to give you the rundown on some of the major ones and why they could be dangerous to your health:

Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs)

This is a group of chemicals that includes chloroform, bromodichloromethane, bromoform, and dibromochloromethane. These carcinogens form during water treatment with chlorine and other disinfectants. According to EWG, there may be a link between disinfection byproducts and an increased risk of problems during pregnancy, including spontaneous miscarriage, cardiovascular defects, neural tube defects, and low birth weight.

Found in: Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco

Chromium (hexavalent)

This carcinogen (made famous in “Erin Brokovich”) may come from industrial pollutants or natural occurrences in mineral deposits and groundwater. It’s been found in more than three-fourths of American water systems that supply more than two-thirds of the country. 

Found in: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco


This naturally occurring mineral causes bladder, lung, and skin cancer, and can damage skin and lungs. It gets into drinking water from natural, industrial, and agricultural sources, and occurs at the highest levels in the Western states.

Found in: Los Angeles

Finding the best water filter to remove contaminants from your tap water.
Finding the best water filter to remove contaminants from your tap water.

The three contaminants listed above are the biggies, but the list doesn’t stop there. Here’s the complete rundown on other contaminants EWG found in the five major cities we focused on, and where they can be found:

  • Bromate:  Linked to cancer. Found in Los Angeles.
  • Bromodichloromethane: Part of the group of TTHMs. Linked to cancer and poses risks to fetal growth, reproduction, and child development. Found in Boston, Chicago, and NYC.
  • Chlorate: Linked to hormone disruption. Found in San Francisco.
  • Chloroform: Part of the group of TTHMs. Linked to cancer and can harm fetal growth and development. Found in Boston, Chicago, and NYC.
  • Dibromochloromethane: Part of the group of TTHMs.Linked to cancer and can harm fetal growth and development. Found in Chicago, Boston, and NYC.
  • Dichloroacetic acid: Linked to cancer and can harm fetal growth and development. Found in Boston, Chicago, and NYC.
  • Hormones (4-Androstene-3,17-dione & Testosterone): There’s not a ton of research on what drinking sex hormones in water does to human health, but we can’t be sure they are safe. Found in Chicago.
  • Radiological contaminants: Linked to cancer. Found in Boston (Radium-226 & Radium-228), Chicago (Radium,  combined (-226 & -228), Radium-226 & Radium-228), and Los Angeles (Radon & Uranium).
  • Trichloroacetic acid: Linked to cancer and can harm fetal growth and development. Found in Chicago and NYC.

Contaminants by City

Yikes, that’s a long list of contaminants. Fortunately, you only have to worry about the contaminants in your specific water system. The first step in choosing the best home water filter is to zero in on which contaminants are present in your area. Here’s a breakdown of what scary things may be in your water, based on where you live:


  • Bromodichloromethane 
  • Chloroform 
  • Dichloroacetic acid
  • Radium-226 & Radium-228


Los Angeles

  • Arsenic
  • Bromate
  • Chromium (hexavalent)
  • Radon 
  • Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) 
  • Uranium

New York

San Francisco

Types of Water Filters

The second step to choosing the best water filter system for you is to figure out what type of filter you want. To make this decision, you’ll want to think about things like the layout of your kitchen or bathroom, and the ways that you and your family drink and use water. Here are the most common types of water filters you’ll be able to choose from (you may also want to get more than one kind!):

Faucet Mount 

This type of water filter makes it easy to safely use tap water. It attaches directly to the faucet and does its filtration there.

What’s the Best Water Filter System Based on Where You Live?
An example of a faucet water filter.

Pitcher Filter

Think of this as an upgraded version of the Brita filters (sorry, not the best brand…) we all had back in college. Pitcher filters let you filter water from the tap, then keep the ready-to-drink water on your countertop, in the fridge, or wherever is most convenient for you.

What’s the Best Water Filter System Based on Where You Live?
An example of a pitcher water filter.

Separate Tap Filter

One of the fancier filter options, this type allows you to install a completely separate faucet in your sink, with a robust purification system in place.

Whole House Filter

This is a point of entry (POE) filter, meaning it treats your water at the point where it enters your home. It does this by treating water from the main water line that supplies your house, ensuring that all the water you use — every faucet, shower, even your laundry machine — has been filtered.

What’s the Best Water Filter System Based on Where You Live?
An example of a whole house water filter

Shower Filters

While you’re not drinking water in your shower, you’re still inhaling it through steam and absorbing it through your largest organ — your skin — which means whatever’s in the water will make its way to your bloodstream. Shower filters remove chlorine, which is used as a disinfectant in water nearly everywhere. Chlorine has been linked to higher incidences of bladder, rectal, and breast cancers, and can interact with organic compounds in water to create trihalomethanes, which encourage free radical growth and damage cells. 


An example of a shower water filter.

Refrigerator Filter

Many refrigerators come with built-in water filters, so they can seem like a smart and convenient choice for filtering your water. Unfortunately, they’re not as great as they might initially seem. First off, the filtration may not be all that effective: these filters use carbon filtration, which relies on the water being in contact with the carbon for an extended period of time; that just isn’t the case with a refrigerator water filter where the water is quickly dispensed. 

The other big concern is growth of harmful organisms such as mold, yeast, fungus, and bacteria. This could happen from people’s fingers (or unclean glasses or water bottles) touching the filter, which then passes on microbes that breed on the filter, or from airborne microbes produced by spoiled food in the kitchen. Another big reason for refrigerator filter contamination is a failure to change the filter frequently enough. Refrigerator filters are out of sight and easy to forget about (plus many don’t have indicator lights showing they need to be changed), so a lot of us don’t change them when we need to — when this happens, bacteria like E. coli and fecal coliform can begin to grow. One study by the National Sanitation Foundation took swabs from various homes and found that the refrigerator water filter was actually the germiest spot in the house, harboring concerning levels of yeast and mold.

Choosing the Best Water Filter System for You

No filter eliminates all contaminants, so it’s essential to understand what contaminants your filter does eliminate and make sure they’re the right ones for your area. It’s also essential to read the filter label or fact sheets to make sure it’s NSF-certified. If it is, you can search NSF’s database to learn more about what that particular model filters out. This final step matters because you should always confirm the manufacturer’s claims with a third-party source who isn’t trying to sell you something.

Below are our recommendations for what water filter you should purchase based on where you live. To choose these products, we used the info above and then sifted through the options on Amazon to pick the ones with a high volume of reviews and the highest percentage of 5-star ratings.

Best Water Filters for Boston

If you live in Boston or the Boston metro area, your primary concern is likely filtering for TTHMs. The best home water filter choices for Boston are:

Faucet mount: PUR 3-Stage Advanced Faucet Water Filter, 7.7-Inch by 3.2-Inch, Chrome

Why: There were a number of options from PUR that were equally well-reviewed, but this had a lower price point. It installs directly on your faucet and can be used vertically or horizontally, which is especially useful if you have a smaller sink. It filters multiple contaminants.

Pitcher filter: Epic Pure Water Dispenser

Why: This countertop pitcher dispenser gets rid of nearly 100% of TTHMs, and over 99% of Boston’s other primary contaminants. Epic makes several different models of different sizes if this one doesn’t work for you, and offers full contaminant testing results for each model. 

Best Water Filters for Chicago

If you live in the Chicago area, your primary concerns will be TTHMs and chromium. For the TTHMs, you can choose either of the filters listed above for Boston. For the chromium, we recommend the below two filters:

Pitcher Filter: ZeroWater 10 Cup Pitcher with Free TDS Meter (Total Dissolved Solids) – ZS-008

Why: We picked this option because it’s partly made with stainless steel, which means less potential chemicals from plastic or microplastics leaching into your water, and is easy to clean. Yup, don’t forget you need to wash your water pitchers!

Separate Tap Filter: EcoPure ECOP30 Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System – Built in USA – NSF Certified – Bottled Water Quality

Why: If you’re willing and able to do the installation— which requires a separate hole on your countertop for the tap —this reverse osmosis system uses three stages to filter a number of different contaminants, including arsenic. You may be able to install it yourself, though some reviewers hired plumbers to help.

Best Water Filters for San Francisco: 

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you’re relatively lucky, as most water systems that supply the Bay Area have two or fewer contaminants (in fact, one utility has ZERO! Congrats Presidio of San Francisco!). Still, most of the others contain TTHMs, which are definitely no bueno. Given that, check out our recommendations above for Boston, where TTHMs are also the primary concern.

Best Water Filters for New York

If you’re a New Yorker (or in the greater New York metropolitan area), you’re drinking the same contaminants as Chicagoans, so check out our recommendations for the best water filter system for Chicago.

Best Water Filters for Los Angeles

Unfortunately for you if you’re an Angeleno, all of the big three contaminants — TTHMs, chromium, and arsenic — can be found in your water. Use any of the four products recommended above for TTHMs and chromium (Chicago and Boston), and for arsenic we recommend:

Separate Tap Filter: APEC Top Tier Supreme Certified High Flow 90 GPD Ultra Safe Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filter System (ULTIMATE RO-90)

Why: Like the EcoPure filter above, this requires an additional hole on your countertop and can be installed without professional help. Its’ reverse osmosis system filters multiple contaminants, including chromium (hexavalent).

Shower Water Filters

Because all shower water purifications systems only filter out chlorine, your options are the same no matter where you live. Here are three choices that we’ve vetted and approved:

Culligan HSH-C135 Hand-Held Filtered Shower Head

Rainshow’r CQ-1000-NH Dechlorinating Shower Filter

GE GXSM01HWW Shower Filter System

Here’s the complete EWG list of shower filters. 

Distilling It All Down: The WellBe Takeaway

ll of the above might seem pretty scary — but the good news is that knowing this information allows you to take control. Using the recommendations above, you’re equipped to purchase the best water filter system to block the contaminants in your area and protect yourself and your family against any dangers in your water.

Care about removing toxins from your life? For researched, vetted, and WellBe-approved recommendations for water filters and 2000+ other products in 20 different categories, check out our Non-Toxic Products Lists database

Arm your loved ones with the knowledge they need by sharing this article via the handy links below and at the top of the page! 

Do you live somewhere besides the five cities we researched and need help finding the right water filter for you? You can use the WellBe Concierge Service!

Listen to this guide on The WellBe Podcast. 

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Leave a Comment
  1. Hello! I have just moved to New Haven, CT (06511) and am looking for a good filter for that area. If you have any suggestions, please let me know!

    1. Hi Jessie, thanks for reaching out! We looked up your zip code in the EWG database, and it looks like you have contaminants in your water supply very similar to Boston and Chicago contaminants, so recommend any of the water filter suggestions for those cities for you as well. If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter here! Xx Adrienne & Team WellBe

  2. Wow! This is all such great information! Could you possibly help research for Lakeland, FL?
    My husband and I have noticed a strong sense of chlorine in our water. Especially when we use the shower. Thanks for all the water filter recommendations! Can’t wait to make some changes!

    1. Hi Rachael, thanks so much for reaching out! If you want to do further research on your water supply, you can look up by your zip code in the EWG database here, and you can get a better idea of what contaminants you need to specifically be filtering for. If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter here! Xx Adrienne & Team WellBe

    1. Hi Madeline, thanks for reaching out! If you want to do further research on your water supply, you can look up by your zip code in the EWG database here, and you can get a better idea of what contaminants you need to be specifically filtering for. It looks like you have contaminants in your water supply similar New York and Chicago contaminants, so we recommend any of the water filter suggestions for those cities for you. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter if you haven’t already here! Xx Adrienne & Team WellBe

  3. The water from Aquagear pitcher is just clean and great-tasting. It takes out a lot of stuff, so I add a pinch of salt to a tall glass. Our tap water reeks of chlorine and they add fluoride as well. Not the good kind. We have tried other water filtering pitchers and never really felt good about the results. This is a bit pricey, but we think well worth it. A few suggestions: Don’t overfill and let it filter completely before pouring. It filters fast. Pour it like you mean it so it doesn’t dribble. And if the filter slows down, remove it and shake it a bit, then re-install. Enjoy!

    1. Hi Samantha, thanks so much for the suggestions and glad to hear you like the aquagear pitcher! Xx Adrienne & Team WellBe

  4. Wow, it’s such a very helpful information, very clear and easy to understand. Thanks so much for sharing that. Keep going!

    1. Hi David, thanks for the feedback! If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletter here! Xx Adrienne & Team WellBe

  5. The Berkey filter is great. The steel containers are sturdy and the filter really does clean the water better than any other system I have used. The initial outlay can be a bit eye popping but when you figure the cost of installing a whole house filtration system or buying cases of water or water bottles for a water cooler over the life of your households water consumption, this is one of the very best options you can consider.

  6. I am still slightly confused as to which product to use, I live in LA. I need one that takes out those 3 contaminants you mentioned. For a pitcher and/or faucet attacher, what specifically do you recommend?

  7. This is very helpful!  What reusable filtered water bottle do you recommend?  We have a reverse osmosis machine for home but looking for a great water bottle and there are so many options?

  8. Do you have any kind of guide to whole house water filters? My son lives in Minturn Colorado (81645), just outside of Vail, and he has a Berkeley canister filter system for all of his drinking water, but not necessarily cooking and laundry, showering , etc. what would you suggest?

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