States with The Most Water and Best Supply

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Water is one of the essential resources on our planet. It impacts everything we do, from drinking and cooking to agriculture and production. In some regions of the country, though, we've seen the effect of drought and how communities can be impacted by a lack of water. California is just one example of drought, but it's not the only state. 

However, while some areas struggle with scarcity issues, some states are lucky enough to be abundant in this precious resource. Lakes, rivers, and reservoirs comprise a large part of how we get the water we use daily, but there are plenty of other sources to learn more about.

In this article, we’ll be covering which states have the most amount of water and their water supply. We’ll also explore water quality and regulations, how it’s stored, and how you can keep your personal water safe and clean. 

So, if you’ve ever wondered what state has the most water, keep reading and find out below!

States With the Most Water

1. Alaska

This cold state in the Pacific Northwest contains more than 40% of the country’s surface water resources – it covers over 94,743 square miles of water area! Across Alaska, there are over 12,000 rivers, millions of lakes, and many creeks and ponds. Two of the largest river systems include the Yukon/Koyukuk and the Kuskokwim, which branch out across the state. While these water sources support lush wildlife like bears, salmon, and more, they’re also vital to humans. Much of the water in Alaska is available because of glaciers and other frozen deposits across the state. 

2. Michigan

Next on the list is the state of Michigan, which you may have guessed. The land of 10,000 lakes earned its name for a reason; after all, it has the highest percentage of water of any state – more than 41%. It's also one of the states with the most freshwater. Michigan's great lakes create more than 3,000 miles of coastline and boast 20% of the entire planet's freshwater. The lakes are Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, Lake Michigan, Lake Eerie, and Lake Superior.

In terms of water quality, most of the state has access to clean potable water, but there is one exception that has gained national attention. The city of Flint, MI, has experienced a water crisis since 2014 when the city switched its water source (though it later switched back to its Lake Huron source). The water was contaminated, and it has affected residents’ health for years, which is why the state has a dedicated task force to resolve the situation.


3. Vermont

While this state has under a million residents and a small amount of water land-area wise in comparison to other states, it has a very secure water supply, so we're adding it to the list.

Vermont has over 7,000 miles of streams and rivers and larger bodies of water like Lake Memphremagog, Lake Champlain, and Lake Bomoseen. Large freshwater resources and high rainfall averages aren't the only things that contribute to this supply, though. The state also has plentiful groundwater resources. In fact, about four out of 10 homeowners in Vermont use groundwater wells. Because of this, the state produces high standards for water regulation and expects its residents to comply with and test water for contaminants. 

4. Rhode Island

Another small northeastern state with awesome water quality and resources is Rhode Island. In the state, lakes, reservoirs, and other freshwater sources take up over 20,000 acres. They are monitored by the state’s Department of Environmental Management, and one of the largest bodies of water in the state is Worden’s Pond, which takes up a whopping 1,000 acres. Another notable freshwater source is the Scituate Reservoir, and these freshwater sources provide water across the state, supporting up to 75% of Rhode Island’s one million residents. 

How is Water Regulated in the United States?

The United States has one of the best aquatic supplies in the world, but that's not for no reason. In fact, there are many national and regional agencies that oversee the quality, distribution, and usage of water. Nationally, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets regulations that determine what qualities water must have before it comes out of a tap and into your cup. These regulations depend on a number of factors but are mostly enforced to ensure health and safety standards for the millions of people that rely on them. 

In addition to regulations, the EPA also publishes a list called the Contaminant Candidate List (CCL) every five years. The list consists of roughly 90 contaminants that aren't subject to regulations, but it is used as a way for the EPA to identify areas that could need enforcement in the future. 

Regionally, water managers and state departments like the Department of Environmental Protection help to enforce the EPA's standards. They measure and monitor water supplies and resources at a more local level to test for any contaminants, like bacteria. 

One of the reasons why the EPA and water in the United States are held to strict standards has to do with a law that was passed in 1974 and amended most recently in 1996. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was created to ensure the protection and upkeep of our natural resources and the water we use for our everyday activities (like hydrating, of course). Part of the SDWA requires the EPA to take action like enforcing maximum contaminant levels – meaning there are some that are not harmful until a certain threshold – and publishing the CCL.

reservoir and dam with water

How is Water Supplied in the United States?

Public drinking water in the United States is made up of two parts, community water systems, and non-community water systems. Over 286 million people get their tap water from these community systems, so they're an essential part of our infrastructure.

These water systems have two sources: groundwater and surface water. Surface water accounts for most of what you think of when you probably picture bodies of water – lakes, reservoirs, and rivers. Groundwater, on the other hand, is located beneath the Earth's surface in porous rocks and sediment layers and is replenished by precipitation (rain and snow) that infiltrates the ground.

The way water is stored depends on the geographic location and available resources. Either way, both community and non-community systems treat water before it’s able to be safely dispensed from a tap or faucet.

How to Learn More About Your Water Supply

Understanding where your water comes from is a good idea for any person, no matter your city, county, or state. While 92% of people supplied by community water systems are receiving completely potable water, it’s always good to be aware of your natural resources. 

After all, the water in your area can affect how prone you are to flooding, where you receive your water supply from, and what happens to stormwater, sewage, and other runoff. In the event of a water emergency, it’s always good to be prepared, so you can have as much information and supplies as possible. 

In many cities and counties, if local or state officials expect issues with water contamination (like after a storm), they issue boil water notices. Sometimes utility providers may also issue a warning if they've experienced a maintenance issue that could compromise water quality. 

These advisories usually say that you should avoid using tap water until further notice, and if you do, place it over high heat until it reaches a boil for at least a minute. You can shower and bathe like normal (just avoid swallowing water) but should boil water for drinking, brushing your teeth, and cooking, and throw out any ice that your refrigerator makes. Doing this helps eradicate potential contaminants, keeping you, your pets, and your family safe. If a boil water advisory makes you nervous, the chances of getting ill are typically very low, and you can always opt for bottled water instead.

Here are some other ways to learn more about your water quality and be ready in case of contamination:

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  • Purchase a water testing kit: You can find these at your local home improvement store, like ACE Hardware, Home Depot, and Lowe's. They're normally relatively inexpensive and easy to use, with strips that show qualities like pH level, alkalinity, and hardness.
  • Use a water filter if you drink from the tap: Consider a BRITA filter or another way to purify your sink water if your refrigerator doesn't dispense it.
  • Store bottled water: Keeping a small supply of jugs or bottled water can help you feel more prepared in the event of a boil water advisory – this way, you have a bit of water for drinking and other small things like brushing your teeth.
  • Monitor news and updates: Local authorities will likely be the first organizations to advise about a boil water advisory. They also normally specify how long it will be in effect.
  • Flush your pipes: In the event of contamination and a boil water advisory, it’s recommended that you flush out your water systems. This means running your tap water from sinks, baths, and showers for a few minutes before you return to using them normally (after the threat of contamination has subsided). 

While these boil water advisories, flooding, and other effects of storms don’t happen often, having resources like the Terra FRMA Grab + Go Box in your home can help subside any worries or anxious feelings you might have. 

Hopefully, you’ve learned a thing or two about water in the United States. While drought does affect certain states more than others, it doesn’t mean that water across the entire country is scarce. In fact, by moving to a state with a secure water supply, like Alaska, Michigan, Vermont, and Rhode Island, you can ensure that you’ll be receiving quality resources for years to come.
Tags: Drought, Food, Water