By Ted Scouten

A recent airline water quality study conducted by, along with Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center, rated US airlines for how their onboard tap water measures up to Aircraft Drinking Water Rules, known as ADWR.

Here are the responses from airlines concerning their water safety.

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The did not release a statement.

A spokesperson said, “We don’t really have anything to add here, you’d need to reach out to the authors for details behind the study, its aims, and any follow-up.”

The airline said they did not have any comment.

Did not respond to a request for comment.

“The safety of our passengers and crew remain the airlines’ primary focus, which includes the provision of clean drinking water. To meet customer preferences, airlines typically provide bottled water while also ensuring that water available through the aircraft onboard water systems is safe. The onboard water systems are filled with treated water from municipal systems, which is the same water source used throughout the airport, including for water fountains and restaurants, and delivered to homes, businesses and local communities each and every day. Airlines work closely with the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that water received from municipalities is safe and to maintain that safety by following rigorous sampling and management requirements once received.

The federal Aircraft Drinking Water Rule (ADWR) requires U.S. airlines to perform routine drinking water system sampling and disinfecting procedures to ensure that the aircraft’s water used for onboard consumption and washing hands is safe and reliable. The ADWR requires airlines to confirm the integrity of onboard drinking water systems by taking samples on a regular basis.

Our compliance with the ADWR is exemplary (for reference, 2019 performance to date shows only one violation and less than one percent of our aircraft tested positive for total coliform).”

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“The Diet Detective study’s scoring methodology does not accurately convey the quality of drinking water on Delta’s aircraft. Delta has not had an E.coli-positive aircraft water sample since 2015, and our total coliform-positive rate, which is not a health risk on its own, is aligned or better than typical municipality rates (source: EPA ADWR National Conference in 2018.) Our results show we are among the best mainline air carriers for water quality sample results.

Delta also goes above and beyond the minimum requirements of the EPA’s Aircraft Drinking Water Rule by sampling certain aircraft more frequently than is required by the EPA and disinfecting equipment using ozone, which has been proven as one of the most effective methods of water disinfection and exceeds industry standards.

More information about onboard water is available on Delta News Hub.”

“Our top priority is to provide our customers with a safe and pleasant travel experience. All food and beverages on board our flights must meet industry – and where applicable – regulatory standards. Our catering carts, trucks and water tanks are tested and disinfected regularly and we work with our food production partners throughout our network to ensure they are adhering to the highest food safety standards. We only use water from municipal sources that meet the Safe Drinking Water Act and EPA regulations onboard our aircraft.”

“United follows the detailed and rigorous processes outlined in the ADWR, as well as additional FDA regulations, to ensure the entire water system supply chain is maintained for additional assurance that the water provided in aircraft water systems remains safe for the flying public.”

“Safety is our first responsibility to both our crewmembers and customers, and JetBlue continues to follow the processes outlined by the EPA, the FDA, and the FAA to ensure our water supply is safe. We perform routine drinking water system sampling and cleaning procedures in accordance with regulatory guidelines so that water onboard our aircraft is safe and reliable. We also serve bottled drinking water on all of our flights.

We believe the study does not fairly reflect JetBlue’s commitment to maintain the onboard water supply. The study looks back to 2012, but over the past 3 years, JetBlue has worked to achieve water quality that has produced few violations under the latest EPA Aircraft Drinking Water Rule regulations. In the event of a water quality concern onboard, JetBlue immediately shuts the water system down on the aircraft and performs mandatory cleaning in accordance with federal guidelines. The frequency of potential water quality events is extremely small compared to the number of aircraft and flights we operate per day.”

“At Spirit, the safety of our Team Members and Guests is our top priority, and that includes the water available to use in our planes. To ensure that we are compliant with the Aircraft Drinking Water Rule (ADWR) enforced by the EPA:

  • We have a robust safety program compliant with Airbus Guidance and EPA Aircraft Drinking Water Regulation Specification to ensure the quality of the water in our planes is safe.
  • We utilize EPA certified laboratories to conduct potable water testing to determine the presence of Total Coliform and E. Coli.
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It’s also important to note, Spirit serves bottled water and uses pre-made ice for drink service.”

Ted Scouten