Why Does Disney World Water Taste Bad?

If you’ve ever been to Walt Disney World, you might have at one time or another gone

for a drink of water at one of the many water fountains on property.

And if you have, there’s a chance you’ve experienced the, uh, unique taste of the water.

So, why does Disney World water taste so bad?

Well if you just need a short easy answer, it’s sulfur.

Naturally occurring sulfates in the local water supply gives the drinking water its

distinct and often unpleasant taste.

That said, how do they get their water, where do the sulfates come from, is it safe, and

could Disney do anything to get rid of it?

Walt Disney World, or more specifically their governing jurisdiction, the Reedy Creek Improvement

District, pumps its drinking water from the Floridan Aquifer.

An aquifer is a layer or more commonly a series of layers of rock and other materials that

groundwater flows through.

Wells are dug into these layers, and from there the groundwater is pumped up, treated

and distributed.

Aquifers tend to be pretty big, but the Floridan Aquifer in particular is massive.

It encompasses the entire state of Florida as well as parts of Alabama, Georgia, and

even South Carolina.

It’s estimated to provide up to four billion gallons of water and services as many at 10

million people in the Southwestern United States every day.

So then why doesn’t water across the entire aquifer taste just as bad?

Well that taste is caused by various elements in minerals that the water picks up as it

flows through the layers of the aquifer.

The ones that generally don’t impact the safety of drinking water but do impact it’s

taste, odor, and color are considered “secondary contaminants” by the EPA.

So depending on where you are and what the geological makeup of the area is, those secondary

contaminants and their concentrations can change.

In central Florida’s case, the source of those sulfates is predominantly from the mineral gypsum.

Disney gets their water from a specific part of the aquifer, known as the Upper Floridan

Aquifer, and they do it through a series of nine wells.

For context, Florida in total has about 12,000 wells.

Reedy Creek pumps anywhere from 15 to 17 million gallons of water a day through four seperate

pump stations.

From there they use over 70 miles of pipe to distribute the water across property.

So how much sulfate is exactly in the water?

Looking at a secondary contaminant report from the Florida Department of Environmental

Protection, water from the four Reedy Creek pumps has an average sulfate concentration

of 8.4 milligrams per liter.

Now on it’s own that doesn’t really mean much, but for context the EPA sets the upper

limit for safe drinking water at 250 milligrams per liter.

So while it’s there enough to impact the taste, it doesn’t even come close to being

an unsafe concentration.

And that ultimately is why Reedy Creek, like most municipalities, doesn't do anything about it.

Their water treatment systems are exclusively used to disinfect water in order to meet the

state and national drinking water standards.

The technology does exist to remove sulfates from water, however they’re often either

costly or slow and so they’re not very practical on the kind of scale that would be needed

to treat all the water being used across property.

There are plenty of options for filtering a bottle or pitcher of water, and even homes

that use private wells sometimes have larger filtration systems, but Reedy Creek is pumping

and treating millions of gallons of water a day.

So ultimately the task of dealing with the taste of that Disney tap water is up to you.

Now you could pay $3.50 for a bottle of water in the parks if you want.

However you can also buy and bring one of the many brands of water bottles today that

come with a filter built into it.

They’ll usually filter the water enough to improve the taste and save you some money

in the process.

Disney’s tap water, for better or for worse, is a reminder that when we turn that sink

faucet or hit that water fountain button, we’re usually getting more than just H2O.

That's often good, because it means we’re also getting things like minerals and fluoride

which improve the water.

But every so often it also means you get that distinct sulfur taste.