Learn About Water

Much more than just H2O!

Not one drop of the water we consume every day is comprised exclusively of hydrogen and oxygen molecules. It contains some amount of minerals, impurities, microorganisms and other contaminants. These substances may be present in only trace amounts, and don’t necessarily have negative health effects.

The United States enjoys one of the best supplies of drinking water in the world. However, while tap water that meets federal and state standards is generally safe to drink, threats to drinking water are increasing. Actual incidences of drinking water contamination are rare, and typically do not occur at levels likely to pose health concerns. Nevertheless, a wide variety of issues have the potential to contaminate drinking water. Likewise, drinking water that is not properly treated or disinfected, or that travels through an improperly maintained distribution system, may also pose a health risk. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Act requires municipalities to test water supplies once, twice, or several times per year, depending on the potential contaminants and the size of the population served. Municipalities don’t continuously monitor the water pipes that transport water to homes. Water that leaves the treatment facility can become contaminated by the time it shows up at your tap.

Water suppliers are required by law to promptly inform their customers if the water has become contaminated by something that can cause immediate illness. Water suppliers have 24 hours to inform their customers of violations of EPA drinking water standards “that have the potential to have serious adverse effects on human health as a result of short-term exposure.”

How to Find Out More

There are several key resources consumers can access to better understand the quality of their water. They include:

View Your System's Consumer Confidence Report
If your home is served by a community water system, you are entitled to view a copy of your municipality’s Consumer Confidence Report (CCR)The reports are due to customers by July 1 of each year.

The EPA defines a community water system as one that provides service to the same recipients, encompassing at least 25 people or 15 households, throughout the entire year. In essence, a CCR tells you where your water comes from and what's in it. It provides information on the source of the water supplied to your local system and the results of its recent water quality tests. It then compares the test results to the EPA’s health-based standard. 

Any community water system that serves more than 100,000 people is required to make its CCR available to customers on a publicly accessible web siteClick here for guidance from the EPA on locating the CCR for your community water system.

Check for Violations of EPA Regulations
The Safe Drinking Water Information System contains information about public water systems and their violations of EPA's drinking water regulations. These statutes and accompanying regulations establish maximum contaminant levels, treatment techniques, and monitoring and reporting requirements to ensure that water provided to customers is safe for human consumption. 

Learn about Possible Health Effects
Water quality criteria are developed by assessing the relationship between pollutants and their effect on human health and the environment. A human health criterion is the highest concentration of a pollutant in water that is not expected to pose a significant risk to human health. Access the EPA's national recommended water quality criteria for human health by clicking here.

Consider Individualized Testing
EPA testing is done at the community level and does not necessarily reflect the quality of the water at your home or business. After reading your CCR,  you may wish to test for specific contaminants (such as lead) that can vary from house to house, or any other contaminant you’re concerned about. You may also be concerned over certain
 perceptible issues such as the water's taste, odor or appearance. If this is the case, you may consider having additional tests performed through a certified water-testing laboratory. Each state certifies its own water testing laboratories and will be able to point you towards the laboratories more approximate to your location. 

To view the EPA's brochure on home water testing click here

To search for certified laboratories in your area, or to reach your state certification officer, click here