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Drinking Water Quality Reports for Consumers

2011 April 29

By Cynthia Dougherty

Do you know where your tap water comes from and what’s in it? When I grew up, in the era before smart phones and computers, power was with the people who held information. Today, information is available to us all so we can make personal decisions. Like many Americans, I look at ingredient and nutrition information in the grocery store – is this organic? Does it have unnatural chemicals like MSG? Does it have trans fats? I’ve spent much of my career at EPA working towards clean and safe water, and I’m pleased that I can now also know what’s in the water I drink every day.

Now’s a good time to start thinking about what’s in your water – sometime before July 1, you should be getting a report with your water bill that tells you where your water comes from, as well as how it’s treated, what contaminants, if any, have been detected, and how that compares to the levels that have been determined to be safe. Because of the Consumer Confidence Rule (CCR), water systems are required to provide their customers with an annual accounting of their tap water. However, most of the population receives this information as a bill insert, and many just discard it without looking at this important public health information.

Recently, consumer awareness has been piqued by news stories and TV shows covering possible risks to drinking water. Our office has received many inquiries from people asking for information about the safety of their drinking water, and I’m glad to see it. After one high profile show, the website where EPA links to local drinking water information got more than 100,000 hits in one week. Understanding where your water comes from is key to protecting it. People who are informed about their water are people who volunteer to clean up water sources, who speak up about decisions that affect water management, and who support the work water utilities need to do to treat water and maintain infrastructure.

When I tell people where I work, the first thing they always ask is if I drink the water. And after my time working with the dedicated EPA employees who set drinking water standards and work to see that they are effectively implemented, I can always answer with confidence that yes, I do.

About the author: Cynthia Dougherty is the Director of the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water at EPA

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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14 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    April 29, 2011

    My Wastefully Water Country.-

    I am boring to write about my country. All aspect is worst, indeed my favorite thing, batik, is made by the other country and the people were import it. Tragic! And also tragic is the water. Almost the people use it from ground water, not tap water. So, we are difficulty to check in about its pH. Oh my God, my country is natural richest, but the people cannot drink it…..!!!

  2. Linda permalink
    April 29, 2011

    I will be looking for that report. The only time I ever saw a report from my water system, they were notifying customers that there had been high levels of fecal colifom detected. Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled to read the notice after the fact. Since then, I feel leary of trusting that my water is clean and safe. Since my bill is nothing more than a postcard, I would notice any report, annual or otherwise – there haven’t been any.

  3. FluorideFreeFlorida permalink
    April 29, 2011

    Topical applications may be fine but everyone should reconsider ingesting it through the tap water. Approximately 75% of Florida residents are being forced to ingest fluorosilicic acid by the municipal governments. The FDA has approved 3 fluoride compounds to be used in toothpaste but has NEVER approved of the toxic waste that they are polluting our drinking water with. Additionally, the EPA still considers the fluorosilicic acid put in our tap water to be toxic.

    Please join us in our effort to stop the practice of putting toxic chemicals in our tap water.

    Fluoride Free Florida

  4. Richard Kanak permalink
    April 29, 2011

    I believe that one of the problems with the report is that there is an insufficient number of tests preformed and the reported frequency of the tests is insufficient to determine the variables which may occur in a community well system. There seems to be a deficiency in testing also for agricultural contamination.

  5. Mark permalink
    April 29, 2011

    There are company’s out there that offer Water from Air technology also known as atmospheric water generators. These systems generate water that is 100% free of chlorine, fluoride, lead, recycled water, effluent and other toxic wastes. Most filtration systems remove all trace minerals from the water, thereby producing clean water. However there are systems that are specifically designed to retain the beneficial minerals that keep you healthy whilst removing impurities. So not only does an atmospheric water generator eliminate the need for plastic bottle the water generated with these dispensers costs in the neighborhood of 6 cents per gallon.

  6. Pravin IIT permalink
    April 29, 2011

    Dear Cynthia,

    Congrats for your efforts to bring the information in the public domain. Its really possible to open country like US but in other countries the situation is different. The agencies responsible for drinking water production and distribution never take any responsibility. Lets hope, they will also follow your steps!!!!

    Being a research student with area of residues research and emerging molecules in water matrices, your reports will be encouraging for me.

    With Regards,
    Pravin
    IIT Delhi (India)

  7. Watch TV Shows Online permalink
    April 30, 2011

    It is really a big achievement. We know that without efforts we can’t do nothing. Your work is really appreciated.

  8. Afrika permalink
    May 1, 2011

    ”you should be getting a report with your water bill that tells you where your water comes from, as well as how it’s treated, what contaminants, if any, have been detected, and how that compares to the levels that have been determined to be safe.” Looking forward to seeing the report…it is more than pay water bills, we have to demand for quality and safer services.

  9. Ruth permalink
    May 1, 2011

    It is good to know that people are bringing our attention to problems with our water. Probably there is not enough tests done on our water as a previous poster mentioned, however, until people complain enough then there will be nothing done about it.

    Best wishes,

    Ruth

  10. mike permalink
    May 1, 2011

    they had a water test at my local science museum. It was great!

  11. Mihai Rosu permalink
    May 2, 2011

    Hi, thanks for sharing your information. My father work at a water company and he use to take water sample weekly to his laboratory and exam it.

  12. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    May 9, 2011

    Thank you for a great article.
    I did see a report from the Pacific Institute on nitrate contamination in California’s San Juaquin Valley. One of the points brought out was that small water systems are the most likely to have serious problems with nitrate contamination of the drinking water. When this happens notices are supposed to go out to residents. But the notices can be written at an 8th grade reading level. Many of the people most impacted by nitrate contaminated drinking water in the Valley, are low to very low income, don’t speak English that well, and don’t have the education. A number of these people are still drinking the contaminated water eventhough it is unhealthy. Some believe that boiling the water will eliminate the contamination and make the water safe; but boiling nitrate contaminated water actually makes the problem worse. People who do understand the notices are buyimg vended water or bottled water to have safe water to drink and cook with, but they are still paying for the water supplied by thelocal water agency. This makes the total cost for water much higher than EPA’s standard for affordible water. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  13. Harry Satria permalink
    July 13, 2011

    I agree with this :

    1) Most filtration systems remove all trace minerals from the water, thereby producing clean water

    2) Being a research student with area of residues research and emerging molecules in water matrices, your reports will be encouraging for me

    I have a blogs to reviews

  14. gnc coupons permalink
    July 21, 2011

    hi Cynthia Dougherty,

    To be honest with you I never drink any tap water I was surprise and America some people drinking that water!

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