You’ve Got Mail, and it’s Your Electronic Drinking Water Report

By Christina Catanese

Each year by July 1st, you should receive a short report (called a consumer confidence report or drinking water quality report) in the mail from your public water supplier that tells you two main things: where your water comes from and what’s in it.  It’s an annual water quality report that a community water system is required to provide to its customers each year.  The report lists the regulated contaminants found in your drinking water, as well as health effects information related to any violations of the drinking water standards.

You might be thinking, “Wow, that sounds like a useful report!  But snail mail?  I’d rather read it on my smart phone/tablet/computer/other electronic device.”  And you wouldn’t be the only one.

Many stakeholders – from drinking water customers to water systems – have asked EPA about electronic delivery of consumer confidence reports.  EPA has recently issued guidance  on how water systems can take advantage of digital communication methods to reach their customers and save on distribution costs, while still meeting the requirements of the Consumer Confidence Report Rule.

Tools of the digital age present an opportunity for more effective and accessible delivery of these drinking water quality reports.  With electronic delivery, consumers could get this information on their digital devices and on the go, which increases the visibility of these reports and can even boost readership.  Utilities could reduce the expense of printing and mailing reports, which means fewer costs that might be passed on to consumers in potential rate increases.

There are lots of benefits to electronic delivery, but there can be limitations too.  Our new memorandum provides guidance on how systems can take advantage of digital communication tools in the way that’s best for them while still meeting the requirements of the report.  Get more details here.

At 2 pm today, Thursday March 7,  EPA is holding a webinar for community water systems, state and federal drinking water regulators and other interested parties to discuss the new memorandum and electronic delivery methods. Attendees will have an opportunity to ask questions so register if you’re interested!

And remember…this year, you could be receiving your consumer confidence report from your water system electronically.  So be on the lookout for communication from your utility on their delivery plans so you don’t miss your report!  There may be a notice on your water bill if your water system plans to change the way they distribute reports, like the sample below.

 Sample utility bill announcing new electronic delivery program with direct URL to CCR and check box to opt out of electronic delivery and receive a paper copy of the CCR (items outlined in yellow).

Sample utility bill announcing new electronic delivery program with direct URL to CCR and check box to opt out of electronic delivery and receive a paper copy of the CCR (items outlined in yellow).

Do you read the report you receive from your drinking water provider?  Would you prefer electronic delivery?  Do you have ideas on how these reports could be more beneficial and accessible?  Tell us your thoughts!

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, in the Water Protection Division’s Office of Program Support. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied Environmental Studies, Political Science, and Hydrogeology. When not in the office, Christina enjoys performing, choreographing and teaching modern dance.

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