Drinking Water Quality Reports for Consumers
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
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