Consumer Confidence Report

Your city tests your tap water regularly. Find out what they’ve learned.

By Adrienne Harris

“Is my city’s tap water safe?” I get this question from friends and family a lot because I work in EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water. Just recently, my parents moved to a new city and asked me if there was anything in the drinking water that they should be worried about. My response was, “Go read the latest Consumer Confidence Report!”

Many Americans get their water from a “community drinking water system,” including people living in cities, towns, manufactured housing communities and other facilities where people live full-time, such as nursing homes. Each spring, all community water systems in the United States send an annual water quality report, or consumer confidence report (CCR), to their customers (either by mail or online). After explaining that to my parents, we hopped on the computer and quickly found the CCR for their city posted online. We learned that their city had performed a total of more than 150,000 tests for different contaminants in their drinking water – and none were found to exceed EPA’s drinking water limits.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act, which was passed in 1974. In 1996, the Safe Drinking Water Act was amended to require all community water systems to provide consumer confidence reports to their customers. Every CCR must contain information about the water system’s drinking water source, possible contaminants and health effects, and other relevant information (to see all the requirements, go to http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/ccr/index.cfm). Systems are required to deliver this information to every consumer. Sometimes the CCR contains other useful information, too. My best friend is an avid fish collector who appreciated the information in her CCR about using her drinking water for her fish tank.

Water systems are also able to link to their online CCR on EPA’s website. Not all systems do that, but you can check for yours at: http://cfpub.epa.gov/safewater/ccr/index.cfm.

Like my parents, I also rely on my CCR to keep me informed about my city’s water. The Safe Drinking Water Act has strict standards for water quality in order to protect public health. As we mark the 40th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act, take a moment to review your CCR.

About the author: Adrienne Harris joined the U.S. EPA in 2005 as an environmental scientist and currently works in the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water. Adrienne serves a rule manager of the Disinfectants and Disinfection By-products Rules, Public Notification Rule and the Consumer Confidence Report Rule.

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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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.

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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The More You Know… About Your Drinking Water

By Christina Catanese

Delivering safe drinking water is a process many of us take for granted when we turn on the tap, but one that requires careful and constant management.

When you get mail from your water provider, it probably doesn’t seem any more exciting than any of the other bills in the mail pile.  But soon, you’ll be receiving something from your water system that you might want to take a closer look at.  It will certainly be more interesting than writing a check, and you’ll get some valuable information about your drinking water.

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 water supplier that tells you two main things: where your water comes from and what’s in it.

These annual reports provide tons of useful information in an overview of the quality of the water that comes out of your tap.  It will tell you the river, aquifer, or other source of drinking water that your water comes from, and the main threats to the source water in your area.  Your report will list any regulated contaminants that were detected in treated water in the last calendar year, whether there were any violations of EPA standards, and the possible risks to your health.

Besides providing a wealth of information, reports point you in the direction of places to learn even more, like EPA’s safe drinking water hotline, information about your local water system, and source water assessments.  Still thirsty for information about your drinking water?  Find information for your state here. Some state agencies also post information on the systems they regulate on Drinking Water Watch.

If you don’t get your annual report in the mail (or if it somehow gets eaten by the mail pile monster), you might be able to find it online.  Any community water system that serves more than 100,000 people is required to make its report available on the web.  Some smaller systems also post their reports online.  See if your water system’s report is posted here. You can always contact your water system if you can’t find your report or have questions about your drinking water supply.

Have you gotten your annual report yet?  Do you usually read them when you get them?  What information would you like to see that isn’t included in your annual report?  Tell us what you learned from your report in the comments section.

National Drinking Water Week is next week, May 6-12! Celebrate by taking some time to get to know your drinking water.

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, and her work focuses on data analysis and management, GIS mapping and tools, communications, and other tasks that support the work of Regional water programs. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Political Science and an M.S. in Applied Geosciences with a Hydrogeology concentration. Trained in dance (ballet, modern, and other styles) from a young age, Christina continues to perform, choreograph and teach in the Philadelphia area.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.