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.