Finding Your Water Quality Report

#Before you can read the report, you need to have it. If you don't have the hard copy mailed out from your utility (they usually come out in July) then you may be able to find a copy online. The easiest way to see if the report is available online is to google (click on image to the right) "the city you live in" + "water quality report". For example you would enter Omaha, NE water quality report. This should provide a link to a page that contains the report. If not, then search for "the city you live in" + "consumer confidence report". If you pay someone other than your city for your water then enter those search terms instead, for instance 'American Water, CA' for American Water of California. Some reports are not posted online in which case you will need to call your local water company and they will mail out or you can pick up a copy of the most recent report.

Understanding Your Water Quality Report

#Public or community water systems are required to provide a drinking water quality report to its customers on an annual basis. These reports (also known as consumer confidence reports-CCR), which EPA developed in consultation with water suppliers, environmental groups, and the states, enable Americans to make practical, knowledgeable decisions about their health and their environment. Many bottled water companies also provide a water quality report to their consumers. These reports can be distributed through a variety of means including printed publications, internet, postings and direct contact. They help people make informed choices about the water they drink, and let them know what contaminants if any, are in their drinking water or bottled water. CCRs also give the public water system a chance to tell customers what it takes to deliver safe drinking water and how contaminants may affect their health.

Some public water systems may be exempted from certain testing requirements. Also, public drinking water may be allowed under EPA regulations to exceed the MCL's for certain contaminants under special conditions. Should public water systems exceed an EPA MCL, they must notify their customers of that exceedance. Additionally, public drinking water that exceeds the microbiological standard for coliform and e coli is required to issue a boil water alert to its customers for health and safety purposes. Bottled water may not exceed the MCL for any contaminants under any condition. A recall is required on all affected bottled water product if an MCL is exceeded.

The EPA has a site that provides greater details on Consumer Confidence Reporting. It can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/ccr/basicinformation.html. While the EPA regulates public water supplies as a utility, the FDA regulates bottled water as a food product. Public water systems must meet EPA Drinking Water Standards as established under the EPA Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Bottled Water must meet the FDA Bottled Water Regulations and through the SDWA also meet EPA Drinking Water Standards.

Understanding Water Quality Terms

Water quality reports use terms that help to define and report on the presence or absence of contaminants, substances or physical parameters. Common to both bottled water and public drinking water are the terms:

MCL: Maximum contaminant level: the highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. MCLs are set as close to the maximum contaminant level goals as feasible using the best available treatment technology.
MCLG: Maximum contaminant level goal: the level of a contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MCLGs allow for a margin of safety.

Because typical public drinking water systems treat surface water with best available methods, they may also report in terms such as:

TT: Treatment technique: a required process intended to reduce the level of a contaminant in drinking water.
AL: Action level: the concentration of a contaminant which, if exceeded, triggers treatment or other requirements which a water system must follow.
Variances and Exemptions: State or EPA permission not to meet an MCL or a treatment technique under certain conditions.
MRDLG: Maximum residual disinfection level goal. The level or a drinking water disinfectant below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MRDLGs do not reflect the benefits of the use of disinfectants to control microbial contaminants.
MRDL: Maximum residual disinfectant level. The highest level of a disinfectant allowed in drinking water. There is convincing evidence that addition of a disinfectant is necessary for control of microbial contaminants.