Communities magically get their water from a faucet. Few people stop to think about where it comes from or what safeguards are used to get safe drinking water to you and your neighbors.
A community generally pulls water from water wells or from a surface water source such as a lake or river. This water may have bacteria, viruses, chemicals, and other sources of contaminants that need to be removed. For more detailed information on contaminants and the types of water filters that remove them, visit our Types of Water Contaminants Removed by Reverse Osmosis page.
Most water systems in the United States are very safe and are monitored for water quality. Each year, the community water system is inspected. The community water supply is required to provide a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) about the quality of the drinking water provided. The CCR report is due on July 1st of each year and is usually mailed out to each water customer. People living in apartments or other types of rentals may need to contact the owner or management company for their rental. Alternatively, you can request a CCR from the water utility directly.
How to Read a CCR Water Quality Report
The CCR includes important information about your water quality that you should be aware of. This article will hit the parts of the report that you should pay attention to.
Section 1 - Introduction
Date & Conformity
The introduction includes the date and a brief introduction stating how the utility conformed to the EPA rules.
This section has precautions for people who may be allergic to or have reactions from certain chemicals used to make the water safe for drinking. If you or a loved one is susceptible to chemicals, this section should be read carefully.
Where doe the water come from? Does the water that the utility decontaminates come from a river or from a lake? These questions are answered in this section.
Section 2 - Assessment, Contaminants and Monitoring
Source Water Assessment and Availability
This describes the testing performed on the water source. As described above, the water source is where the water is taken from (rivers, lakes, wells, etc). In some cases, this section will tell you what types of contaminants could be in the water and where these contaminants come from.
For example, the report may point out that rainwater runoff from a nearby feed lot may flush animal waste into the lake that is the water source for the community. This section is important because it means the water can be decontaminated even when these risks are taken into account.
Why Are There Contaminants In My Drinking Water
This section describes the contaminants in the drinking water. In many cases, this seems very alarming but keep in mind that they need to spell out all the possible sources of contamination.
Monitoring and Reporting of Compliance Data Violations
This is a very important section because it spells out violations where the water supply did not pass the EPA regulations. Examples may include a contaminate that is above the EPA acceptable level such as a higher level of lead in the water. This section should also include how the problem was fixed or is being addressed.
Section 3 - Lead, Nitrate and Water Quality Data Table
Additional Information about lead
This section will give an overview about the dangers of lead. Although this is initially alarming, it is included in every report so it doesn't necessarily mean you have lead in your water. See the data table below to verify.
Additional Information about Nitrates
Similar to the lead information section, this section provides info on nitrates if the level is above 5mg/L.
Water Quality Data Table
The contaminants that were found during testing are listed here in a format similar to that below (courtesy of the CDC website).
- Contaminants - This lists all the contaminants found in the water. Just because it is listed, the level may not be unsafe - check the Violation column before jumping to conclusions.
- MCLG/MRDLG - MCLG (Maximum Contaminant Level Goal) & MRDLG (Maximum Residual Disinfection Level Goal) - These are numbers that will trigger a violation if your water is above this number.
- MCL, TT, or MRDL - MCL (Maximum Contaminant Level), TT (Treatment Technique) and MRDL (Maximum Residual Disinfection Level)
- Your Water - This field shows the contamination level for your water source. If this number is larger than MCLG then this will be a violation.
- Range - the range of the contaminants detected during different times of the year. The concentration levels may change during the year.
- Sample Date - Date when the sample was collected for analysis.
- Violation - If the level listed in the "Your Water" field is higher than the maximum level allowed by the EPA, this violation field will be Yes.
- Typical Sources - This lists where the contaminants may be coming from.
Section 4 - Action Levels, Violations and Exceedances
- AL - Action Level - The level that will result in a violation.
- # of Samples Exceeding AL - the number of samples that exceeded the AL.