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News: Take Action for Conservation Is It Safe to Drink Your Water?


September 14, 2017

The majority of Americans are fortunate to be able to turn on a tap and have clean, safe water to drink. But how clean really is that water?  

The 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set national health-based standards for drinking water. The EPA works with states and public water services to meet these standards. There are approximately 170,000 U.S. water systems. Most are public groundwater systems dependent on underground aquifers, and many are surface water systems from rivers and lakes, and the EPA has oversight of all, except for private wells.  

The National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWR) set enforceable maximum contaminant levels in drinking water. There are 90-plus regulated contaminants with potential health effects. There is also a measurement of the maximum residual disinfectant level from the water treatment process.

States have the authority to implement the law and regulations in their jurisdictions. They require that public water systems and water suppliers provide annual Consumer Confidence Reports (CCR) on the source and quality of their tap water, how it has been treated, and how frequently it is tested. They must in turn notify consumers if water doesn’t meet standards or in the case of a waterborne disease emergency.  

Search the Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) Federal Reporting Services to find the CCR for your local water system. Reports give information on microorganisms, disinfectants, chemicals, and radionuclides. The reports also provide information on source water protection, when the last sanitary survey was done, and any contaminant violations, their sources, and mitigation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has A Guide to Understanding Your CCR. The Environmental Working Group has a Tap Water Database that rates local water systems.          


Download the GCA’s position paper on clean water.       


What can individuals do at home and in their communities?

  • Learn about the local water source.
  • Test your own water or take your water to an independent water testing lab.
  • Get to know your public water provider. Learn where your water comes from, how it is treated and distributed. Read the local water system’s annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR).  If water doesn’t meet standards, talk to the supervisor of the water system and ask how contaminants are being handled.
  • Communicate clean water priorities to elected officials.