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Water Quality

People drink and use water every day. The majority of Americans are provided with high quality drinking water. About 90% of people in the U.S. (262 million in 2006) get their water from a community water system versus a smaller water supply such as a household well. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets regulations for treating and monitoring drinking water delivered by community water systems. Currently, there are water quality standards and monitoring requirements for over 90 contaminants. Drinking water protection programs play a critical role in ensuring high quality drinking water and in protecting the public's health.
Water is used for many purposes such as drinking, cooking, bathing, cleaning, and recreation. Contaminants in even a single drinking water system can harm many people. Because water is so important and common in daily life, there are many opportunities for contaminated water to enter the body. In some cases, people can inhale contaminated water through steam from dishwashers, showers, or washing clothes. However, this is only true for volatile organic compouds (VOCs). Some contaminants can be absorbed through the skin as well. It is important to remember that all contaminants do not act the same way; some contaminants can make people sick very quickly and others require exposure over many years before negative health effects are seen.
There are many ways in which contaminants can enter a drinking water system. Human activities such as fertilizer, pesticide, livestock operations, and manufacturing processes use chemicals that could enter the drinking water. Contaminants can also enter the water through naturally occuring chemicals and minerals such as arsenic, radon, and uranium. Other times, sewers overflow, wastewater treatment plants malfunction, or other accidents happen that can contaminate drinking water. Contaminants in drinking water can lead to a number of health issues, such as gastrointestial illness, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders. It is important to remember that the type of health issue and its severity depends on which contaminant type, its concentration in the water, and how long the exposure was.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to set and oversee standards to protect drinking water and make sure it is safe for consumption (see the Safe Drinking Water Act).
People who may be especially susceptible to contaminated water are
  • children
  • pregnant women
  • people with a weakened immune system
  • the elderly
Be informed about your water
  • Read your annual Consumer Confidence Report (sometimes called a Water Quality Report) about your public water system.
  • If you are one of the 15 percent of Americans who use their own source of drinking water, like a well, cistern, or spring, you are responsible for protecting your water supply. Find out what activities are taking place in your watershed that may impact the drinking water quality. Also, talk with local experts, test your water periodically, maintain your well, and close it properly.

Be observant about your water
  • Be aware and alert to announcements in the local media about local activities that may pollute your source water.
  • Call 911 if you see suspicious activity in or around your water supply.

Be involved with your water
  • Attend public hearing about new construction, storm water permitting, and town planning.
  • Ask questions on any issue that may impact your water source. (What specific plans have been made to prevent water contamination?)

Prevent water contamination
  • Reduce or eliminate pesticide application
  • Reduce the amount of trash you create by recycling and reusing containers, plastics, aluminum, and glass
  • Be aware of what you put in your septic system; chemicals may enter your drinking water

For more suggestions, see the U.S Environmental Protection Agency's list Protect Your Drinking Water for Life.
The Utah EPHT Network receives drinking water data from the Division of Drinking Water of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

The frequency of drinking water testing depends on factors such as the number of people served by a drinking water system, the type of water source, and the types of contaminants. Certain contaminants are tested for more frequently than others.

The information provided above is from the Department of Health's Center for Health Data IBIS-PH web site (http://ibis.health.state.gov). The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Thu, 14 December 2017 23:32:07 from Department of Health, Center for Health Data, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: http://ibis.health.state.gov ".

Content updated: Mon, 10 Apr 2017 14:40:52 MDT