We all have the right to know what’s in our drinking water. The Safe Drinking Water Act, passed in 1976, authorized the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set drinking water standards for all public water systems. Water utilities are required to monitor and treat drinking water to meet these federal standards and notify the public about any detected regulated contaminant or other water quality violation.
The centerpiece of these right-to-know provisions is the EPA annual water quality report.
A water quality report, also called a consumer confidence report, lets you know what contaminants, if any, are in your drinking water and how these contaminants may affect your health. It lists all the regulated toxicants that were detected in your water over the preceding calendar year.
A water quality report is available for every customer of a community water system, which is one that provides year-round service to more than 15 households or more than 25 people.
You should receive your report by July 1 of each year.
Every water quality report must contain:
Your water system must tell you about any violation of EPA water quality standards at the time it occurs and again in the annual report. You should not drink water that fails to meet EPA standards because it may be unsafe. Thankfully, public utilities have worked hard to improve water quality, and today, more than 90 percent of water systems meet all EPA regulations.
Another important part of the report is the list of all detected regulated contaminants. EPA sets the maximum level of contaminants — the MCL — that it will allow in drinking water based on the filtering and treatment capabilities of today’s technology. The water quality report also tells you about potentially harmful substances found in your water at levels below their legal limit, which often is or approaches the agency’s more stringent, optimum human health goal for the maximum level of contaminants, the MCLG.
This depends on the size of the water system. All large water systems mail out the reports, often as an insert in the bill, and very large systems must both mail and post them online. Small systems serving fewer than 10,000 people can have the mailing requirement waived. In this case, however, they must publish the report in at least one local newspaper and make it available to the public upon request.
Water systems also must make a “good faith effort” to reach renters, workers and other consumers who do not receive water bills. These systems should use a combination of different outreach methods, such as posting the reports online, mailing them and advertising in local newspapers.
More information is at epa.gov/safewater/ccr/index.html
For general queries, you can contact EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline toll-free at 1-800-426-4791.
Over nine million people living in New York City, Westchester, Putnam, Orange and Ulster Counties enjoy clean, unfiltered drinking water from the Croton, Catskill and Delaware watersheds.
Residents of New York City and the Hudson Valley who depend on the City’s unfiltered drinking water supply want to know whether their tap water is safe to drink. Riverkeeper’s Watershed Team has undertaken a multi-year study in order to answer that question. We examined and compared New York City’s water quality to the drinking water quality of thirteen other large U.S. cities, including four that also rely on unfiltered water supplies.