How to Make Sense of Water Quality Reports from your Local Water Utility
It’s undeniable that knowing what’s in your water is, at the very least, prudent. At SimpleWater, we think it’s crucial. What you put in your body impacts both your short-term and long-term health. Our goal is to enable people to both discover and understand what is in their drinking water. Our Tap Score home water testing kits are one means of spreading that goal, but there are lot of other resources out there that that can shed some light about what flows from your tap. If you are wondering why your tap water, smells, looks, or even tastes funny–a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) is one way to start finding answers.
What is a Consumer Confidence Report?
Simply put, a CCR is a water quality report. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) the purpose of these reports are to improve public health protection and provide information to enable water consumers to make educated decisions regarding potential health risk pertaining to the following:
- Drinking water quality
- Drinking water treatment
- Drinking water supply management
You will only receive a CCR if you are on a community water system. People who receive their water from a private well do not receive CCRs, as private wells are not regulated by the EPA. However, if you are on a private groundwater well and would like more information–we recommend taking a look at the Center For Disease Control’s Private Ground Water Wells page.
How Can I Receive My Consumer Confidence Report?
The way you are able to access your CCR depends on your living situation.
- If you live in a home: You will most likely automatically receive a copy of your CCR from your local water utility via mail each year.
- If you live in a condominium or apartment: You may not receive a direct copy of their CCR. However, you can still access your water quality reports by calling your local water provider or looking up your community water system’s website. If your community water system does not have a website, search your area on the Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) and try calling them or your local water district
What Does a Consumer Confidence Report Tell You?
At first glance, CCRs can appear quite technical. However, once you know what to look for, you will find a wealth of valuable information. All Consumer Confidence Reports are required to contain certain elements, such as information regarding:
- Your source water
- Definitions of water-related acronyms
- Detected contaminants, their sources, and health effects
- Monitoring of Cryptosporidium, Radon, and Other Contaminants–if detected
- Compliance with drinking water regulations
- Educational information and resources
All data on your CCR will be tailored to your local water utility.
Here’s a great sample CCR report (courtesy of the National Science Foundation):
What Does All of This Mean?!
To read the CCR above, you can interpret each column as telling you:
Column 1: What contaminant they evaluated (e.g. Barium)
Column 2: The contaminant Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) and Maximum Contaminant Level Goals
Column 3: The average concentration of that contaminant that was detected in your water in the water test
Column 4: The range of concentrations of the contaminant that was detected in your water (they take multiple samples)
Column 5: Whether or not the concentration in your water violates the MCL
Column 6: Explanation of where the contaminant comes from naturally
Column 7: A short overview of health effects related to the contaminant.
What To Do If You Are Concerned About Your Consumer Confidence Report?
Unfortunately, Consumer Confidence Reports do not always report 100% clean water results.. Frequently, chemicals and contaminants may be present in your water, and it might have you feeling confused or concerned. Rightfully so!
If you are concerned about the content of your CCR, the good news is there are things you can do. Along with calling your local water utility directly, some resources include:
Our Tap Score home-testing kit is another great resource if your questions were not addressed on your CCR. We test for over 400 contaminants, will provide you with cutting edge water health analysis, unbiased treatment recommendations. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be happy to help!
- The EPA’s CCR Frequent Questions page. This is a good resource if you have general questions.
- The EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 can also provide answers.