Water Supply Quality Testing Explained: Public vs. Private

Safe drinking water is one of the prerequisites of leading a healthy lifestyle.The importance of having a clean source of drinking water cannot be undermined, and the only way to ensure this quality standard, is by following regular water quality testing.

Public Water Systems

People who have access to public water systems are provided with an annual report called the Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). This is a comprehensive report that informs people of the quality of the tap water, it also reports on any irregularities in the drinking water. The people have the responsibility to constantly check up on their water systems to ensure that they are consuming water from safe sources.

People consuming water from public water systems have the liberty to check the quality of their drinking water through reports published in the Consumer Confidence Report or by visiting online resources like MyTapWater.org or their local water public water supplier’s website (CCRs are available here as are other figures).

People who have access to these reports must regularly check whether their water quality is within acceptable government standards or not. In case there are any inconsistencies, the people consuming drinking water from that particular public system must check up with the local water provider. The local authorities will be able to guide more on the efforts that are being taken to resolve the predetermined issues.

What these tests will not determine is any contamination of the water between the public water supply and our faucet. Old, cracked pipes, sediment, leaky connections, bad pipe work, expired filters and other things between the water supply and your faucet can degrade the quality of the water making testing at your faucet as important as testing at the water supply level.

Private Water Systems

Many people in the country have access to private water systems, i.e., private wells. People who depend on private systems for water supply do not get the annual Consumer Confidence Report. It is the responsibility of the people to take measures to ensure that timely tests are done to gauge the quality of their water source, so they must test the well water themselves.

Although there are numerous do-it-yourself kits available in the market, the government demands that water quality tests are done only through government-certified labs. There are lots of such labs mentioned on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website with the EPA’s rights and responsibilities being outlined in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Ban of Lead Pipes

The government has banned the use of lead pipes in plumbing systems since 1986. Although this rule is being stringently followed these days, there are lots of plumbing systems that still use lead pipes. More often than not, the existing lead pipe systems predate the ban. It is the responsibility of the people to ensure that they check the quality of their pipes for any lead content. Lead in drinking water can lead to serious contamination, and this can further lead to chemical contamination of drinking water.

If you live in a building with pre-1986 construction (assuming you are in the US) this is an important thing to recognize especially if you observe any changes to your water’s pH as this can disrupt the pipes.

Concluding Thoughts

Millions of people are diagnosed with water-borne diseases every year. The cause of these diseases can be traced back to the existence of disease-causing organisms called pathogens in drinking water. The only way to ensure that drinking water is safe from any kind of contamination is to ensure that regular testing is done. Testing ensures that any irregularities can be found out in advance, and measures can be taken to decontaminate water sources.

Closing thought: Checking for coliform bacteria in water samples is one of the best ways to determine whether a drinking water source has been contaminated or not. Once the problem has been identified, mandatory measures can be taken to resolve the issue.