How to Understand Your Water Quality Report

Your Water Quality Report, also called Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), contains important information about the quality of the drinking water that is delivered to your home 365 days a year. As required by law, the United States Environmental Protection Agency Safe Drinking Water Act states that all public water systems notify their customers each year on July 1 with information indicating contaminant levels in drinking water. Following yearlong water quality testing, data is compiled and must be available to all customers by mail and/or online. If you have trouble finding your report, the EPA provides a link to easily identify your water provider and search for your CCR.

Once you have your report you may have trouble understanding what exactly the data means. We have identified simple tips when reading your report and what to look for.

  1. Lead and Copper Rule

Corrosion of water pipes can often lead to lead and copper in drinking water. Lead can be toxic, especially to individuals with compromised immune systems and children. The Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) was created to ensure safe drinking water is sent to homes. The Rule states that no more than 15 ppb (parts per billion) for lead and 1.3 ppm (parts per million) for copper can be present in more than 10 percent of homes tested.

TIP: Check the lead ppm and copper ppm. Is the copper 1.3 ppm or less? If yes, your water is within safe limits. What about lead, is it 15 ppb or less? If yes, the lead detected is within allowable limits. Some reports may state, “none detected” this means no contaminant was detected in the testing samples.

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  1. Compare MCL to area where you live

Your report will contain tables listing contaminants and what the levels detected were for specific areas. First, find the contaminant that you wish to evaluate. Look at what the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) is. The MCL is the highest level that a contaminant can safely be present in drinking water. Next, see what the level is for the area in which you live. You can choose to view either the average or the complete range for the contaminants present in your service area.

TIP: Compare the MCLs for each contaminant to the levels for the area in, which you live. How do they compare?

  1. What does the PHG column mean?

The PHG column represents the “Public Health Goals.” Public Health Goals are set by the California Environmental Protection agency. They are not mandated, however they represent the level at which a contaminant has no known or expected health risks.

Tip: Compare the PHGs for each contaminant to the levels for the area in which you live. How do they compare? Public Health Goals can differ from MCLs and not all PHGs have a maximum level stated.

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  1. Special Health Concerns

For water consumers with special health concerns, such as those with dialysis machines, chloramines in the water (used for cleaning) can be toxic. Contact a doctor for appropriate water. Fish tanks and aquariums can also be affected by chloramines in the water. Pretreating water with chemicals or certain filters are available to remove chloramines.

Nitrates levels above 10 milligrams (mg/L) per liter can also be a concern for infants less than six months old. It can be problematic with the infant’s blood ability to carry oxygen. Pregnant women and people with certain enzyme deficiencies can be harmed by nitrate levels exceeding 10 mg/L as well.

Tip: Do you have a special health concern or compromised immune system? Speak to a medical professional about the water delivered to your home to ensure that your health is not at risk based on the data from your Water Quality Report.

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  1. Water Hardness

Water hardness can be a nuisance. It can corrode pipes and buildup on faucets in your home. The United State Geological Survey (USGS) states that, 89.3% of homes in the United States are considered to have hard water. While water hardness does not necessarily pose a health concern, it can be reported in your CCR. At what level is water considered, “hard?” Less than 17.1 milligrams per liter is considered “soft.” Between 17.1–60 mg/L is slightly hard. Water from 60-120 mg/L is moderately hard and over 180 mg/L is severely hard.

Tip: Compare your hardness level to the numbers above. How hard is your water? If you have hard water, treatments are available to soften water. Be sure to research water softeners for environmental impacts. While these water systems may provide more visually appealing dishes and appliances, they do not provide changes to the health of your water. Furthermore, many systems exchange sodium for magnesium and calcium.

When reading your Consumer Confidence Report read the stories included in the document. The report may contain water-saving tips, an explanation of the costs associated with making your water safe to consume, information on where your water comes from and infrastructure projects in place that ensure that every single time you turn on the tap safe water comes out.