How To Read A Water Quality Report

April 29, 2016

A water quality report is a test that measures the concentration of minerals, metals, and pollutants in a water source. Here is the breakdown of a water quality report.

Where to find a water quality report

Most annual drinking water quality reports can be found on the Environmental Protection Agency's website. You can search for your local water authority or municipality by county.Not all counties have online reports listed, so you may have to contact the water authority directly. Reports may follow different templates and design, but they will have these water quality elements.

Water Source Overview

A water source is where municipal water is collected. If it is a river, lake, stream, well, or any other form of water collection, it’s listed here.The source section explains some of the geological features of the soil and some of the other environmental impacts for the geographic region.The water source overview includes a guide to the different pollutant classifications.These pollutants include:

  • Microbial contaminants
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Organic chemicals
  • Radioactive materials

The overview goes through the process of water treatment and the size of the water distribution system. Both of these factors will affect the water quality and give insight into how pollution and weather will affect your water quality.

Special notices and warnings

Depending on the water test, there may be some special warnings associated with the water quality. These warnings explain scenarios and illness that are a possible hazard in the system.A typical warning is a fluoride notice for nursing parents and young children. Fluoride-treated water may cause enamel fluorosis (the bleaching of teeth) during a child's tooth development stage.Another common one is a microbial contaminant warning. Runoff pollutants can cause microbial outbreaks in water systems, and although uncommon, still has to be addressed. The Safe Drinking Water Hotline handles issues with water quality reports and microbial issues.

Treatment plant findings

Test findings at a water treatment plant is the first of many levels of tests. Results are presented in a spreadsheet that breaks down the level of materials in the water. These results are collected during a year of water testing at the water treatment plant. The data is represented with the lowest, highest, and average observed amount.Amounts are recorded as a ratio such as parts per million, parts per billion, or parts per thousand. These ratios mean that for every one million, thousands or billion gallons of water, there is x amount of material.The spreadsheet will also state the Environmental Protection Agency's Maximum Contaminant Level Goal. These goals are the maximum ratio value of soluble material allowed in a water source. The EPA continues research into the effects of minerals, pollutants, and materials, and sets goals of ideal safe consumption values.

Distribution findings

The water distribution system is also tested for contaminants. Water mains are tested directly to observe the quality of water after passing through the treatment facility and moving through the distribution pipes.Pollutants can come from the water treatment process and any leaks in the water system. Leaks and disrepair happen naturally in a distribution network, and these can also be sources of pollution.Common pollutants on the distribution level are acids, chlorines, and methanes. These are regulated on the water treatment site and have low observed amounts in the water system.

Lead and copper testing

Lead and copper tests are taken from the tap water of homes across the distribution system. Lead and copper pollution is caused by copper and lead soldering in a home's piping system.The tap water test takes samples from a representative amount of homes across the total distribution systems and averages the levels. Copper and lead testing is very important for water quality safety.

Unregulated contaminants

The final list of contaminants are ones that the EPA does not regulate. These contaminants are not considered as harmful and the allowed consumption of them is not regulated. These pollutants are additives on the water treatment level. The treatment plant uses antimicrobial disinfectants to ensure safe drinking water, and these make up the typical pollutants found.

What to do about the information

A water quality test will help you make the best choice for your home and family. Depending on the concentration of minerals you may want to install a water softener. For your health and the well being of your plumbing, it is better to protect your home from the harmful effects of some of the water pollutants.If you live in the Austin or San Antonio areas and have any questions, give us a call or connect with us by filling out the form. We will help you make the right choice for your home and health.