How to Read You Annual Water Report

How to Read You Annual Water Report
When your home’s water supply comes from a public water supply, you may notice an annual drinking water quality report along with your water bill. This report is essential for you to be aware of your home’s drinking water safety. Here is everything you need to know about this report.

Consumer Confidence Report

Also called the “Water Quality Report,” is information that rates the condition of your local drinking water quality. It contains the source of your drinking water, a list of contaminants present, potential health effects, contaminant levels in your CCR compared to national standards, and any violations of health-based standards.

It also contains more sources of information such as EPA, your healthcare provider, and your water provider company.

A Little History on the Consumer Confidence Report (CCR)

An amendment of a federal law took effect on August 19, 1998, which requires the community water systems to send each household a detailed report of their water quality. This amendment is called the “Safe Drinking Water Act,” otherwise called the Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this act sets standards for drinking water quality and, with its partners, implements various technical and financial programs to secure safe drinking water.

Safe Drinking Water Act

SDWA has been repeatedly amended within over 20 years since 1974, the year it was originally passed. They made amendments to meet the needs of consumers across the United States. Most importantly, this is to protect public health by regulating the nation’s public drinking water supply.

There are more than 170,000 public water systems that provide clean drinking water to Americans. This federal law is just as crucial as refining and getting the water quality right for the American public. Thus, this report is given yearly.

When Is This Report Released?

The CCR is an annual report - also known as Water Quality Report released every July 1st. It shows the findings of the water testing from the previous year. For example, it displays information about your CCR from the previous year.

Who Receives This Report?

This law required the water companies to release this report to the residents. People who do not pay their water bills, such as those living in apartments, condos, or rent houses, may need to contact their building managers or owners. They can also check online to see if their CCR has been posted.

People who get their water from private wells are not regulated by EPA, so their CCR is not released and required. To learn more about safe water for maintaining private wells, visit Private GroundWater Wells of CDC.

What You’ll Learn Inside the Report

 The first page of the water quality report explains the standards upheld by your public water system provider. Local water system providers tailor their CCR information containing certain elements as follows:

Water Source
 This may include rivers, lakes, aquifers, or other sources. Identifying the sources is crucial to know the possible “contaminants” such as minerals or chemicals. These chemicals also include pesticides, herbicides, organic chemicals, and radioactive materials. The presence of microorganisms at water sources may exist at varying levels.
Levels of Contaminants
 Some contaminants listed as “contaminants” in your report are added as a disinfectant. Such disinfectants are chlorine and chloramine to kill germs in the water. They will still be listed as contaminants. 
This is why it is essential to know the ideal level of these contaminants in your water so that you can take additional precautions such as filtrating your water. This will save you from potential water-related illnesses.
EPA Standards for Safe Contaminant Levels
The EPA sets the standards of the level of contaminants in your water. The CCR shows these contaminants and their level and whether they “violated” the level they set. It is important to see whether there is a violation indicated “yes” in the report. Knowing this allows you to take steps in doing something with your water.
Health Effects of these Contaminants
The CCR indicates all the possible health effects of the contaminant found in your water. It also gives general information about common parasites that dwell in water sources such as Cryptosporidium. It is a kind of microscopic parasite that causes the diarrheal disease cryptosporidiosis or Crypto.
Other than health effects, it also accounts for the steps to be taken to restore the safety of your drinking water.
Other Important Information
CCRs include additional information such as phone numbers of  EPA’s Safe Water Hotline, your local Healthcare providers, and your Water Company. CCR also includes other additional information to help you better understand your water according to where your water sources are.

How to Interpret Your Water Quality Report

To understand better how the table or chart in your report flows, follow along with the number and their corresponding meaning below:

How to Read You Annual Water Report
  1. Contaminants: As seen in this table, they are not “bad” contaminants. They are anything found in your water other than oxygen and hydrogen, which make up water. Both can be healthy and unhealthy, depending on the kind of substance and quantity. 
  2. Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG): If you see “Your Water” value below this MCLG value, there is no expected or known risk to your health.
  3. Maximum Residual Disinfection Level Goal (MRDLG): If you also see the “Your Water” value is below this MRDLG value, there is also no expected or known risk to your health.
  4. Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL): If the value of  “Your Water” is above the MCL, your water system is violating EPA’s regulations.
  5. Treatment Technique: A necessary process to downsize the level of a contaminant in drinking water.
  6. Maximum Residual Disinfection Level (MRDL): The highest level of disinfection amount in your drinking water. An optimal amount of disinfection present in the water is enough to kill the microbes and germs.
  7. Your Water: The actual level of a contaminant in your water during sampling.
  8. Range Detected: It refers to the high and low at which contaminants are detected in your drinking water.
  9. Sample Date: The date(s) of testing. Some contaminants may not be tested every year.
  10. Violation: It shows whether an excessive level of contaminant surpassed the level set by EPA.
  11. Typical Sources: The information where the contaminants are found commonly

Water Quality Report and Its Sections

Section 1 - Introduction, Precautions, and Sources
This report should be received every July 1st. It shows the finding of the water testing from the previous year. What you see in your current CCR is the findings of the previous year.
Language Options
For non-English speaking populations, water providers must provide the CCR in the relevant languages. For example, Spanish, French, etc.
Is my water safe?
Your water provider may include an introductory statement about the previous year’s water quality results and compliance.
Do I need to take special precautions?
CCRs must state the specific people at risk of getting these contaminants found in their water. Such stated examples of people must seek advice about their drinking water from their health care providers.
Where does my water come from?
This part includes the source of water (well, rivers or lakes) delivered by the water provider. It also includes where the source is located.
Section 2- Water Assessment, Contaminants, Monitoring, and Involvement
Source Water Assessment and Its Availability
Assessments such as laboratory testing may be performed at your water source. The findings may also show the chemicals and germs present their quantity found in your water source.
Why are there contaminants in my drinking water?
The contaminants (chemicals or germs) can come from natural resources like a rock (arsenic) or are introduced by animals or people. Industrial sites may contribute to these contaminants in the water sources or places where they can travel to water through the ground. These types of contaminants are not easily removed in water treatments.
How can I get involved?
CCRs must provide information on how the public may participate in decisions that affect local drinking water quality.
Monitoring and reporting of compliance data violations
Should there be any violations on the levels of the contaminants in the water quality, the water provider must be able to explain why it happened. Such violations may affect health, so they must also explain how such violations can be assessed.
Section 3- Lead, Nitrate, and Water Quality Data Table
Additional Information for Lead
Lead is a very hazardous contaminant that may be present in your water sources. Even if a lead is not prevalent in your water sources, an educational statement is required on each CCR.
Additional Information for Nitrate
Other health-hazard contaminants such as nitrate may also be included in the informational statements in the CCR. This is especially true when a system detects its level above five mg/L but below the MCL level.
Additional information for Arsenic
Additional information for Arsenic may be included if a system detects it at above 0.005 mg/L and up to 0.010 mg/L. Naturally, arsenic is part of the rocks that dislodged and contaminated the water sources. 
Water Quality Data Table
Aside from the elements found in the typical CCR, the following are other terms that you may find in your CCR:

Contaminant Name: It is the name of the substance analyzed in the water, such as lead, sulfate, chloramine, fluoride, etc. The Safe Drinking Water Act defines a “contaminant” as any physical, biological, chemical, or radiological substances or matter present in the water. EPA monitored over 90 contaminants.

Contaminant Categories: This part in the table is a line that shows what groups of contaminants fall under. This usually includes categories such as Disinfectants (like chlorine and chloramine), Inorganic Contaminants (like lead, nitrate, and fluoride), and Organic Contaminants (like benzene and atrazine). Other categories may be seen depending on your water system.

Amount detected: The quantity of each contaminant found in your water source will also be shown here.

Other Options To Consider 

Bottled Water

Bottled water may cause much higher than tap water, but it may be a good temporary choice if your tap water has violations or has contamination from a local source. Natural occurrences would be during flooding.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water for drinking. FDA also sets quality standards that are more or less equivalent to EPA’s drinking water standards. FDA also recommends that bottled water be handled like other food products and refrigerated after opening because bacteria can grow after the bottle is exposed to air.

Bottled water quality differs among all other brands because of water source, handling, and treatment variations. Water is rarely completely free of contaminants. In most cases, contaminants are present at very low levels that do not pose serious health risks.

Home Water Treatment

Home water treatment is often more cost-effective than bottled water if you are concerned about contaminants found in tap water. Water treatment systems generally use one or a combination found in tap water. 

Water treatment systems generally use one or a combination of the following processes: disinfection (ultraviolet light or chlorination), filtration (including activated carbon filters), reverse osmosis, and distillation. When buying a treatment unit, make sure it is designed to remove the contaminants of concern.

How To Improve Your Water Quality

How to Read You Annual Water Report

The public can no longer relax and assume safe drinking water will always be provided. Public participation is needed to protect water resources, build adequate treatment plants, improve water delivery, analyze costs vs. risks, and enact appropriate legislation.

Local citizens will guide the wellhead protection planning process. This is an excellent opportunity for anyone concerned about safe water—for today and for the future—to get involved in protecting it. Private good owners must test their water regularly and protect the area around the well. 


The reports provide information to consumers about the quality of their drinking water. This information has always been available to consumers who requested it from their water supplier. Now it is provided in an easy-to-read format sent to your home. 

The guiding principle behind making water quality reports public is that the people have the right to know what is in their drinking water and their water source. Informed and involved citizens make wiser decisions. These decisions include investments made to protect and improve water quality, such as wellhead protection or treatment system upgrades. Consumer "right to know" is an essential theme of environmental protection today.

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