Guide to Drinking Water

guide to drinking water

How to test or check the water quality of your water supply and prevent contamination from bacteria, lead, and other contaminants. Read more to protect yourself and your family. 

In this article:

Best Practices for Households with Public Drinking Water

Best Practices for Households with Private Drinking Water (Well or Springs)

Bottled Water Best Practices

 


Best Practices for Households with Public Drinking Water

Testing for Public Drinking Water

 

Is it necessary to test Public Drinking Water?

Generally, no, because test results for public drinking water are already available; however, additional testing may be recommended for households with older plumbing.

Where can I find the results of the tests of my Public Drinking Water?

The EPA requires community or public water systems to deliver a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), also known as an annual drinking water quality report, to their customers each year by July 1st.  These reports describe where the water comes from and what is in it.

Find your Local CCR or Annual Drinking Water Quality Report

Find EPA Violation Reports of your Local CCR or Public Water Provider


How can I protect the quality of my Public Drinking Water?

Prevent Bacteria

Generally, contamination of Public Drinking water happens within the home’s plumbing, but occasionally there are advisories from the Public Water Provider.

Review the CCL and sign up for Advisories and Notices from your provider (Public Water), including:
  • Review the most recent CCL or Annual Water Quality Report of your drinking water provider (Public Water)
  • Review any violation reports your drinking water provider may have received (Public Water)
  • Make sure you are receiving
    • Coliform Boil Water Advisories
    • E. Coli Bacteria Notices
    • Do Not Drink Orders
    • Do Not Use Orders
    • Other Public Notices
Maintain and repair the Home’s plumbing to prevent Bacteria:
  • Verify that all hose attachments (including at utility sinks, if present) are fitted with anti-siphon devices to prevent water contamination. 
  • If point-of-use water filtration systems are used, ensure they are correctly installed and maintained.
  • Maintain your water heater and expansion tank
  • Expansion tanks, if present, should not be ruptured. Water heaters should be set between 120F-140F or 49C-60C to prevent the growth of bacteria, which can cause Legionnaires Disease.
  • Flush your water heater annually

Prevent Lead Poisoning

Lead pipes are more likely found in older cities and homes built before 1986.  Prevent Lead poisoning by replacing older plumbing materials such as:

  • Lead and galvanized water distribution pipes
  • Brass or chrome-plated faucets
  • Lead solder in copper pipes

 

Best Practices for Households with Private Drinking Water

Private Drinking Water Testing

Owners of private wells or spring systems for drinking water are responsible for their testing.

 

How Often Should Private Drinking Water be tested?

The EPA recommends testing every year.

What should Private Drinking Water be tested for?


The EPA recommends testing every year for

  • Total Coliform Bacteria
  • Nitrates
  • Total Dissolved solids
  • pH Levels

North Carolina DHHS recommends regular water testing:

Every Year: Test for total and fecal coliform bacteria.

Every Two Years: Test for heavy metals, nitrates, nitrites, lead, and copper.

Every Five Years: Test for pesticides and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). 

If you know of a particular pesticide applied in your area, test it yearly.

Where can Private Drinking Water be tested?

There are three options for private well or spring drinking water testing in the US.

County Water Testing (Environmental Health)

Testing through the County Health Department is generally the best option for homeowners who do not have time constraints (not during real estate transactions). County Health Departments have programs to help residents test through the State Laboratory (every US state has a State Laboratory that tests drinking water according to EPA standards).  To test your water with the State Laboratory, contact your local health department (please do not contact the State Laboratory directly) – your county health department will send in your sample, along with the correct forms. The State Laboratories are excellent and reliable water testing resources for residents with private wells or spring water.  Fees, procedures, and ordinances vary from county to county.

US County Water Testing Contact
NC County Water Testing Contact

Advantages of County Water Testing

County/State water testing is affordable and convenient. Water testing is accurate and reliable—the State Laboratories test for all contaminants on EPA Primary and Secondary Standards lists.


Disadvantages of County Water Testing

Turnaround times can be slow (6 weeks or more), which is inconvenient during real estate transactions.

Private State-Certified Lab Water Testing
US Private State-Certified Lab Contacts

NC Private State-Certified Lab Contacts
Advantages of Private State-Certified water testing

Accurate laboratory testing by a certified lab.  No other real advantages over State Laboratories.

Disadvantages of Private State-Certified Water Testing

Private State-Certified labs are used primarily by larger organizations- water testing for individuals by these labs is generally expensive and inconvenient and has longer turnaround times. Private State-Certified Labs typically are specialized and do not test for everything that may be on the EPA’s Primary Standards list (many of them outsource or send to other sister labs, which can drive up costs and turnaround times).

Labs that are not State-Certified
Advantages of Water Testing through Labs that are not State-Certified

Convenient, intuitive online ordering, affordable, quicker turn-around times. This may be the best option during a real estate transaction.

Disadvantages of Water Testing through Labs that are not State-Certified

These chemical tests (Hach/colorimetric) are often less accurate and reliable than laboratory testing.  These laboratories are not certified or regulated.  These companies typically test for only a limited number of contaminants.

How can I protect the quality of my Private Drinking Water?

Prevent Bacteria

Maintain and repair the Home’s plumbing to prevent Bacteria:

  • Well pressure system equipment should be serviced and maintained annually
  • Verify that all hose attachments (including at utility sinks, if present) are fitted with anti-siphon devices to prevent water contamination. 
  • If point-of-use water filtration systems are used, ensure they are correctly installed and maintained.
  • Maintain your water heater and expansion tank
  • Expansion tanks, if present, should not be ruptured. Water heaters should be set between 120F-140F or 49C-60C to prevent the growth of bacteria, which can cause Legionnaires Disease.
  • Flush your water heater annually

Prevent Lead Poisoning

Lead pipes are more likely found in older towns and homes built before 1986.  Prevent Lead poisoning by replacing older plumbing materials such as:

  • Lead and galvanized water distribution pipes
  • Brass or chrome-plated faucets
  • Lead solder in copper pipes

Other Best Practices

  • Drinking Water should be tested annually or as needed (see above)
    • If the house is left vacant for some time, test it again
  • Acidic water should be neutralized mainly in older homes, to help prevent leaching metals and possible lead poisoning
  • Avoid these common mistakes which are common in our area
    • The number one mistake of homeowners in our area is failing to maintain the Well equipment and/or water filtration equipment
    • Unsealed openings at the wellhead or spring box
    • Grade slopes toward wellhead or spring box
    • Moldy well head enclosure or insulation (we recommend Well insulation bags)
    • Fertilizers or chemical treatments or storage near the wellhead or spring box
  • Well systems should be serviced and inspected annually or as needed
    1. Follow up with all the contractor repair recommendations
    2. Whole house water filtration equipment must also be maintained annually or as needed

 

Bottled Water Best Practices

How can I verify the quality of Bottled Water?

The FDA regulates bottled water. The FDA is currently reviewing labeling standards but, in the meantime, acknowledges that some manufacturers are misleading with their labeling and that bottled water can be ‘tap’ water or bottled Public Water.

Learn more about the quality of your Bottled by reviewing the following:

How can I prevent the contamination of Bottled Water?

Prevent Bacteria

  • Avoid drinking from a water bottle that has been opened and stored in a hot area (like your car) to prevent a possible infection from bacteria.

     

  • The CDC recommends that commercially bottled water is treated and labeled  in one of the following ways to prevent Cryptosporidium infection (parasites)

    • Reverse Osmosis

    • Distilled

    • Filtered through an absolute 1 micron or smaller filter

    • “One-micron absolute”

Prevent Chemical Leaching

Water stored in plastic bottles is subject to the leaching of chemicals. Leaching worsens when the bottles are subject to heat. The long-term potential health effects of some of these chemicals have yet to be fully understood.

  • Do not leave in the car (heat)
  • Do not store in un-conditioned areas
  • Examine the bottles for signs of physical damage that may have occurred during transportation and storage.

Where can more information on Bottled Water be found?

EPA’s Bottled Water Fact Sheet

CDC on Bottled Water

FDA on Bottled Water

 

Well Inspections and Water Testing in Asheville and WNC

Our Company, Builder Buddy Inspections & Testing, provides Well Inspections, Septic Inspections, Water Testing, and other Inspection services.  We are a highly-rated Well Inspection company based out of Asheville that provides high-quality inspection and testing reports and services.  If you are located within 40 miles of Asheville call us today to set up an appointment or schedule here.

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