Drinking Water Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) | Drinking Water | Healthy Water (2023)

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  • Water Sources
  • Public Water Systems
    • Water Quality
    • Water Testing
    • Water Advisories
  • Private Wells

Get answers to frequently asked questions about public and private water systems.

Water Sources

Where does my drinking water come from?

The United States has one of the safest and most reliable drinking water systems in the world. Every year, millions of people living in the United States get their tap water from a public community water system.

The drinking water that is supplied to our homes comes from either a surface water or ground water source. Surface water collects in streams, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. Ground water is water located below the ground where it collects in pores and spaces within rocks and in underground aquifers. We get ground water by drilling wells and pumping it to the surface.

Water travels to your tap from a surface water or ground water source through your local water utility or through an individual water system, such as a private well.

A private well uses ground water as its water source. Owners of private wells and other individual water systems are responsible for ensuring that their water is safe from contaminants.

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Public Water Systems

Water Quality

How is my drinking water regulated?

All public water systems in the United States are required to follow the standards and regulations set by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA regulations that protect public water systems do not apply to privately owned wells or other individual water systems. Owners of private wells are responsible for ensuring that their well water is safe from contaminants.

What type of health issues can be related to water quality?

Contaminants in our water can lead to health issues, including gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders. Infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems may be at increased risk for becoming sick after drinking contaminated water. For example, elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. Federal law requires that systems reduce certain contaminants to set levels in order to protect human health.

How do I know that the water in my home is safe to drink?

EPA is responsible for making sure that public water supplies within the United States are safe. In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act. This law sought to protect the nation’s public drinking water supply by giving EPA authority to set the standards for drinking water quality and oversee the states, localities, and water suppliers who implement those standards. In 1986 and 1996, the law was amended to protect drinking water and its sources, which include rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs, and ground water wells.

How do germs and chemicals get into my drinking water?

There can be many sources of contamination of our water systems. The most common sources of contaminants include:

  • Naturally occurring chemicals and minerals (e.g., arsenic, radon, uranium)
  • Local land use practices (e.g., fertilizers, pesticides, livestock, concentrated animal feeding operations)
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Sewer overflows
  • Malfunctioning wastewater treatment systems (e.g., nearby septic systems)

EPA regulates many contaminants that pose known human health risks. EPA makes sure that water meets certain standards, so you can be sure that high levels of contaminants are not in your water.

How do I filter water at my home if I am concerned about water quality?

Different water filters have different functions. Some can make your water taste better, while others can remove harmful chemicals or germs. Visit CDC’s filter page to learn more about home water filters.

How do I remove the parasite Cryptosporidium from my drinking water?

The parasite Cryptosporidium can survive a long time, even after the water is treated with chlorine or iodine. Cryptosporidium can be removed from water by filtering through a reverse osmosis filter, an “absolute one micron” filter, or a filter certified to remove Cryptosporidium under NSF International Standard #53 for either “cyst removal” or “cyst reduction.” Filtering does not remove bacteria and viruses. Ultraviolet light treatment of water is not effective against Cryptosporidium at normally used levels.

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How can I find out if there has been a violation in our public water standard?

When water quality standards have not been met, your public water system must alert and notify customers if there is a risk to their health. Your annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) is another way to find out about the water quality in your area, and find information regarding contaminants, possible health effects, and the water’s source.

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Water Testing

Who do I need to contact to find out more information about water quality in my area?

Every community water supplier must provide an annual report to its customers, known as a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). The report provides information on your local drinking water quality, including the water’s source, contaminants found in the water, and how consumers can get involved in protecting drinking water. Visit EPA’s website to find your local CCR.

How often does the local public water system test my drinking water?

Frequency of drinking water testing depends on the number of people served, the type of water source, and types of contaminants. Certain contaminants are tested more frequently than others, as established by the Safe Drinking Water Act. You can find out about levels of regulated contaminants in your treated water for the previous calendar year in your annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR).

What common contaminants are included in this testing?

EPA sets standards and regulations for the presence and amount of over 90 different contaminants in public drinking water, including E.coli, Salmonella, and Cryptosporidium species. Visit EPA’s Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List and Regulatory Determination website for more information.

What should I do if I want my household water tested?

The United States has one of the safest public water supplies in the world. However, if you are concerned about contaminants in your home’s water system, contact your state drinking water certification officer to obtain a list of certified laboratories in your state. Depending on how many contaminants you wish to test for, the cost of a water test can range from $15 to hundreds of dollars. Visit EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information website if you have questionson testing methods.

Who should I contact if my water has a funny smell, taste, or appearance?

A change in your water’s taste, color, or smell is not necessarily a health concern. However, sometimes a change can be a sign of problems. If you notice a change in your water, call your public water system company.

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If you want to test your water, your local health department should assist in explaining any tests that you need for various contaminants. If your local health department is not able to help, contact a state certified laboratory to perform the test. To find a state certified laboratory in your area, call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791 or visit the State Certified Drinking Water Laboratories list.

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Water Advisories

How do I find out if there is a boil water advisory or other water advisory in my community?

Your public water system is responsible for notifying residents if the water quality does not meet EPA or state standards, or if there is a waterborne disease emergency. EPA sets guidelines for when residents must be notified depending on the seriousness of a contamination event. You should be notified by media outlets such as TV or radio, mail, or other communication channels. There are three levels of public notification:

  • Tier 1 is for the most serious and acute contamination events. Notification must be broadcast by local media within 24 hours.
  • Tier 2 allows for a 30-day notification.
  • Tier 3 provides notification through the annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR).

If there is a boil water advisory in my community, how do I disinfect my drinking water?

To disinfect your drinking water during a boil water advisory, you should boil your water at a rolling boil for at least 1 minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil water for 3 minutes). Boiling your water for at least 1 minute at a rolling boil will kill all harmful bacteria, parasites, and viruses from drinking water. You can also treat small volumes of drinking water by using a chemical disinfectant, such as unscented household chlorine bleach or by using a water filter. Visit CDC’s make water safe page for more information.

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Private Wells

What are the main types of ground water wells?

According to EPA, there are three basic types of private drinking wells: dug, drilled, and driven. Proper well construction and continued maintenance are critical to the safety of your water supply. It is important to know what type of well you have. Well type affects how likely your water is to become contaminated and what kind of maintenance procedures you should follow. You may be able to determine the type of well you have by looking at the outer casing and cover of the well.

As a private well owner, should I have my well tested?

Yes, as a private well owner, you are responsible for testing your well to ensure the water is safe to drink. EPA is responsible for making sure that the public water supply within the United States is safe. However, EPA does not monitor or treat private well drinking water. For information on testing your well water, visit Drinking Water’s Well Testing page.

What germs and chemicals should I test for in my well?

Several water quality indicators (WQIs) and contaminants that should be tested for in your water are listed below. A WQI test is a test that measures the presence and amount of certain germs in water. In most cases, WQIs do not cause sickness; however, they are easy to test for and their presence may indicate the presence of sewage and other disease-causing germs from human and/or animal feces (poop). For more information on these contaminants and WQIs, please see the Drinking Water’s Well Testing page.

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Water Quality Indicators:

  • Total Coliforms
  • Fecal Coliforms / Escherichia coli (E. coli)
  • pH


  • Nitrate
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Other germs or harmful chemicals that you should test for will depend on where your well is located on your property, which state you live in, and whether you live in an urban or rural area. These tests could include testing for lead, arsenic, mercury, radium, atrazine, and other pesticides. You should check with your local health or environmental department to find out if any of these contaminants are a problem in your region.

Please remember that if your test results say there are germs or chemicals in your water, you should contact your local health or environmental department for help in interpreting the test, ask for guidance on how to respond to the contamination, and test your water more often.

When should I have my well tested?

You should have your well tested once a year for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels. If you suspect other contaminants, you should test for those as well. However, spend time identifying potential problems first, as these tests can be expensive. You should also have your well tested if:

  • There are known problems with well water in your area.
  • You have experienced problems near your well (e.g., flooding, land disturbances, and nearby waste disposal sites).
  • You replace or repair any part of your well system.
  • You notice a change in water quality (e.g., taste, color, odor).

Who should test my well?

State and local health or environmental departments often test for nitrates, total coliforms, fecal coliforms, volatile organic compounds, and pH. Health or environmental departments, or county governments should also have a list of the state-certified (licensed) laboratories in your area that test for a variety of Water Quality Indicators (WQIs) and contaminants. For more information, visit EPA’s pages below or contact your local health department:

My well water has a funny smell or taste; should I worry about getting sick?

Any time you notice a significant change in your water quality, you should have it tested. A change in your water’s taste, color, or smell is not necessarily a health concern. However, sometimes changes can be a sign of problems.

How do germs and chemicals get into my well water?

A private well uses ground water as its water source. There are many sources of contamination of ground water. Some of the most common sources of contaminants include:

  • Naturally occurring chemicals and minerals (e.g., arsenic, radon, uranium)
  • Local land use practices (e.g., fertilizers, pesticides, livestock, animal feeding operations, biosolids application)
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Sewer overflows
  • Malfunctioning wastewater treatment systems (e.g., nearby septic systems)


What are some good questions to ask about water? ›

Water Use Questions & Answers
  • Where does our home water come from?
  • How much water do I use per day?
  • How is water supplied to our homes?
  • How is wastewater treated?
  • Why does my water smell like rotten eggs?
  • Where does our home wastewater go?
  • How much water falls during a storm?
  • Does a little leak in my house waste water?
Sep 6, 2019

How much water do you need each day to stay healthy? ›

The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is: About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men. About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women.

What is the safest water to drink? ›

Again, the healthiest water to drink is water that's free of pathogens and contaminants, yet rich in key minerals. But, if there was one water option to pick, it's likely going to be spring water or clean artesian water—water that still contains healthy mineral content and is free of pathogens.

What are 3 questions about water? ›

Water quantity questions

- How much water is there on earth and how much is available for humans? - How much of the water can be found in oceans? - How much freshwater is available? - How much water is suitable for drinking water?

What are 3 important things about water? ›

Water Facts of Life Ride the Water Cycle With These Fun Facts
  • There is the same amount of water on Earth as there was when the Earth was formed. ...
  • Water is composed of two elements, Hydrogen and Oxygen. ...
  • Nearly 97% of the world's water is salty or otherwise undrinkable. ...
  • Water regulates the Earth's temperature.
Feb 23, 2016

How long can you go without water? ›

How Long Can a Normal Person Survive Without Water. The body requires a lot of water to maintain an internal temperature balance and keep cells alive. In general, a person can survive for about three days without water.

What happens to your body when you don't drink enough water? ›

“If you don't get enough water, hard stools and constipation could be common side effects, along with abdominal pain and cramps.” Dull skin. Dehydration shows up on your face in the form of dry, ashy skin that seems less radiant, plump and elastic. Fatigue.

What happens to your body when you don't drink water? ›

Water also contributes to regular bowel function, optimal muscle performance, and clear, youthful-looking skin. However, failing to drink enough water can cause dehydration and adverse symptoms, including fatigue, headache, weakened immunity, and dry skin.

What happens when you start drinking enough water? ›

You'll feel less hungry and may even lose weight. You'll probably experience more comfortable digestion (less heartburn). Bowel movements might be easier and more regular. Your teeth and gums will be healthier and more resilient.

What type of water is best to drink? ›

Without a doubt, spring water is the winner. It is considered the best water to drink, providing vital nutrients as it moves through the body. This is, of course, spring water that is bottled at the source and proven to be actual living spring water.

Does coffee count as water intake? ›

Here is one more reason to enjoy that morning cup of joe: “Coffee counts toward your daily water intake,” says Lauren DeWolf, MS, RD, a registered dietitian with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers. The water in coffee, tea and other caffeinated beverages helps us meet our daily fluid needs.

What is the best water for kidneys? ›

Pure, naturally-filtered water is the best thing you can drink for good kidney health. And installing a cost-effective, energy-efficient, and convenient bottled water cooler can be the best way to get it.

What is the purest healthiest water? ›

What Is The Healthiest Water To Drink? When sourced and stored safely, spring water is typically the healthiest option. When spring water is tested, and minimally processed, it offers the rich mineral profile that our bodies desperately crave.

Which bottled water is the healthiest? ›

The study concluded that four (yes, only four) bottled water brands have a pH and fluoride level completely safe for your teeth: Fiji, “Just Water,” Deer Park Natural Spring Water, and Evamor.

What is water made of? ›

A water molecule has three atoms: two hydrogen (H) atoms and one oxygen (O) atom. That's why water is sometimes referred to as H2O. A single drop of water contains billions of water molecules.

Why is water important for us? ›

Water helps keep your temperature normal. You need water to digest your food and get rid of waste. Water is needed for digestive juices, urine (pee), and poop. And you can bet that water is the main ingredient in perspiration, also called sweat.

Did you know questions about water? ›

Facts About Water
  • The average human body is made of 55 to 65 percent water.
  • Newborn babies have even more, ringing in at 78 percent water. ...
  • A gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds; a cubic foot of water weighs 62.4 pounds. ...
  • A liter of water weighs 1 kilo; a cubic meter of water weighs 1 metric ton.

How much water is in our body? ›

In adult men, about 60% of their bodies are water. However, fat tissue does not have as much water as lean tissue. In adult women, fat makes up more of the body than men, so they have about 55% of their bodies made of water.

Why is water important 2 reasons? ›

Our bodies use water in all the cells, organs, and tissues, to help regulate body temperature and maintain other bodily functions. Because our bodies lose water through breathing, sweating, and digestion, it's crucial to rehydrate and replace water by drinking fluids and eating foods that contain water.

Does water have memory? ›

Unproven claim that under certain circumstances water can retain a "memory" of solute particles after arbitrarily large dilution. Water memory contradicts current scientific understanding of physical chemistry and is generally not accepted by the scientific community.

How long does it take for water to become urine? ›

In general speaking, people in good health will absorb water and produce urine within 2 hours.

How long does it take for water to pass through the body? ›

The human body is composed of 60% of water and the majority of water is absorbed in the small intestine and large intestines. It gets absorbed into the bloodstream within 5 minutes of water intake. It takes up to 75-120 minutes to completely pass water through the body.

What is the one thing you can't survive without? ›

Water is essential to our lives – 50 – 65 percent of our bodies are composed of it. We not only consume water, we need it for so many important functions in our life.

What organ fails if you don't drink enough water? ›

Severe dehydration can lead to kidney damage, so it's important to drink enough when you work or exercise very hard, and especially in warm and humid weather. Some studies have shown that frequent dehydration, even if it's mild, may lead to permanent kidney damage.

What happens if you don't eat for 3 days but drink water? ›

Although water fasting may have some health benefits, it comes with many risks and dangers. For example, water fasting could make you prone to muscle loss, dehydration, blood pressure changes, and a variety of other health conditions.

What are the signs of drinking too much water? ›

Thirst is the body's response to dehydration and should be your guiding cue.
  • Nausea or vomiting. The symptoms of overhydration can look like those of dehydration. ...
  • Throbbing headaches all through the day. ...
  • Discoloration of the hands, feet, and lips. ...
  • Weak muscles that cramp easily. ...
  • Tiredness or fatigue.
Apr 8, 2021

Why we should not drink water while eating? ›

The stomach has a knack of knowing when you are going to eat, and starts releasing digestive juices immediately. If you start drinking water at the same time, what you are actually doing is diluting the digestive juices being released to digest your food.

Can lack of water cause brain fog? ›

Losing just 2 percent of the water in your body (mild dehydration), can impair your cognitive performance, attentiveness, short-term memory and may affect decision-making ability. These symptoms, which affect your ability to think, are often collectively described as “brain fog”, a non-medical, colloquial term.

What color is urine when dehydrated? ›

Medium-dark yellow urine is often an indication that you are dehydrated.

What happens when you drink water before bed? ›

Drinking water before bed might help ward off dehydration. View Source while you sleep, and it may also help you attain the drop in core body temperature. View Source that helps induce sleepiness.

Should you drink less water as you get older? ›

Here's Why. Researchers say that as people age, they need to drink more water to compensate for changes in their body temperature regulation. They say dehydration can cause a number of ailments, including muscle pain, fatigue, and heat exhaustion.

What happens when you drink water on an empty stomach? ›

Drinking Water on an Empty Stomach Flushes Toxins from the Body. Medical experts say drinking water on an empty stomach flushes out toxins from the body. Drinking water when there is nothing present in your stomach allows the body to do its job more effectively.

Which water is better to drink hot or cold? ›

Drinking water that's too hot can damage the tissue in your esophagus, burn your taste buds, and scald your tongue. Be very careful when drinking hot water. Drinking cool, not hot, water is best for rehydration . Generally, though, drinking hot water has no harmful effects and is safe to use as a remedy.

What hydrates better than water? ›

Research shows that milk is one of the best beverages for hydration, even better than water or sports drinks. Researchers credit milk's natural electrolytes, carbohydrates, and protein for its effectiveness.

How much water should a senior citizen drink each day? ›

How much water do you need to stay hydrated? As a general rule, you should take one-third of your body weight and drink that number of ounces in fluids. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, aim to drink 50 ounces of water each day.

What can I drink instead of water? ›

Bored with water? Try these 8 alternatives to keep you hydrated this summer
  • Water with an effervescent tablet. Water with an effervescent tablet. ...
  • Fruit-infused water or soda water. Fruit-infused water or soda water. ...
  • Coconut water. Coconut water. ...
  • Iced fresh fruit juice. Fresh fruit juice. ...
  • Kombucha. Kombucha.

What are debatable questions about water? ›


What does water taste like? When do you like drinking water? Do you think water should be free? Do you buy mineral water or drink tap water?

What is a good question to ask about the water cycle? ›

Studying the water cycle, where is the purest water on Earth? What is tapped into when digging a well looking for water in the water cycle? What turns water on the Earth into vapor in the water cycle? Which stage is NOT part of the water cycle?

What are 5 trivia facts about water? ›

Water vaporizes at 212 degrees F, 100 degrees C. It takes more water to manufacture a new car (39,090 gallons) than to fill an above ground swimming pool. Water is the only substance found on earth naturally in three forms: solid, liquid and gas. At 1 drip per second, a faucet can leak 3,000 gallons per year.

Why is water important US question? ›

All animals and plants need water to survive, and the human body is more than three-fourths water. Life-forms use water to carry nutrients around the body and to take away waste. Water also helps break down food and keep organisms cool, among other very important jobs.

What is the biggest threat to water? ›

Five threats to the water that sustains our farms
  • Drought and aridification. ...
  • Mismanagement of groundwater. ...
  • Saltwater intrusion. ...
  • Pollution. ...
  • Land degradation. ...
  • Solutions.
Jul 12, 2022

What is the number one problem with water? ›

1. Climate change. Unsurprisingly, climate change is one of the main reasons behind the global water crisis. The areas most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as Somalia's decade-plus of drought or increasingly severe monsoons in Bangladesh, are often water-stressed to begin with.

What is the biggest problem with water quality? ›

Nutrient pollution, caused by excess nitrogen and phosphorus in water or air, is the number-one threat to water quality worldwide and can cause algal blooms, a toxic soup of blue-green algae that can be harmful to people and wildlife.

What are the 4 most important parts of the water cycle? ›

There are four main parts to the water cycle: Evaporation, Convection, Precipitation and Collection. Evaporation is when the sun heats up water in rivers or lakes or the ocean and turns it into vapour or steam. The water vapour or steam leaves the river, lake or ocean and goes into the air.

What are 5 things about the water cycle? ›

Of the many processes involved in the water cycle, the most important are evaporation, transpiration, condensation, precipitation, and runoff.

Why water cycle is important in our life? ›

The hydrologic cycle is important because it is how water reaches plants, animals and us! Besides providing people, animals and plants with water, it also moves things like nutrients, pathogens and sediment in and out of aquatic ecosystems.

Why is it called water? ›

The word "water" comes from the Old English word wæter or from the Proto-Germanic watar or German Wasser. All of these words mean "water" or "wet."

What happens if you don t drink enough water? ›

Water also contributes to regular bowel function, optimal muscle performance, and clear, youthful-looking skin. However, failing to drink enough water can cause dehydration and adverse symptoms, including fatigue, headache, weakened immunity, and dry skin.


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