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How to Read Your Annual Consumer Confidence Report

Tuesday, October 29th by Mike Ohlinger


Testing Water at Sink

If your home’s water is supplied by a municipal water source, you may have noticed that your water bill feels a little heavier once a year, usually around the middle of summer. That extra padding in the envelope is your municipality’s annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), a water quality report card that shows you exactly what’s in your drinking water, provided that you understand how to read it.  

A CCR can be a little intimidating to take in, especially if you’re unfamiliar with common water contaminants, their acceptable levels, and how they become integrated into your water source. Taking a little time to learn about the contaminants listed on your CCR can quell those concerns and give you a better understanding of how your municipality works to make your water safe.

What is in a CCR?

The history of the CCR dates back to 1998 when the EPA imposed the Consumer Confidence Rule. This rule requires that public water suppliers must provide customers with an annual water quality report. Municipalities must distribute these reports by July first of each year and are typically mailed with a water bill.

Though the reports may look different depending on the municipality that’s distributing it, the Consumer Confidence Rule of 1998 stipulates what information is required to be in every report. The information that you will find in your CCR is:

  • The source of your water: This is typically an aquifer, lake, or river.

  • Contamination risks to the water source: This summary will typically include any newly discovered risks of contamination to the water source that have been identified over the past year.

  • Contaminants in the water: The report will list any discovered contaminants in the water alongside what the EPA considers to be a safe amount to consume.

  • Any violations: If the levels of specific contaminants in the water are higher than the EPA’s allotted amount, the public water source is in violation. This column on the report is the easiest way to see if contaminants have been treated to comply with EPA standards.

  • Improvements: If your municipality has taken any action over the past year to fix known water problems or if they have worked to restore certain contaminant levels to safe levels, it will be listed in this section of the report. This serves as a means of transparency for your municipality and allows them to explain any of the challenges that have come up over the previous year.

  • Educational content: Any specific contaminants that are unique to your area and the potential effects of them are detailed here. Depending on where you live, this could include specific contaminants such as nitrates, arsenic, or lead. Phone numbers for the water supplier and the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline are also included here.

More information may be included by the municipality, including content required by state regulation, but all CCRs must include the content listed above at a minimum.

Reading the Report

The first page of your CCR will typically include specific information about your municipality’s water source. This may also include any of the challenges or issues faced over the previous year and how your municipality has addressed them. Sometimes, new technology or processes that have been adopted will be described, speaking towards your utility’s ability to provide safe and treated water that complies with regulation.

The pages following contain the meat of the report, the outline of contaminants and how much is found in your water. The chart below may look a bit different from what you might see in your CCR, but it contains the same information.

CCR Table

Though this may look a little intimidating, focusing on these four columns in the following order can make your CCR reading experience a little easier.

  1. Contaminant Name: This is the detected substance in your water. You may recognize some of the contaminants, such as lead or sulfate, but others may catch you off guard, like Haloacetic Acid.

  2. Typical Source of Contaminant: Scrolling over a bit, this column gives a breakdown for the source of each contaminant. It’s a great way to learn a little about each contaminant and how it typically makes its way into your water.

  3. MCL: The Maximum Contaminant Level shows the maximum amount of the contaminant that can safely be in your water.

  4. Violation: If the level of specific contaminants exceeds the MCL, the utility is in violation. This column is the easiest way to determine if your water is safe and treated properly.

What’s Next?

In addition to the naturally occurring contaminants listed on your water quality report, you may find chlorination by-products as another “contaminant” that appears on the list. Your municipality treats your source water with chlorine to protect the water from microorganisms and bacteria that may be present in your city’s pipelines before it reaches your tap. The residual chlorine that’s leftover from this treatment makes its way into your home and can affect the taste and smell of your water. If your CCR shows a high level of chlorine by-product, there are solutions like Evolve’s RC system which removes chlorine with its carbon-filled top chamber while also providing soft water with the lower resin chamber.

Speaking of soft water, since municipalities regard the minerals that make up hard water as “aesthetic” only, hardness is not treated by the municipality even though it may appear in your CCR. As a result, these minerals will travel to your home, causing significant problems to your plumbing, water-using appliances, and family’s skin or hair.

If you are questioning some of the results on your CCR or if you want to just learn more about your home’s water, call your local Evolve dealer today and schedule a water test. Testing your home’s water can give you a more in-depth gauge on what specifically is in your water. The results of a professional test can reveal which contaminants are affecting you and your home the most and is the first step in finding the right water treatment solution for you!

If you would like to learn more about the history of the CCR, or if you would like to obtain an electronic copy of your municipality’s report, visit the EPA’s website at https://www.epa.gov/ccr.

 

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