In 1974, the Safe Drinking Water Act gave the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to set standards for public drinking water supplies in the US. See a previous blog for more information on the history of drinking water guidelines. Today the EPA has standards for over 90 contaminants in drinking water.
A quick glance at the EPA website shows contaminants grouped into microorganisms, disinfectants, disinfection byproducts, inorganic chemicals, organic chemicals, and radionuclides. What are all these things? Microorganisms includes viruses, parasites and some bacteria, often from human and animal waste. Disinfectants and their byproducts are used to take microorganisms out of water. Inorganic chemical are metals such as arsenic and lead. Organics chemicals are things like pesticides and fertilizers. Radionuclides include radium and uranium.
Are these all really in our water?
The good news is no. Mostly no. They’re not supposed to be. The EPA sets legal standards for what is allowed in drinking water. These limits reflect both human health and what water treatment systems can achieve using the best available technology. The EPA also sets mandatory water-testing schedules and methods that public utilities must follow. I wrote “mostly no” and “not supposed to be,” because things happen and limits are exceeded. One example is the water crisis in Flint, MI. Read more about that here.
Today the EPA sets standards for the 151,000 public systems providing drinking water to Americans. The Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA) provides drinking water to over 440,000 community members here in the Truckee Meadows. It is a not-for-profit, community-owned water utility. The screenshot below shows what part of you’ll see if you go to https://tmwa.com/your-water/water-quality-facts/.
If you clicked the link, scroll down to see more standards. Look to the left of the green oval “DRINKING WATER STANDARDS” and click on the “WATER QUALITY LOOK-UP” oval. There you can check what TMWA has measured in drinking water samples taken in your neighborhood. The screenshot below shows results for Central Southeast Reno, which includes the area around UNR, the casinos, midtown and areas southward.
Water quality sample results for Central Southeast Reno from Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA).
The next time you’re wondering what’s in your water, check out the TWMA’s water quality face website for your neighborhood.