Green Scene Blog

The Quality Of Tap Water

July 1, 2009
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NSF explains water quality reports.

While the debate continues about the benefits of bottled water vs. tap water, I received a news release on how you can learn more about your local drinking water.

Most public and private water utilities are required to release a Consumer Confidence Report about this time every year. These water quality reports provide customers with information regarding the source of their local community’s drinking water supply and the treatment methods used, as well as the quality of the finished drinking water supply that is provided to the community during the previous calendar year.

However, as with most government reports, the information is technical and can be difficult for most of us to understand. So NSF International, a nonprofit organization that certifies products in the food and water markets, has decided to help us out and decipher the techno-speak for us.

NSF now has a special section on its site that includes a brief intro to CCRs; explanations of the units of measurement and common abbreviations used; how to interpret the results; and FAQs.

What About My Water?

You can obtain your community’s CCR from your water utility. Some community’s publish a consumer-friendly report with additional information for residents; Chicago does this through its Department of Water Management. I decided to look up Chicago’s water quality report on the city’s Web site, but the 2009 report is not yet online as I’m writing this blog.

According to Chicago’s 2008 report (for drinking water provided to residents in 2007), the city’s water supply did not have any contaminant violations (a contaminant present that exceeded the Maximum Contaminant Level allowed in public drinking water, set by federal and state environmental authorities).

Chicago’s drinking water source is Lake Michigan via two water treatment plants (which also provide drinking water to many of the city’s suburbs). The 2008 report includes a diagram on how the treatment process works.

Promoting Tap Water

Minneapolis created an entire campaign - Tap Minneapolis - to promote its tap water, spending about $200K of taxpayer money.

And just this spring, the National Rural Water Association held its Great American Water Taste Test - Elberta, Ala., took first-place honors. (NRWA also has a “Quality on Tap” campaign.)

What I found most interesting was that Manton, Mich. - just a stone’s throw from my hometown of Cadillac - won third place. There were 29,696 original entries from across the country, narrowed down to about 50. Three tasting judges then chose the five finalists. Congrats, Manton!
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