Assessing Your Own Water Quality

Written by: Sara Dennis


While the stories about the drinking water in Flint, Michigan and other cities can be harrowing, there are plenty of things to do if you’re concerned about the water quality in your home. One thing you can do is to look up your water utility’s annual water quality report, also called a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), usually just by typing CCR + your city into a search engine. These reports show information about types and amounts of various substances in the water supply. Here is part of the Columbus, Ohio’s 2017 CCR, listing the substances they screened for, when they checked, if it violates the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), and more.

City of Columbus, Department of Public Utilities: 2017 Drinking Water Consumer Confidence Report.

It should be noted that water suppliers are required by law to notify customers if contaminants reach a certain level deemed unsafe.  Another place you can find information about your drinking water is the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information System. Once you search for your state and water system, you can find information about the water source, population served, the number and types of violations found, and more. Under violations you can see that the last violation occurred over two years ago on June 1st, 2016.

US EPA: Safe Drinking Water Information System

Additionally, you can get your water tested by your local water supplier or by a certified lab, to learn more about the water coming out of your faucet. If the results come back positive, there are water filters you can buy that get rid of specific contaminants. It’s crucial though, to inform your water utility of the contamination. Further steps might include contacting your elected government officials, the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800-426-4791) and/or the department in charge of safe drinking water in your state.


While these will help you determine if your water is safe to drink right now, the best protection long-term is prevention. In this case prevention means upgrading our water infrastructure, with an emphasis on lead service pipe replacement. As we wrote in a previous article, at the current rate, it will take 200 years to replace our current system of water pipes. Supporting water legislation and federal funding programs would help us create stricter standards, as well as provide financial support for communities without proper resources to upgrade their infrastructure on their own. Furthermore, keeping our bodies of water free of pollution and contaminants also contributes to better drinking water.

Note: Most of these resources are only relevant if you are connected to a public water system. If your water source is from a private well, then you are responsible for ensuring that their water quality level is safe to consume. The CDC and EPA provide more information about protecting private wells.

1. 2017 Drinking Water Consumer Confidence Report. City of Columbus, Department of Public Utilities, 2017.
2. Denchak, Melissa. “Flint Water Crisis: Everything You Need to Know.” National Resources Defense Council, National Resources Defense Council, 16 Nov. 2018.
3. “Drinking Water.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29 June 2012.
4. “SDWIS Search.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency.