Public Drinking Water and Health

public drinking water and health

Public Water Systems in the United States provide drinking water that is among the highest quality in the world. However, drinking water contains some contaminants at low levels and can become contaminated at higher levels of pollutants.

Drinking water quality is an important public health issue because contamination in a single system can expose many people at once. People can be exposed to contaminants in drinking water by

  • drinking the water
  • eating foods prepared with the water
  • breathing water droplets or chemicals released from the water while showering
  • absorbing chemicals through their skin while washing

The majority of community water systems meet all health-based water quality standards. Therefore, the risk of disease from drinking water supplied by a community water system is low.

However, exposure to contaminants in drinking water can cause many adverse effects, some of which can be immediate with symptoms occurring soon after drinking the water. An example is gastrointestinal illness. Other effects can develop over time, such as reproductive disorders, cancer, or neurological disorders.

Read more about specific contaminants tested for in private well water

Sensitive groups, such as the elderly, children, and pregnant women, are more likely to suffer ill effects than the rest of the population.

Making sure that drinking water remains in compliance with EPA’s National Primary Drinking Water Regulations is the most important way to prevent health problems caused by contaminants in drinking water. Protecting water sources, providing effective and reliable water treatment that meets drinking water construction standards, and monitoring water quality are also strategies for providing high-quality drinking water. Federal laws and regulations are in place at the state level to implement these strategies for community water systems. If there is contamination found in a public water system with any of the regulated contaminants, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) requires the system to notify its consumers of the problem and the actions to take to protect their health, and to fix the contamination problem.

DNR requires all community water systems to prepare and deliver an annual consumer confidence report (CCR or sometimes called a water quality report) for their customers by July 1 of each year, which will include the most recent testing results for that system, source of water, and any violations.