Drinking water comes from groundwater, wells, rivers, lakes, streams, and reservoirs. People in cities usually drink water from lakes, rivers, and reservoirs that is filtered and cleaned through water treatment plants. People in rural areas frequently drink water pumped from a private well.
Every drinking water supply is affected by activities close by and many miles away. All water contains some impurities. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets acceptable limits for more than 80 contaminants that may be in drinking water and pose a risk to human health.
Drinking water can be contaminated by natural conditions and recreational activities, including marinas and boats. It can be contaminated by pesticides, fertilizers, animal waste, damaged septic systems, leaking underground storage tanks, landfills, mining, and industrial releases to air and water. Drinking water can also be contaminated by runoff from farms, storms, urban areas and industrial or construction sites. Endocrine disruptors can also be found in drinking water.
Waterborne diseases are a major human health concern because many people can be affected if a source of drinking water is contaminated. Bacteria and viruses can cause acute, or short-term, human health effects if they are found in drinking water at high levels.
More serious, chronic health effects can occur if people consume a contaminant in drinking water at levels above EPA standards for many years. Contaminants that can have long-term health effects include solvents, radioactive elements, and minerals such as arsenic. Contaminated drinking water can cause chronic health effects such as cancer, liver or kidney problems, and reproductive problems.
How can I get my water tested?
If your home is served by a water system, get a copy of your annual water quality report before you test your water. This report will tell you what contaminants have been found in your drinking water and at what level.
After you’ve read this report, you may wish to test for specific contaminants (such as lead) that can vary from house to house, or any other contaminant you’re concerned about.
EPA does not test individual homes, and cannot recommend specific laboratories to test your drinking water. States certify water testing laboratories.
You may call your state certification officer to get a list of certified laboratories in your state. Depending on how many contaminants you test for, a water test can cost from $15 to hundreds of dollars.
State Certification Officers for Drinking Water Laboratories:
If you want to know what contaminants are in your drinking water, check your annual water quality report from your water supplier or call the water supplier directly. If you want to have additional tests on your water, EPA recommends that you use a laboratory certified by the state. Call the state certification officer or click the web link here to get a list of certified labs.
To report an update to this list, please call EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 or send a report electronically.