As the water rushes out of the tap and into your glass, you will be comforted to learn the water systems across the metro area have met the minimum federal Environmental Protection Agency water standards.
Those companies that bring you the water you drink and cook with test that water for bacteria, chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, metals and disinfectants, as well as to many other contaminants.
The water gets tested to make sure it hasn't exceeded the EPA's acceptable amounts of each contaminant. The EPA requires water services check for about 90 contaminants. But the presence of small amounts of contaminants doesn't mean there is a health risk.
WHAT GETS TESTED?
• Turbidity -- The cloudier the water is the higher the turbidity, which comes from soil runoff and is created by suspended particles. The EPA says higher levels are "often associated with higher levels of disease-causing microorganisms such as viruses, parasites and some bacteria. These organisms can cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and associated headaches."
• Microbes -- Naturally occurring coliform bacteria, in general, isn't harmful, but the EPA says fecal coliform and E-coli can cause stomach illnesses and headaches.
• Metals -- Once the water gets to your home, lead and copper are tested. Both can cause serious health problems. The main reason lead and copper would end up in your water is that your home's plumbing system is corroded. Copper also can come from the erosion of natural deposits.
• Inorganic contaminants -- These can occur naturally or can be from runoff, wastewater discharges and farming. Fluoride, nitrates from fertilizer use and cancer-causing arsenic fall into this category.
• Disinfectants and disinfectant byproducts -- Water additives, such as chlorine and chloromines are tested, as well as Total Trihalomethanes, byproducts of drinking water disinfection.
• Pesticides and synthetic organic chemicals -- These include agricultural and home pesticides. Chemicals discharged from factories would fall under this category.
• Volatile Organic Contaminants -- These are byproducts of industrial processes or from petroleum production. They can come from gas stations, storm water runoff and septic systems.
• Radioactive contaminants -- These occur naturally, and may result from mining or oil and gas production.
The EPA also requires treatment facilities to monitor for cryptosporidium. It occurs when water is water contaminated with sewage and animal wastes. It can cause abdominal infections with symptoms of nausea, diarrhea and stomach cramps. Each year by July 1 you should receive in the mail a short report (consumer confidence report, or drinking water quality report) from your water supplier that tells where your water comes from and what's in it. If you have not received yours, you can see the quality of your drinking water on-line.
Once you know the status of your water and what concerns you may have, then you may address improving the quality by boiling it, or using a filter system in your home.