Drinking water comes from a variety of sources including public water systems, private wells, or bottled water.
Clean drinking water is essential to human life, but water can become contaminated in many ways, including through naturally occurring chemicals and minerals, sewage overflows and spills and wildlife waste.
Below is more information on where drinking water comes from, how it’s been treated, and if it’s safe to drink.
Public Drinking Water Systems
Public drinking water systems provide drinking water to 90 percent of Americans. These public water systems are monitored and regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Community water systems obtain water from two sources: surface water and ground water. Surface water is water that collects on the ground or in a stream, river, lake, reservoir, or ocean. Surface water is constantly replenished through precipitation, and lost through evaporation and seepage into ground water supplies. Ground water, which is obtained by drilling wells, is water located below the ground surface in pores and spaces in the rock.
Although the U.S has one of the safest public drinking water supplies in the world, outbreaks in public water systems do occur.
The most common causes are:
- Hepatitis A
- Cryptosporidium (Crypto)
- Escherichia.coli (E.coli)
- Exess flouride
Contamination of drinking water supplies can occur in the source water as well as in the distribution system after water treatment has already occurred. Sources of water contamination can include naturally occurring chemicals and minerals (for example, arsenic, radon, uranium), local land use practices (fertilizers, pesticides, concentrated feeding operations), manufacturing processes, and sewer overflows or wastewater releases.
The presence of contaminants in water can lead to adverse health effects, including gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders. Infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people whose immune systems are compromised because of AIDS, chemotherapy, or transplant medications, may be especially susceptible to illness from some contaminants.
Even though most community drinking water (especially from surface water sources) is treated before entering the home, the cost of this treatment and the risks to public health can be reduced by protecting source water from contamination.
City Utilities is the water supplier for residents in the Fort Wayne area.
Visit Fort Wayne City Utilities web site for link to publications, water quality reports and other information showing how City Utilities delivers water to its customers.
You can do your part to keep drinking water supplies safe by doing the following:
- Dispose of wastes and chemicals properly.
- Plant trees and other vegetation that are low maintenance and require little water, to reduce runoff from pesticides and fertilizers.
- Conserve water whenever possible.
Many people in the United States — approximately 15 percent of Americans, or about 45 million people – receive their water from private ground water wells that are not subject to EPA regulations.
As a result, owners of individual water systems are responsible for ensuring that their wells are properly maintained so the water is clean and safe from contaminants.
Ground water pollution can be caused by seepage through landfills, failed septic tanks, underground fuel tanks, fertilizers and pesticides, and runoff from urban areas.
The most common contaminants are:
- Hepatitis A
- Escherichia coli (E. coli)
- Cryptosporidium (Crypto)
Regular maintenance of your well is required to ensure the continued safety of your water and to monitor for the presence of any contaminants.
Here are some steps you can take to help protect your well:
- Wells should be checked and tested annually for mechanical problems, cleanliness, and the presence of certain contaminants, such as coliform bacteria, nitrates/nitrites, and any other contaminants of local concern, (for example, arsenic and radon).
- Well water should be tested more than once a year if there are recurrent incidents of gastrointestinal illness among household members or visitors and/or a change in taste, odor, or appearance of the well water.
- All hazardous materials, such as paint, fertilizer, pesticides, and motor oil, should be kept far away from your well. When mixing chemicals, do not put the hose inside the mixing container, as this can siphon chemicals into a household’s water system.
- Consult a professional contractor to verify that there is proper separation between your well, home, waste systems, and chemical storage facilities. Always check the well cover or well cap to ensure it is intact. The top of the well should be at least one foot above the ground.
- Once your well has reached its serviceable life (usually at least 20 years), have a licensed or certified water well driller and pump installer decommission the existing well and construct a new well.
People choose bottled water for a variety of reasons including aesthetics (for example, taste), health concerns, or as a substitute for other beverages.
The standards for bottled water are set by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) based on the EPA standards for tap water. If these standards are met, the water is considered safe for most healthy individuals.
The presence of contaminants in bottled water can lead to adverse health effects, including gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders. Infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people whose immune systems are compromised because of AIDS, chemotherapy, or transplant medications, may be especially susceptible to illness from some contaminants.
Although bottled water outbreaks are not often reported, they do occur.If you suspect an illness resulting from the consumption of bottled water, call the Department of Health at (260) 449-7562.
For information on where your bottled water comes from and how it has been treated, be sure to:
- Read the label on your bottled water. While there is currently no standardized label for bottled water, this label may tell you about the way the bottled water is treated.
- Check the label for a toll-free number or website address of the company that bottled the water. This may be a source of further information.
- Water Quality (IDEM)
- Water-Related Diseases and Contaminants (CDC)
- Safe Food and Water: What Travelers Need to Know (CDC)
- Blue-Green Algae Blooms (ISDH)
- Blue-Green Algae Blooms (IDEM)
- Drinking Water (CDC)
- Water-Related Diseases and Contaminants in Private Wells (CDC)
- Private Well Water FAQs (CDC)
- A Guide to Drinking Water Treatment Technologies for Household Use (CDC)
- Private Drinking Water Wells (EPA)
- Consider the Source: A Pocket Guide to Protecting Your Drinking Water (EPA)
- Sources of Potential Contamination in Private Wells (EPA)
- What to Do After the Flood (EPA)
- Local Drinking Water Information (EPA)
- Indiana Drinking Water (EPA)
- Drinking Water and Health: What you need to Know (EPA)
- Private Drinking Water Wells: What you can do (EPA)
- Private Wells FAQs (EPA)
- Testing Your Private Well Water (ISDH)
- Bottled Water (CDC)
- Bottled Water Basics (EPA)
- 2015 Drinking Water Quality Report (FW City Utilities)