How To Read A Water Quality Report?

Guide to Understand Your Water Quality Report

Water quality is critical for human health. It can make the difference between being healthy and getting food poisoning or any other number of diseases. Having too many minerals in water can alter the taste, affect your nutritional needs, and a lot more.
That’s why water quality reports are critical. Water quality reports can give you information about what’s in your water, and what needs to be done to improve your water quality overall. They can be used to monitor the water coming out of waste processing facilities, water purification facilities, and even the water in your kitchen sink.

Both local quality reports, the water quality reports for your whole water utility or the local system, and home water quality tests can help you figure out what your water quality is, what kind of filtration is best for it, and more.
Water filtration is incredibly important in your home. While water utilities work hard to make sure water is safe to use and to drink, they aren’t perfect. More importantly, local contaminants can get into plumbing, and the plumbing itself can be a source of contamination depending on what kind you have, how old it is, and the pH and other details about the water running through it.
Here’s how to read water quality reports, and what you need to know about the contaminants included and excluded from most reports. With this information, you’ll be able to better monitor drinking water safety in your home.


Understanding Water Quality Reports

Most water quality reports are going to be focused on the water quality and water contaminants found by local water municipalities. The EPA has specific safety standards that city-treated water has to meet, but the cost of cleaning water to the point where it’s unquestionably safe can be cost-prohibitive. Especially at scale.
So, since water quality can’t be guaranteed, water quality reports are an important part of monitoring what water contaminants are present, and what quantity of those contaminants are in the water. Generally, water utilities will get contaminants to within a permissible range, but new problems can lead to water out of EPA guidelines, and some problems can be difficult to account for immediately.
The amount of contamination in water is measured with a few standard units you need to understand to read the report:

    • Parts Per Million (ppm): PPM refers to how many molecules of a contaminant are present per million molecules of water. 1ppm means 1 molecule per million.
    • Parts Per Billion (ppb): PPB is the same as ppm, but instead of one part per million, it’s one part per billion.
    • MCL: MCL stands for Maximum contaminant level. Typically MCL is expressed in ppm or ppb, and the MCL is established by the Safe Drinking Water Act under the EPA.
    • MCLG: MCLG stands for Maximum contaminant level goal. Rather than being the current permissible level for different contaminants, the MCLG refers to the amount of a contaminant that is the ultimate goal and safest level. For instance, lead, which is not safe in any quantity, has an MCL of 15 ppb. But the MCLG is 0 ppb.
    • Range: refers to the highest and lowest levels of the contaminant found throughout the duration of testing.
    • Source: : where a given contaminant is thought to originate.
    • Violation: a water quality report with Violations has one or more contaminants that exceed the permissible MCL set by the EPA.

In addition to these terms, you should also know:

    • MRDL: Maximum residual disinfectant level, which is the amount of a given water disinfectant that’s allowed after treatment.
    • MRDLG: Maximum residual disinfectant level goal, or the ideal amount of a disinfectant remaining after treatment.
    • TT: treatment processes meant to reduce the level of specific contaminants in water.

Lastly, several different kinds of contaminants can be included in water reports.

  • Physical contaminants include things like soil, algae, and any physical thing found in water that alters the characteristics of the water.
  • Chemical contaminants are any chemicals that don’t alter the physical properties of water that are in the water, often dissolved. Salts, pesticides, bleach, and other chemicals count in this category.
  • Biological contaminants are microbial and microbiological contaminants like bacteria and viruses. Sometimes also parasites.
  • Radiological contaminants are any contaminants that can release ionizing radiation in the water or when ingested. Uranium, plutonium, and other radioactive materials fall into this category.

Contaminants Listed In Water Quality Reports

Not all contaminants are going to be listed in quality reports, so it’s important to know what water contaminants are listed in the reports if you want to understand drinking quality.

Common contaminants include:

  • Lead:  Lead is one of the most serious contaminants, and no amount of lead is considered safe in drinking water, though there is a very low permissible level.
  • Fluoride: Fluoride is actually a contaminant that is intentionally added to water because, at safe levels, it can improve oral health. However, it needs to be monitored because only a very small amount of fluoride should be used.
  • Arsenic: Arsenic is a contaminant that often comes from pesticides and herbicides. While highly toxic, small concentrations of arsenic under 10 ppb are permissible.
  • Microorganisms: Many different microorganisms are tracked by the EPA and the total amount of these microorganisms allowed in water can vary, but the concentrations should be as low as possible.
  • Nitrate: Soil runoff, septic and sewer systems, wastewater disposal, and landfills can all contribute to nitrate levels. Concentrations should be below 10 ppm, otherwise, these can contribute to problems like fast heart rate, dizziness, and fatigue.
  • Nitrites: Nitrites are similar to nitrates, but they are slightly more toxic than nitrates. The MCL of nitrites is 1ppm.

Contaminants Not Listed in Water Quality Reports

Some contaminants aren’t included in water quality reports, normally because they have less of a serious adverse effect on health.
Here are some of the excluded contaminants:

    • Calcium and Magnesium: These contaminants are generally the minerals responsible for hard water, and can cause a range of plumbing problems. They don’t cause negative health effects, but they can taste bad or affect skin and hair health through topical exposure.
    • Aluminum: Aluminum is a secondary contaminant, which means that it comes from other contaminants or treatments for those contaminants. It’s allowed at levels between .5-2 ppm. Higher levels of aluminum change the color of the water.

Other contaminants might also be excluded, though they shouldn’t cause serious problems even if they are there.
Any contaminant that is discovered to cause problems with human health gets added to water quality reports to help you monitor drinking water safety. Even so, it’s a good idea to monitor water quality reports for your area so that you know when there are quality warnings.

What More Can I Do To Make My Drinking Water Safe?

Installing a home water filtration system is a good place to start if you want to improve the quality of the water coming into your home. You can use local water quality reports to help guide what kind of filter, or filters, you want to install. For instance, removing Nitrates and Nitrites usually requires a reverse osmosis, ion exchange, or electrodialysis filter. But contaminants like microorganisms or lead can be handled by mechanical and carbon filters. A combination of several types of filters can often be even more effective.

You should also monitor your water quality reports for recommendations to drink distilled water or boil your water before drinking.
Home water purification tablets, like the ones used while camping or during emergencies, can also be used during water quality warnings.
It’s also a good idea to think about how things like the weather, natural disasters, and even the season can impact water quality. Heavy rains can often increase the concentration of certain contaminants in water treatment plants, which can cause a temporary decrease in water quality while the treatment plant deals with the problem.
Fortunately, if you have water connected to a water treatment facility and quality monitoring, chances are your water is perfectly safe the vast majority of the time. Home water filters and other quality control options just give you an extra layer of protection.

Don’t let your water quality suffer – get in touch with us now for expert advice and solutions!

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