By Marie E. Owens
A cold glass of water during a summer softball game. A hot bath after a long day at work. Your toddler’s squeals of joy when you wrap her in a blanket straight from the dryer. A(nother) delicious Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends. The minty taste on your tongue after you brush your teeth. Clean sheets. Spaghetti. Ice cubes. Lemonade. What do all these things have in common?
Safe, clean drinking water.
Have you ever stopped to think about how often you “interact” with water during the course of your day? Probably more than you think! That’s because clean, accessible drinking water is a basic human need…we need it for drinking, cooking, washing, and bathing. In fact, a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that the amount of water we drink can even have a significant impact on our mood.
Clean drinking water is a relatively new phenomenon. As recently as the early 1900’s, 1 in 70 Americans died from a waterborne disease before the age of 70. According to a 2009 report by the World Health Organization (WHO), 3.4 million people worldwide, many of them young children, die each year from water-related diseases, making it the leading cause of death and disease around the world. Tens of millions of others are sickened by water-related illnesses.
Fortunately, we have a large group of dedicated professionals in Utah who oversee the storage, treatment, and distribution of our drinking water, so you can feel confident about the water you use every day.
DEQ’s Division of Drinking Water (DDW) created the #TrustYourTap initiative to introduce you to the people, processes, and laws that make it possible for you to #TrustYourTap. We’ll talk about how water systems treat drinking water, the laws in place to protect drinking-water sources and the treated water delivered to your home, and how DDW works with municipalities, drinking-water providers, water conservancy districts, and water operators to ensure there’s always clean drinking water available when you reach for your faucet. Topics will include:
- The people who work behind the scenes to provide you with safe drinking water
- The vast infrastructure that delivers your water, along with the costs associated with the construction and maintenance of that infrastructure
- The monitoring required for raw (untreated) and finished (treated) water
- Threats to source waters
- The rapid response required when natural disasters or infrastructure failures cut off or contaminate a water supply
- The value of water to economic development and our quality of life
Water Testing and #TrustYourTap
One of the most important ways to ensure that the water you drink is safe is through testing…lots of testing. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established drinking water standards for more than 90 contaminants that may have an adverse effect on human health. Drinking-water systems are required to treat their water to meet these maximum contaminant levels (MCLs), which are the maximum levels allowed for water delivered to any user of a public water system.
The EPA requires all community water systems to deliver Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs) to their users by July 1st of each year. You probably received the report in your water bill this month. The CCR includes:
- Your water source(s), such as a lake or river
- EPA standards for safe contaminant levels
- Levels of contaminants in your water and any violations of health-based standards (All drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of various impurities such as minerals and other constituents. The presence of impurities does not necessarily indicate that the water poses a health risk).
- Health effects of contaminants when violations occur
- Likely sources of detected contaminants
- Findings of source-water assessments
This annual report provides the results of the thousands of monitoring tests conducted by drinking-water systems every year to ensure that the water they deliver to you meets, or beats, state and federal drinking-water standards.
So the next time you turn on your faucet, consider all the ways clean drinking water contributes to your health, your mood, and your quality of life. All because you can #TrustYourTap.
Check your water bill this month for the yearly Consumer Confidence Report from your water system. You can also find your report on DDW’s WaterLink database. Go to waterlink.utah.gov and select the Public Portal in the upper right corner, select “Consumer Confidence Report” and search for your CCR by county/water system and year. WaterLink will generate a complete data report for you on your selected water system. For more information about the many ways we make sure you can #TrustYourTap, visit our Division of Drinking Water home page.
I became the Director of Drinking Water in January 2017. I attended Utah State University, where I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Engineering. During that time, I worked at the Water Research Laboratory in Logan, which led to an internship with the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake and Sandy, which led to an offer to work fulltime for Metro as a Process Engineer. From there, I moved to Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District as their Water Quality Division Manager. It was at Jordan Valley that realized how much I love working with people and mentoring new professionals. Along the way, I found a wonderful husband who is willing to put up with my quirkiness, and we have four amazing kids. They are what I am really proud of in my life, and they keep me grounded and humble. They are also my adventure buddies. I love everything about water and love interacting with the people who share this passion.