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 Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Public Water System?

A "Public Water System" is a water system meeting certain definitions found in Federal and State drinking water regulations. In New York, any system with at least 5 service connections or that regularly serves an average of at least 25 people daily for at least 60 days out of the year is considered a public water system. These systems are monitored and inspected by the Environmental Health Division for compliance with strict treatment, reporting, and water quality standards. 

This activity includes annual inspections of the water sources, treatment equipment, storage and distribution, as well as routine monitoring for bacteriological contamination, inorganic minerals, and other contaminants of concern. 

What is a Community Water System?

A community water system is a public water system that serves the same people year-round. Most residences including homes, apartments, and condominiums in cities, towns and mobile home parks are served by community water systems. Examples of community water systems include municipally-owned (cities, towns, or villages) public water supplies, public water authorities, or privately-owned water suppliers such as homeowner associations, apartment complexes, and mobile home parks that maintain their own drinking water system.

What is a Non-community Water System?

A non-community water system is a public water system that serves the public but does not generally serve the same people year-round. There are two types of non-community water systems transient and non-transient non-community water systems.

What is a groundwater source?

A ground water source is a source of water that is taken from beneath the earth's surface, usually in an aquifer, which is a natural underground layer, often of sand or gravel, which contains water. Most public water systems with groundwater sources pump and treat groundwater from wells, which are drilled into the ground to capture water flowing below surface level.

What is a surface water source?

A surface water source is a source of water that is open to the atmosphere and subject to surface runoff. Examples of surface water sources include lakes, rivers, and reservoirs.

How can I find out information about my water system?

Annual Water Quality Reports are required for all community water systems. These reports provide comprehensive information about your water system including where your water comes from, what treatments are provided and the quality of water delivered. All community water systems must mail, direct-deliver, or make a good faith estimate to provide this report to you on an annual basis. To contact your public water supply directly, information should be listed on your water bill or can be found in your local telephone directory. For non-community water systems, call your local health department or state district office. Contact information for these offices is available through this website. In addition, the EPA maintains information about water systems and provides a hotline service for rapid access to information specific to individual water supplies.

What is my water tested for?

Public water supplies test for a variety of man-made chemicals, naturally occurring contaminants, physical characteristics and microbial pathogens. The type of testing and the frequency may be dependent upon the population served, source water type and/or public water supply type. State regulations provide a detailed list of contaminants that are tested in public water supplies.

 Annual Water Quality Report

Annual Water Quality Reports are required for all community water systems.  The Annual Water Quality Report is designed to provide consumers with information on the quality of the water delivered by their public water system. Annual Water Quality Reports must contain information about the water system; information on the source of the water; reporting levels of contaminants detected in the finished water; information on cryptosporidium, radon, and other unregulated contaminants; information on any violations of the national primary drinking water regulations; and information regarding any variances or exemptions the water system may be operating under.

Consumers have the right to know what is in their drinking water. The information contained in an Annual Water Quality Report can raise consumers' awareness regarding the source of their drinking water, help consumers to understand the process by which safe drinking water is delivered to their homes, and educate consumers about the importance of preventative measures, such as source protection, that ensure a safe drinking water supply. The information in the reports can be used by consumers, especially those with special health needs, to make informed decisions regarding their drinking water. Educated consumers are more likely to help protect their drinking water sources and to appreciate the true costs of safe drinking water.

Contact your water system to obtain a copy of the Annual Water Quality Report for your water system.

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