Water Quality

What is Water Quality?
The term water quality refers to the water you use and drink in your home. Poor water quality can cause many adverse health effects, some of which may not be readily apparent until after many years of exposure. Your drinking water, whether from a public water system or a private well, is not guaranteed to be safe for drinking.

What if I Have a Private Water Supply?
If you are connected to a private water supply, (i.e. a well, cistern, or stream) it should be tested annually for coliform bacteria for early detection of contamination problems early. Testing for other contaminants is recommended, especially if you suspect a problem. You can help to protect your water supply by managing activities near the water source. If you have a well, keep contaminants away from sinkholes and the well itself. Inspecting exposed parts of the well for damage to the well casing, a broken or missing well cap, or settling or cracking of seals is a good idea. Also, keep hazardous chemicals out of your septic system. Septic and waste water disposal systems are a potential source for drinking water contamination if they are not sited, designed, and maintained properly.

Water Contaminants and their Health Effects
Coliforms
(including E. Coli)- Coliforms are used as an indicator that other potentially harmful bacteria may be present. Coliforms come from human and animal fecal matter. If Coliforms are present in your water supply, you may experience diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, or other gastrointestinal disorders.
Chlorine- Chlorine is a water additive used to control microbes in water supplies. It may irritate the eyes and nose well as causing stomach discomfort.  It has also been linked to bladder and rectal cancer.
Arsenic- Arsenic comes from the erosion of natural deposits as well as industrial and agricultural runoff. It may cause skin damage, circulatory system problems, and increase the risk of cancer.
Lead- Lead in drinking water comes from corrosion of household plumbing systems that contain lead or lead alloys and erosion of natural deposits. It's wide range of adverse health effects include the delay or impairment of physical and mental development of children, as well as kidney problems, high blood pressure, and anemia in adults.
Organic Compounds- These chemicals come from pesticides and solvents. Their health risks include anemia, decrease in blood platelets, increased risk of cancer, kidney, liver, or adrenal gland problems.

Types of Exposure
There are two types of health effects that can be experienced when drinking contaminated water.
Acute health effects occur within hours or days of drinking contaminated water.  Bacteria in drinking water, has the greatest  chance of causing acute health problems in individuals, though any contaminant can cause an acute reaction if ingested at high enough levels. Health effects include sickness, nausea,  and vomiting,  
Chronic health effects occur when low levels of a contaminant are ingested over many years. Drinking water contaminants that are most often associated with chronic exposure are chemicals, such as disinfecting agents (chlorine), solvents and  pesticides. Other contaminants include minerals like lead, arsenic, or radon.Examples of the chronic ailments of contaminants in drinking water are cancer, liver or kidney problems and reproductive difficulties.

What Can I Do To Find Out If I Have Polluted Water?
If your water comes from a public source,  your local water utility is now required by law to provide a report on all contaminants and toxins found in your local drinking water. If your water comes from a private source, I.e. a well or spring, it should be tested by a professional testing service.

Why is Water Quality Important?
Water quality is important because water is such a necessary ingredient in our lives.  Your water  may contain contaminates that are adversely affecting your health and well being without your knowledge.  Many of these contaminates are not detectable by smell, sight or taste.  Even if you are not experiencing any water related health effects now, long term exposure to contaminates could mean health problems later in life.
Microbes, bacteria, chemicals, and other elements can enter your water supply as a result of human activity or natural causes.  These contaminates can enter the water supply from many sources. Chemicals and waste can migrate from disposal sites in to drinking water supplies. Animal waste, chemicals , and pesticides can be carried by snow melt or rainfall runoff. Human waste may be discharged into areas that ultimately lead to a water supply. Natural occurring elements such as radon, lead, and arsenic may also affect your water supply. 
As development in our communities increases, there are growing numbers of threats that could contaminate drinking water.  Contaminants can be present in water systems for years without being detected. Safe drinking water should be a concern for everyone