Sources of Drinking Water Public and Private Supply

According to the EPA, there were 159,796 public water supply systems in operation in 2004, serving nearly 297 million people. (See Table 9.2.) These included systems that served homes, businesses, schools, hospitals, and recreational parks. Those who did not get their water from a public system were for the most part in rural areas and got their water from private wells. Although most systems obtain their water from groundwater, most people receive drinking water from surface water sources. This is because a relatively small number of public systems served large metropolitan areas.

The EPA and state health or environmental departments regulate public water supplies. Public supplies are required to ensure that the water meets certain government-defined health standards. The SDWA governs this regulation. The law mandates that all public suppliers test their water on a regular basis to check for the existence of contaminants and treat their water supplies constantly to take out or reduce certain pollutants to levels that will not harm human health.

Private water supplies, usually wells, are not regulated under the SDWA. System owners are solely responsible for the quality of the water provided from private sources. However, many states have programs designed to help well owners protect their water supplies. Usually, these state-run programs are not regulatory but provide

Public drinking water sources, fiscal year 2004

Totals

Public drinking water sources, fiscal year 2004

Type

Ground water

Surface water

CWS

# systems

41,264

11,574

Pop. served

90,499,550

181,996,127

% of systems

78%

22%

% of pop

33%

67%

NTNCWS

# systems

18,647

728

Pop. served

5,356,710

576,610

% of systems

96%

4%

% of pop

90%

10%

TNCWS

# systems

85,587

1,996

Pop. served

15,691,358

2,793,302

% of systems

98%

2%

% of pop

85%

15%

Total # system

145,498

14,298

111,547,618

Notes:

CWS = Community Water System: A public water system that supplies water to the same population year-round.

NTNCWS = Non-Transient Non-Community Water System: A public water system that regularly supplies water to at least 25 of the same people at least six months per year, but not year-round. Some examples are schools, factories, office buildings, and hospitals which have their own water systems.

TNCWS=Transient Non-Community Water System: A public water system that provides water in a place such as a gas station or campground where people do not remain for long periods of time.

Ground water systems=ground water (GW), purchased ground water (GWP) Surface water systems=surface water (SW), purchased surface water (SWP), ground water under the direct influence of surface water (GU), purchased ground water under the direct influence of suface water (GUP).

52,838 272,495,677 100% 100% 19,375 5,933,320 100% 100% 87,583 18,484,660 100% 100% 159,796

Notes:

CWS = Community Water System: A public water system that supplies water to the same population year-round.

NTNCWS = Non-Transient Non-Community Water System: A public water system that regularly supplies water to at least 25 of the same people at least six months per year, but not year-round. Some examples are schools, factories, office buildings, and hospitals which have their own water systems.

TNCWS=Transient Non-Community Water System: A public water system that provides water in a place such as a gas station or campground where people do not remain for long periods of time.

Ground water systems=ground water (GW), purchased ground water (GWP) Surface water systems=surface water (SW), purchased surface water (SWP), ground water under the direct influence of surface water (GU), purchased ground water under the direct influence of suface water (GUP).

source: "Water Source," in Factoids: Drinking Water and Ground Water Statistics for 2004, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DC, May 2005, http://www.epa.gov/safewater/data/pdfs/data _factoids_2004.pdf (accessed August 4, 2005)

safety information. This type of information is vital because private wells are often shallower than those used by public suppliers. The shallower the well the greater is the potential for contamination.

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