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Drinking Water

​​​​​​​​​People drink and use water for cooking, bathing, cleaning, and recreation every day. Because we consume and come in contact with water on a daily basis, the quality of that water is important for our health. The majority of Americans are provided with high-quality drinking water. About 95% of people in Kentucky get their water from a community water system versus a smaller water supply such as a household well. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets regulations for treating and monitoring drinking water delivered by community water systems. Currently, there are water quality standards and monitoring requirements for over 90 contaminants. Drinking water protection programs play a critical role in ensuring high-quality drinking water and in protecting the public's health.​

Why is this important?

​Contaminants in even a single drinking water system can harm many people. Because water is so important in daily life, there are many opportunities for contaminated water to enter the body, not only by drinking but by other types of exposure. For example, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's) can be inhaled through steam from dishwashers, showers, or washing clothes. Some contaminants can be absorbed through the skin as well. It is important to remember that all contaminants do not act the same way; some contaminants can make people sick very quickly and others require exposure over many years before negative health effects are seen. Health effects are also influenced by the amount of contaminant a person is exposed to and the frequency and duration of the exposure.​

What is known?​

There are many ways in which a contaminant can enter a drinking water system. Human activities such as agriculture and manufacturing use chemicals that may leak or be disposed of in areas that can run into community drinking water systems. Some contaminants such as arsenic, radon, and uranium are a naturally occurring part of the soil and will enter drinking water systems through natural processes. Occasionally, malfunctioning wastewater treatment plants can contaminate drinking water. Contaminants in drinking water can lead to a number of health issues. It is important to remember that the type of health issue and its severity depends on the contaminant in question, its concentration in the water, and how long the exposure was.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to set and oversee standards to protect drinking water and make sure it is safe for consumption (see the Safe Drinking Water Act).​

Who is at risk?​

People who may be especially susceptible to contaminated water are

  • Children,
  • Pregnant women,
  • People with a weakened immune system, and
  • The elderly.

How to reduce risk?​

Be informed about your water

  • Read your annual Consumer Confidence Report (sometimes called a Water Quality Report) about your public water system.
  • If you are one of the 15 percent of Americans who use their own source of drinking water, like a well, cistern, or spring, you are responsible for protecting your water supply. Find out what activities are taking place in your watershed that may impact the drinking water quality. Also, talk with local experts, test your water periodically, maintain your well, and close it properly.

Be observant about your water

  • Be aware and alert to announcements in the local media about local activities that may pollute your source water.
  • Call 911 if you see suspicious activity in or around your water supply.

Be involved with your water

  • Attend public hearings about new construction, storm water​ permitting, and town planning.
  • Ask questions on any issue that may impact your water source. (What specific plans have been made to prevent water contamination?)

Prevent water contamination

  • Reduce or eliminate pesticide application
  • Reduce the amount of trash you create by recycling and reusing containers, plastics, aluminum, and glass
  • Be aware of what you put in your septic system; chemicals may enter your drinking water

For more suggestions, see the U.S Environmental Protection Agency's list Protect Your Drinking Water for Life