December 23, 2015

Did you know that you could have your home tested for lead and copper every three years at no cost to you?

Every three years, water providers must conduct lead and copper sampling from inside the homes of those they serve. The sample must be collected from a faucet in the home after a six-hour period of no water use in the home, preferably from the kitchen faucet. The purpose for the sampling is to determine if the water being provided is causing lead and/or copper to leach into the water from the home’s plumbing system. This sample cannot be collected from a home that has a treatment unit installed, such as a water softener or reverse osmosis unit.

The US Environmental Protection Agency requires these samples to protect public health. If an exceedance of a federal lead or copper primary drinking water standard is detected, the water provider must minimize the lead and/or copper levels in the drinking water. To do this, the water provider would have to reduce the corrosivity of the water, which is usually treated through simple pH adjustment.

As a provider, I have received many calls from homeowners who were concerned about the quality of their water only to find out their unit is full of slime, dirt, bugs, and/or bacteria.  If you have a water cooler, make sure you clean and disinfect it at least once every three months or sooner. If you are considering purchasing a home water treatment unit, be aware that most treatment units add salt and chemicals or remove everything from the water, including vital minerals. Some treatment units also remove residual chlorine. When this happens, your system is more likely to become a bacterial breeding network.  Please do your research before buying any household water treatment unit, and call your provider to talk to a water quality professional before making a decision.

If you have questions about your home’s water quality, contact your provider, they will explain the details of the water you are being provided. You should ask questions about the source of your water, the quality of the water being provided, and any potential contaminants of concern in their system.  The publication, Arizona: Know Your Water, from the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension will help you get started. Although most providers are not proponents of treatment units, they will tell you about the contaminants in the water, which will help you to evaluate the type of treatment units you may want to consider. When it comes to anything you eat or drink, especially your water, you should be inquisitive. Call your water provider, and ask to speak to a water quality professional; they are there to ensure the water delivered to you is clean and healthy.

Christine Nunez is an Environmental Manager with the City of Surprise, Arizona, one of fifteen Water – Use It Wisely partners to offer water-saving advice and programs. Featured photo by Morguefile.