Drinking Water: Tap vs. Private Well

Being in proximity to a contaminated site occasionally raises concern regarding the quality of the drinking water and whether or not the contamination is present in that water. One important question to keep in mind is “where does the drinking water come from… a municipal water system or a private well?” The answer to this question will help to resolve the issue of contamination.

In general, homes in urban areas are typically hooked up to a municipal water system. The water from this type of system is commonly referred to as “tap water”. Municipal water suppliers are required to meet stringent drinking water standards set forth by the US EPA. These drinking water suppliers provide reports, sometimes called consumer confidence reports, which outline where the water comes from and what substances are in it. The municipal water supplier should be able to provide these reports upon request.

On the other hand, if a home is not hooked up to a municipal water source but instead is using a private well on the property, then the US EPA regulations do not apply. The homeowner is responsible for the quality and safety of the drinking water. Keep in mind that being in proximity to a contaminated site does not necessarily mean the well will be contaminated. There is always the possibility that the contamination could be traveling in the opposite direction to where the private well is located, in which case the well water would remain uncontaminated. Another possibility is that the contamination could be at a much shallower depth than where the private well is drawing water. If the private well is deep, then it possibly can bypass contamination at more shallow depths. In any case, the US EPA recommends that well owners have their water tested annually.