What is Drinking Water?
Our drinking water originates from groundwater, wells, rivers, lakes, streams, and reservoirs. Water treatment plants help to clean the water to make it safe to drink.
Common drinking water, or tap water, contains different combinations of naturally occurring minerals, which can affect the water’s taste.
Why is Drinking Water a concern?
All water contains some level of impurities, minerals, and contaminants. In most cases, these levels are very low, and the water is still safe to drink. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets acceptable limits for more than 90 contaminants that may be in drinking water and pose a risk to human health. At low levels they may not harm you, but if the levels of certain contaminants get too high, these waer pllutants can cause short-term and long-term health effects.
Who is at risk?
People in cities usually drink water filtered through water treatment plants. This water is tested at regular intervals. But if a contaminant passes through a water treatment system, it can potentially affect many people at once.
People living in rural areas frequently drink water pumped from a private well. Wells are tested less frequently for pollutants.
What pollutants are of greatest concern?
- Arsenic can enter the water supply through natural deposits or through industrial and agricultural pollution.
- Lead pipes and connectors were commonly used in plumbing in the past. Lead pipes may corrode if the levels of certain elements in the water fall out of balance. This can cause unsafe levels of lead to build up in drinking water. Monitoring water and adding anti-corrosive agents when necessary can prevent this from happening.
Reduce your risk
- Do you use well water?
- Do you live in a city that uses lead pipes and connectors?
- Routinely test well water for chemical contamination.
- If your well water has high levels of chemicals, contact your local or state health agency or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for information on how to reduce your exposure to these chemicals.
- Learn more about the quality of tap water in your area by reading your Consumer Confidence Report to avoid potential dangers.
- Have your drinking water tested by contacting a laboratory certified by your state or territory.
National Library of Medicine Resources and Databases
Science Classroom (Grades 6-8)
Enhance your education on toxic chemicals in our environment using lesson plans, games and activities, videos, informational websites, and more.
Arizona Cooperative Extension: College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Lesson plans and activities on water quality and nonpoint source pollution concepts for students in first through twelfth grade.
University of Wisconsin - Environmental Resources Center
Downloadable guides for middle school students about protecting and improving water resources.
Aquatic, Watershed and Earth Resources, Utah State University
PowerPoint presentation about pharmaceuticals in drinking water that includes information on unregulated contaminants, and sources, treatment, and impacts of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Koshland Science Museum
Information about access to safe drinking water.
US Geological Survey
Information on qualities and properties of water, including groundwater, wastewater, and sewage water.
Two-minute film about water conservation from National Geographic.