The Take Back the Tap Guide to Safe

Tap Water
How to read your water quality report and
choose the best filtration system for your home
About Food & Water Watch
lood & \uter \utch vorks to ensure the íood, vuter und ísh ve consume
ís suíe, uccessíbíe und sustuínubíe. So ve cun uíí eníov und trust ín vhut ve
eut und drínk, ve heíp peopíe tuke churge oí vhere theír íood comes írom,
keep cíeun, uííordubíe, pubííc tup vuter íovíng íreeív to our homes, protect
the envíronmentuí quuíítv oí oceuns, íorce government to do íts íob protectíng
cítízens, und educute ubout the ímportunce oí keepíng shured resources under
pubííc controí.
Copvríght © luív 20l0 bv lood & \uter \utch. Aíí ríghts reserved. 1hís report cun be
víeved or dovníouded ut vvv.íoodundvutervutch.org.
Cover ímuge oí vuter gíuss bv Yuceí 1eííící/sxc.hu.
The Take Back the Tap Guide to Safe
Tap Water
How to read your water quality report and
choose the best filtration system for your home
lurt Cne: Your \uter Cuuíítv Report...............................................................l
\e ¬|| Have a R|gh| |o Inov \ha|´s |n Cut \a|et...................................l
\ha| ls a \a|et Cua|||v Repot|:..............................................................2
\ho Ce|s a \a|et Cua|||v Repot|:...........................................................2
\hen ls a \a|et Cua|||v Repot| lssued:...................................................2
\ha| Ooes a \a|et Cua|||v Repot| 1e|| )ou:............................................3
\hv ls a \a|et Cua|||v Repot| lmpot|an|:...............................................3
Hov ls a \a|et Cua|||v Repot| O|s|t|bu|ed:.............................................3
Oecod|ng |he \a|et Cua|||v Repot| o| Cut !a||on´s Cap||a|....................4
lurt 1vo: líítrutíon Svstems............................................................................5
)ou´ve Read )out Repot|. !ov \ha|:......................................................5
\ha| |o Cons|det \hen Buv|ng a \a|et I|||et..........................................5
\a|et I|||ta||on: \ha|´s on |he Matle|:....................................................6
\a|et I|||et 1echno|og|es..........................................................................6
Cons|det \h|ch I|||et ls Bes| |ot )ou.........................................................8
\a|et Cua|||v Concetns and I|||ta||on Me|hods.......................................9
Ihatmaceu||ca|s. Ietsona| Cate Itoduc|s and Hotmone·O|stup||ng
Chem|ca|s..............................................................................................l0
Vet||v |he Cua|||v o| )out I|||et: Checl |ot 1h|td·Iat|v Cet|||ca||on and
Inb|ased Ra||ngs and Rev|evs...............................................................l0
Consumers Lníon \a|et I|||et Ra||ngs....................................................ll
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rom coust to coust, consumers ure kíckíng the
bottíed vuter hubít und tukíng buck the tup. 1he
vord ís out: ßottíed vuter cun be bud íor our vuííets,
our heuíth und our envíronment.
lí vou're umong the grovíng number oí peopíe mukíng the move to tup vuter,
vou muv be ínterested to íeurn more ubout vour íocuí vuter suppív. Consumer
stundurds ure uctuuíív more stríngent íor the quuíítv und suíetv oí tup vuter
thun íor bottíed vuter. 1he best vuv to índ out more ubout vour íocuí vuter
ís to reud vour vuter quuíítv report. 1hís guíde ís íntended to heíp vou under-
stund vhut vour vuter quuíítv report ís und hov to ínterpret vhut ít teíís vou.
We All Have a Right to Know What’s in Our Water
Your vuter utííítv monítors und treuts vour drínkíng vuter uccordíng to íederuí
stundurds uuthorízed bv the Suíe Drínkíng \uter Act oí l974. ln l996, Con-
gress udded u requírement thut utííítíes must notíív the pubííc ubout unv regu-
íuted contumínunt detected ín the vuter suppív, us veíí us unv vuter quuíítv
víoíutíon, so thut consumers knov íí theír vuter hus been contumínuted.

As u resuít, euch veur, vour íocuí vuter utííítv ís requíred to íssue u vuter quuí-
ítv report.
Part One: Your Water Quality Report
2 The Take Back the Tap Guide to Safe Tap Water
What Is a Water Quality Report?
Annuuí vuter quuíítv reports, uíso cuííed consumer conídence reports, ure
íntended to heíp consumers muke íníormed choíces ubout theír drínkíng vu-
ter. \hííe these reports contuín useíuí íníormutíon, thev cun uíso be coníusíng
und íuíí oí íurgon. 1hís guíde ís íntended to heíp vou understund vhut vour
vuter quuíítv report ís und hov to ínterpret vhut ít teíís vou.
A vuter quuíítv report íets vou knov vhut contumínunts, íí unv, ure ín vour
drínkíng vuter und hov these contumínunts muv uííect vour heuíth. lt íísts uíí
the reguíuted toxíns thut vere detected ín vour vuter over the precedíng cuí-
endur veur.
Who Gets a Water Quality Report?
A vuter quuíítv report ís uvuííubíe íor everv customer oí u communítv vuter
svstem, vhích ís one thut provídes veur-round servíce to more thun l5 house-
hoíds or more thun 25 peopíe.
When Is a Water Quality Report Issued?
You shouíd receíve vour report bv luív l oí euch veur.
3 Food & Water Watch
What Does a Water Quality Report Tell You?
Lverv vuter quuíítv report must contuín:
- 1he source oí the drínkíng vuter, be ít u ríver, íuke, groundvuter uquí-
íer or some other bodv oí vuter:
- A bríeí summurv oí the stute's source vuter ussessment, vhích meu-
sures hov susceptíbíe the source vuter ís to contumínutíon, und hov
to get u copv oí the compíete ussessment:
- 1he L.S. Lnvíronmentuí lrotectíon Agencv (LlA) reguíutíons und
heuíth gouís íor drínkíng vuter contumínunts:
- A ííst oí uíí detected reguíuted contumínunts und theír íeveís:
- lotentíuí heuíth eííects oí unv contumínunt detected ut u íeveí thut
víoíutes the LlA's heuíth stundurd:
- An educutíonuí stutement íor peopíe víth veukened ímmune svstems
ubout crvptosporídíum und other mícrobíuí contumínunts:
- Contuct íníormutíon íor the vuter svstem und the LlA's Suíe Drínkíng
\uter Hotííne.
Why Is a Water Quality Report Important?
Your vuter utííítv ís requíred bv íuv to teíí vou ubout unv víoíutíon oí LlA
vuter quuíítv stundurds ut the tíme ít occurs (through medíu outíets such us
nevspupers und teíevísíon) und uguín ín the unnuuí vuter quuíítv report. You
shouíd not drínk vuter thut íuíís to meet LlA stundurds becuuse ít muv be un-
suíe. 1hunkíuíív, pubííc utííítíes huve vorked hurd to ímprove vuter quuíítv. As
u resuít, more thun 90 percent oí vuter svstems meet uíí LlA reguíutíons.
1he report must uíso díscíose u ííst oí uíí reguíuted contumínunts thut huve
been detected ín the vuter suppív. 1he LlA sets the muxímum íeveí oí contum-
ínunts uííoved ín drínkíng vuter bused on the ííteríng und treutment cupubííí-
tíes oí current technoíogv. 1he vuter quuíítv report uíso teíís vou ubout poten-
tíuíív hurmíuí substunces íound ín vour vuter ut íeveís beíov theír íeguí íímít.
How Is a Water Quality Report Distributed?
1hís depends on the síze oí the vuter svstem. Aíí íurge vuter svstems muíí
out the reports, oíten us un ínsert ín vour vuter bííí. Verv íurge svstems must
both muíí the reports und post them onííne. Smuíí svstems servíng íever thun
l0,000 peopíe cun huve the muíííng requírement vuíved. ln thís cuse, hov-
4 The Take Back the Tap Guide to Safe Tap Water
Decoding the Water Quality Report of Our Nation’s Capital
1RWGHWHFWHG
ever, thev must pubíísh the report ín ut íeust one íocuí nevspuper und muke ít
uvuííubíe to the pubííc upon request.
\uter svstems uíso must muke u ºgood íuíth eííort¨ to reuch renters, vork-
ers und other consumers vho use the vuter but do not receíve vuter bííís.
Ltííítíes shouíd use u combínutíon oí díííerent outreuch methods to notíív us-
ers, such us postíng the reports onííne, muíííng them und udvertísíng ín íocuí
nevspupers.
More íníormutíon ís uvuííubíe onííne ut vvv.epu.gov/suíevuter/ccr/. lor gen-
eruí questíons, vou cun contuct the LlA's Suíe Drínkíng \uter Hotííne toíí-íree
ut l-800-426-479l.
5 Food & Water Watch
You’ve Read Your Report. Now What?
1he Lníted Stutes provídes some oí the cíeunest drínkíng vuter ín the voríd,
und more thun 90 percent oí vuter svstems meet uíí LlA reguíutíons. Some
consumers muv preíer to ííter theír tup vuter, hovever, becuuse thev preíer
the tuste or vunt to remove míneruís und purtícuíutes. 1hís sectíon híghííghts
the tvpes oí uvuííubíe ííters to heíp vou to determíne vhích one ís best íor
vour needs.
What to Consider When Buying a Water Filter
\hut ímpurítíes do vou vunt to remove írom vour vuter: Are vou concerned
ubout heuíth rísks, or símpív unuppetízíng tustes und odors: Díííerent ííters
ure desígned to remove vuríous ímpurítíes, so be sure thut the ííter vou buv
vííí do the íob.
Cnce vou huve reud vour vuter quuíítv report, determíne vhut, íí unvthíng,
vou vouíd ííke to ííter out oí vour vuter. Dependíng on the vuter quuíítv
vhere vou ííve, vou muv decíde thut vou do not need to ííter vour vuter ut uíí.
Part Two: Filtration Systems
6 The Take Back the Tap Guide to Safe Tap Water
Water Filtration: What’s on the Market?
\uter ííters come ín munv shupes und sízes. Dependíng on vour íítrutíon
needs, íííestvíe preíerences und budget, vou muv vunt to consíder the íoííov-
íng optíons, vhose descríptíons vere udupted írom u Muv 20l0 Consumet
Repot|s urtícíe:
Caralc. or "µour-lhrough." üllcrs ure the símpíest vuter ííters
to use. 1he ííter íts ínsíde u pítcher thut vou cun keep ín vour
reírígerutor. Curuíes ure ínexpensíve und eusv to use. Hovever,
the ííters huve u short íííetíme und cun onív ííter u íímíted
umount oí vuter ut u tíme.
A lauccl-mounlcd üllcr ís exuctív vhut ít sounds ííke u
ííter thut ís screved dírectív on to vour íuucet. 1hese ííters re-
quíre mínímuí ínstuííutíon, but thev síov the íov oí vuter und
cun't be used on uíí íuucets.
Counlcrloµ üllcrs ure best íor ííteríng íurge quuntítíes oí vuter
víthout modíívíng píumbíng. 1hev're íess ííkeív to cíog thun
curuíe or íuucet-mounted ííters, but cun cíutter countertops
und cun't be used víth uíí tvpes oí íuucets.
Plumbcd-ìn üllcrs ure ínstuííed dírectív ínto un exístíng vuter
pípe. Cíten, thev ure ínstuííed under the sínk (und ure some-
tímes reíerred to us ºunder-sínk¨ ííters). 1hev cun be píumbed-
ín to the exístíng sínk íuucet, vhích muv requíre drííííng u hoíe
ín the countertop, or thev cun díspense vuter through u sepu-
rute tup. 1hese ííters ure best íor ííteríng íurge umounts oí vu-
ter víthout modíívíng the exístíng íuucet or cíutteríng the counter. Hovever,
thev tuke up cubínet spuce und requíre píumbíng modíícutíons.
Poìnl-ol-cnlry. or "wholc-housc." üllcrs ure ínstuííed dírectív
ín the vuter muín und ííter uíí the vuter ín u house, íncíudíng
vuter íor the kítchen, íuundrv room und buthrooms. 1hese íí-
ters huve u íong íííetíme und ure un ínexpensíve vuv to remove
sedíment, rust und, ín some cuses, chíoríne írom househoíd
vuter. ßut most von't remove most other contumínunts. 1hev uíso requíre
proíessíonuí ínstuííutíon.
Water Filter Technologies
Díííerent vuter ííter products use díííerent technoíogíes. Some use more thun
one. lí vou ure íookíng íor u home vuter ííter, vou ure ííkeív to come ucross
some oí these terms:
7 Food & Water Watch
Iat||cu|a|e/mechan|ca| |||et: 1hese ure símpíe screens thut bíock íurge pur-
tícíes. 1hev oíten íunctíon us ºpreííters¨ ín u muítípíe-step vuter ííter.
¬dsotp||on/¬c||va|ed Catbon: Adsorptíon reíers to u phvsícuí process vhere
purtícíes ín vuter ure removed becuuse thev stíck to the suríuce oí the muterí-
uí ín the ííter. 1hese ííters ure usuuíív mude víth curbon, oíten ín grunuíuted
or povdered íorm. 1hev ure the most common ííters on the murket und come
ín díííerent íorms íncíudíng pítchers und íuucet-mounted svstems. 1hev ure
generuíív eííectíve íor reducíng the most tvpícuí vorrísome compounds thut
cun be íound ín munícípuí vuter: chíoríne, chíoríne bvproducts und díssoíved
voíutííe orguníc chemícuís (VCCs) such us pestícídes und herbícídes. Curbon
udsorptíon ííters generuíív vork veíí íor reducíng bud odors und tustes.
So||enets/lon Ixchange In||s: \uter soíteners use u process cuííed íon ex-
chunge to reduce hurd metuís íncíudíng íeud ín vuter. \hen vuter
pusses through un íon exchunge unít, hurd metuí íons ure repíuced bv sodíum
íons, íeuvíng the vuter ºsoíter¨ us u resuít but uíso suítíer. 1hís technoíogv
ís oíten used ín combínutíon víth udsorptíve or reverse-osmosís ííters. lotus-
síum chíoríde vuter soíteners vork ín u símííur vuv to sodíum chíoríde soít-
eners, but víthout íncreusíng íeveís oí suít ín the vuter: thís mukes potussíum
chíoríde soíteners u better choíce íor some uses, such us vuteríng píunts.
I||tav|o|e| ·IV) 1tea|men|: 1hís treutment uses LV ííght to kííí germs thut
muv be present ín the vuter. LV treutment ís the onív treutment certííed bv
the Nutíonuí Sunítutíon loundutíon lnternutíonuí to reduce bucteríu.

Revetse Csmos|s: Reverse osmosís ís u process vhere vuter ís íorced through
u membrune thut ííters out moíecuíes phvsícuíív íurger thun the vuter moí-
ecuíes. Aíthough reverse osmosís vorks veíí íor reducíng míneruís, ít ís not
eííectíve íor chíoríne or voíutííe orguníc compounds (VCCs), vhích ure more
S The Take Back the Tap Guide to Safe Tap Water
ííkeív to be concerns ín munícípuí tup vuter. Hovever, munv reverse-osmosís
uníts ure combíned víth pre-ííters und curbon ííters to uddress thís concern.
Reverse-osmosís ííters ure expensíve und verv íneíícíent thev vuste írom
one to three guííons oí vuter íor everv guííon thut thev ííter.
O|s||||a||on: \uter dístíííers heut vuter so thut ít turns ínto steum, vhích ís then
coííected und returned to íts ííquíd íorm. Contumínunts ure íeít behínd vhen
the vuter evuporutes. 1hus, dístíííutíon ís verv eííectíve íor removíng most mín-
eruís und bucteríu. Hovever, some dístíííutíon uníts do not remove VCCs. Dís-
tíííutíon uíso requíres more energv thun other methods, to heut the vuter.
Consider Which Filter Is Best for You
\hen vou ure consíderíng díííerent tvpes oí ííters, keep ín mínd thut euch
índívíduuí product on the murket hus íts ovn pros und cons.
lndívíduuí products muv use muítípíe technoíogíes und ure oíten murketed
us tvo (or more) stuge ííters. Curuíe, íuucet-mounted und countertop ííters
tvpícuíív use u combínutíon oí udsorptíon und íon exchunge resíns, vhííe
píumbed-ín svstems muv use those technoíogíes ín uddítíon to reverse osmosís.
lííters uíso come ín u víde runge oí príces. Most curuíes und íuucet-mounted
ííters cost betveen S20 und S50, vhííe countertop, under-sínk und vhoíe-
house ííters cun runge írom S50 to S900.
\hen consíderíng the príce oí u vuter ííter, remember thut the totuí cost ín-
cíudes vour ínítíuí purchuse príce us veíí us unv ínstuííutíon, muíntenunce or
9 Food & Water Watch
repíucement íees. lííter purts need to be chunged períodícuíív to prevent cíog-
gíng, so be sure to consíder hov much repíucement purts cost, us veíí us the
munuíucturer's estímuted íííe spun íor the product.
Aíso consíder the umount oí vuter vou use. Some ííter tvpes huve íurger
vuter cupucítíes thun others. Curuíes, íor exumpíe, cun ííter u íev cups or
guííons ut u tíme, vhííe íuucet-mounted or under-sínk ííters vork dírectív
through u tup.
Most ímportuntív, muke sure thut the índívíduuí product reduces the specííc
contumínunts thut vou vunt to remove írom vour vuter. Ceneruíív, products
vííí íncíude cíuíms on theír puckugíng or udvertísíng regurdíng vhích contum-
ínunts thev reduce und the percentuge reductíon rute. See the tubíe beíov íor
more íníormutíon ubout common contumínunts oí concern und vhích tvpe oí
ííter vííí reduce the contumínunts.
Water Quality Concerns and Filtration Methods*
Contaminant/QuaIitv Conccrn fiItration Mcthod Notcs
ChIorinc
Curbon/Churcouí
lííter
Contuct vour íocuí vuter utííítv to
índ out vhích dísíníectunt ís used
ín vour drínkíng vuter. \uter ííters
certííed to reduce chíoríne do not
necessuríív vork íor chíorumíne.
ChIorinc Bvproducts
(TrihaIomcthancs)
Curbon/Churcouí
lííter
1ríhuíomethunes ure u tvpe oí VCC
(voíutííe orguníc compound), so
products certííed to reduce VCCs
vííí reduce thís contumínunt.
Tastc and Odor
Curbon/Churcouí
lííter
lcad
Curbon, Dístíííutíon,
Reverse Csmosís
fIuoridc
Dístíííutíon, Reverse
Csmosís
Not uíí pubííc drínkíng vuter svs-
tems udd íuoríde to the vuter.
Check to see íí vour communítv
does bv reudíng vour unnuuí vuter
quuíítv report.
ChIoramincs
Some Curbon/Chur-
couí lííters
Check thut the svstem vou seíect
ís certííed to reduce chíorumínes.
Svstems thut reduce chíoríne do not
necessuríív reduce chíorumínes.
PcrchIoratcs Reverse Csmosís
Arscnic
Dístíííutíon, Reverse
Csmosís
1vo díííerent íorms oí urseníc cun
be íound ín vuter, so ít ís ímportunt
to knov vhích tvpe oí urseníc vou
vunt to ííter beíore choosíng u vu-
ter treutment svstem.
*lníormutíon tuken írom Nutíonuí Sunítutíon loundutíon's Contumínunt Cuíde. líeuse note thut ííters und
treutment svstems shouíd be certííed bv u thírd purtv ugencv. Check to ensure thut the brund oí ííter vou
choose ís certííed to uddress vour vuter quuíítv needs.
10 The Take Back the Tap Guide to Safe Tap Water
Pharmaceuticals, Personal Care Products and Hormone-
Disrupting Chemicals
Consumers ure íncreusíngív concerned ubout phurmuceutícuí resídues und
other hormone dísruptíng chemícuís ín drínkíng vuter. 1hese chemícuís ure
not reguíuted, but studíes huve shovn thut thev ure shovíng up ín truce
umounts ín drínkíng vuter. Accordíng to the Nutíonuí Sunítutíon loundutíon,
there ís no testíng uvuííubíe ut thís tíme to meusure the potentíuí ubííítv oí
home vuter treutment svstems to reduce phurmuceutícuís.
Verify the Quality of Your Filter: Check for Third-Party
Certification and Unbiased Ratings and Reviews
Makc surc lhal your üllcr ìs ccrlìücd by an ìndcµcndcnl ccrlìlyìng agcncy.
Not uíí ííters ííve up to índustrv stundurds. Muke sure thut the product vou ure
buvíng does. 1he puckugíng shouíd díspíuv certíícutíon írom un índependent
certíívíng ugencv such us the Nutíonuí Sunítutíon loundutíon lnternutíonuí or
\uter Cuuíítv Assocíutíon. lor more íníormutíon ubout products und product
certíícutíon guídeíínes, contuct:
- Nutíonuí Sunítutíon loundutíon lnternutíonuí: 800-673-6275, Lmuíí:
íníoºnsí.org
- \uter Cuuíítv Assocíutíon: 630-505-0l60
Avoìd bìascd üllcr rcvìcw sìlcs and markclìng claìms. lí vou seurch the lnter-
net íor vuter ííter revíevs, vou oíten ure dírected to sítes vhere everv síngíe
ºbest¨ optíon ís írom the sume compunv, und íncíudes u íínk to u síte vhere
vou cun buv thut brund oí ííter. Avoíd buvíng ííters írom such vebsítes.
7hc bcsl sourccs ol rcvìcws and ralìngs comc lrom organìzalìons lhal do nol
scll lhc µroducls. such as Consumcr Rcports. Consumet Repot|s ís pubííshed
bv Consumers Lníon, u nonproít orgunízutíon thut provídes consumers víth
unbíused product tests und rutíngs.
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11 Food & Water Watch
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Tap water is tested more frequently for safety
concerns than bottled water, but the water quality
reports issued by local utilities can be confusing
to read. Use this guide to help understand these
reports and why they are important. Then get tips
on finding the right filter for your household tap
water based on the water quality in your area.

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