The more customers know about the treated water, the easier it will be for them to trust and feel confident drinking it. One common method for informing community members about local drinking water quality is by providing an annual water quality report, known formally as a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). The EPA requires that all community water suppliers provide CCRs to their customers each year by July 1.
CCRs are summaries of local water quality. These reports provide information on: where the local drinking water comes from, the levels of contaminants found in the water, how those levels compare to the safe levels determined by the EPA, and if there are any violations to EPA safe level standards. Although it can be stressful to share any violations with customers, this honesty is a demonstration of transparency that fosters trust with the customers, and lets them consider the actions being taken to address the violations.
Check out the EPA’s Best Practices Factsheet: Consumer Confidence Report for a quick list of the information required in a CCR. This factsheet also contains some great tips for formatting a user-friendly CCR and advice on CCR distribution. Check out the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s Guide to Understanding Your CCR for additional information. Scroll to the bottom of the CDC page to view the sections of a sample CCR and tips on how to read and understand them.
Improving Your CCRs
In order to protect public health, the EPA has set legal limits on more than 90 contaminants found in drinking water. These contaminants include microorganisms, chemicals, and disinfectants and their byproducts. The purpose of water treatment is to ensure that contaminant levels in drinking water are brought below the safe level limits set by the EPA. Water treatment plants are required to have their treated water tested by a certified lab to determine the levels of contaminants present.
Consumer Confidence Reports present the results of water quality tests to the customers who are drinking that water. Producing a meaningful CCR requires compliance with regulatory standards along with reader friendly formatting.
To write a valuable CCR, start by using the EPA’s CCR iWriter. This free online resource allows you to input information on your local water system along with results from your water tests to generate a regulation compliant CCR.
Consumer Confidence Reports are often difficult to read. To improve upon the basic format of the CCR, refer to the Best Practices Spreadsheet: Consumer Confidence Reports and follow the tips for formatting. Never underestimate the power of adding photos and graphics to your CCRs! Check out this excellent example of a CCR created by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Utility Authority, which includes water conservation tips, emergency phone numbers, a school calendar and even water-related experiments to conduct with children. Supplementing your CCRs, by combining them with activities or community news, is a great way to increase readership.
If you still have questions about CCRs, contact the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 for additional support.