Consumer Confidence Reports
The more that customers know about the treated water, the easier it will be for them to trust it 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 the 1st of July.
Consumer Confidence Reports are summaries of local water quality. They 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 nerve racking to share violations with customers, this honesty is a demonstration of transparency that fosters trust and lets customers know the possible impact of violations and that the violations have been or are being addressed.
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 more user friendly CCR and advice on CCR distribution. Check out the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s Guide to Understanding Your CCR for more information. Scroll to the bottom 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 over 90 contaminants found in drinking water. These contaminants include microorganisms, chemicals, 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 in order to determine the levels of contaminants present.
Consumer Confidence Reports present the results of those water tests to the customers drinking that water. Producing a complete CCR that is meaningful to customers requires both proper compliance with regulatory standards as well as reader friendly formatting.
Jump to the Regulatory Compliance section for more information on meeting water testing requirements and regulatory standards.
In order to write the actual report, you can 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 notoriously difficult to read. To improve upon the basic CCR, refer to the Best Practices Spreadsheet: Consumer Confidence Reports and follow their tips for formatting to make the reports more readable and enjoyable. 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 including water conservation tips, emergency phone numbers, a school calendar and even water-related experiments to carry out 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.