Action Steps

Where Does Your Water Come From?

Does your water come from a public water supply, such as the water utility in your city or town? Or do you have a private water supply, such as a well or spring? The questions to ask yourself depend on where your water comes from.

Public Water Supplies

Before reaching your home, water from a public water supply is tested for over 80 different chemicals. If there are problems, the utility has to treat the water to make it safe or tell you that the water is unsafe to drink.

Every year, water utilities give the results of these water tests to customers. They mail reports or print them in a local newspaper. You can also call your water utility to ask what chemicals are found in the water and how they treat it to make it safe.

Public water can become unsafe after it gets to your home through lead or copper pipes. What kind of pipes do you have?

Lead Pipes: Your home, especially if it is older, may have lead water pipes or pipes joined with lead solder. Lead pipes are dull gray and scrathch easily with a key.

Copper Pipes: You may have copper pipes. These are reddish-brown in color.

Clear the Pipes—Follow this simple step if lead or copper are problems in your home. When you haven't used your water for a while (like when you wake up in the morning or when you get home from work), you need to clear out the pipes. Let the cold water run for two or three minutes or until you feel the temperature change, before you drink it or use it for cooking. This will flush out water that has sat in the pipes and picked up lead or copper. Never use hot water from the tap for cooking, drinking, or making formula because the heat helps dissolve the metals faster. Use cold water and heat it on the stove or in the microwave.

Help Protect Water Supplies

You may not know it, but the public water supply is local. Your water may come from the ground-water that is under your home. It may come from the river or lake nearby. What you do can help keep it clean or pollute it. • If you use poisons to kill bugs or weeds, follow what the label says. Never use more than the label says.

Watch where you store chemicals (such as bleach, paint, or pesticides) outside. Make sure that the bottles are closed tightly and have labels that say what they are.

• Do not throw chemicals in the garbage or down the drain. Read the label for disposal instructions. Give leftovers to someone who will use them or call your local or state health department to find out how to get rid of them.

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