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KOSU Waterline FAQ

KOSU Waterline is a project to learn more about how people utilize water in their everyday life and to learn if they know what to do if they have issues with the resource.
Kateleigh Mills
KOSU Radio
KOSU Waterline is a project to learn more about how people utilize water in their everyday life and to learn if they know what to do if they have issues with the resource.

Water is a vital resource that keeps us alive, we use it for all kinds of things — like cooking, cleaning, agriculture and more. The KOSU Waterline project looks to learn more about how water impacts peoples’ lives.

KOSU water reporter Graycen Wheeler will be covering all things water-related in 2023. Below, we’ll answer some of the common questions that we’re receiving from community members like you!

If you have a question for Graycen, please fill out the form here. Thank you!

1.) How can I check on my water quality?

Testing for private wells

If you get your water from a private well, you have to arrange water quality testing yourself. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality recommends running basic tests on private wells every year. The DEQ also suggests testing your well if it’s new, if you notice a sudden change in your water, or if you’re bringing a baby into your household.

Private well testing is available from county OSU Extension offices. People who notice something off about their well water can reference the OSU Extension’s table of likely chemical culprits, so they know which tests to run first.

Well owners can also use companies or DIY tests to understand their water quality. The DEQ, the State Health Department or a county health department should be able to provide information about those alternatives.

Testing for public water systems

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires all public water supplies, including municipal systems and rural water districts, to regularly monitor their water quality and share those results each year. Churches, schools and businesses with their own wells can also qualify as community water systems if enough people regularly use their well water.

These testing results are shared as Consumer Confidence Reports. Water customers usually receive a copy of this report with their bill each July, but it’s also available on the state’s Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) website a few months before that. More information about using the Consumer Confidence Report is below.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s facility database

The EPA regulates water quality under the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. If you’re curious about how businesses and other EPA-regulated facilities in your area meets these regulations, you can use the EPA ECHO facility lookup. This database contains a ton of information, and not all of it’s about drinking water or even water at all.

2.) What is this Consumer Confidence Report that I get, and how do I use it?

The Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) is a yearly report that public water supplies are required to provide their customers. The CCR has information about where your water comes from and what it contains. It uses many acronyms, and those are listed in a glossary on the first page of the report. We’ve provided a breakdown of the CCR’s different sections below.

Water sources

If your system gets its water from one or more reservoirs, those will be listed. If the system draws groundwater, the CCR will state how many wells it uses. Some systems buy water from another water supplier. In that case, the seller will be listed, and you’ll need to check its CCR to learn where the water originates.

Required testing for bacteria

Public water systems are required to test monthly for coliform bacteria. These bacteria live in our guts and are usually harmless and even helpful for digestion. But too many coliform bacteria in drinking water can make people sick, and their presence might indicate that the drinking water supply is contaminated with wastewater or agricultural runoff.

The CCR lists any instances where bacteria were detected. You can find more information about where your system collects samples and where positive results came from in SDWIS.

Testing results for regulated contaminants

The EPA keeps an eye on contaminants that can be harmful to people. If your drinking water contained any regulated contaminants, the CCR lists them, even if they were at safe levels. These include metals, radiological contaminants and other potentially hazardous chemicals. The report shows how much of a contaminant was in the water supply. It also lists maximum allowable levels, maximum desirable levels and typical sources for these chemicals.

The report also includes any secondary contaminants found in your water — chemicals that aren’t dangerous for health but can affect the water’s taste, odor or appearance.

Drinking water violations

If your water system violated any drinking water regulations during the year, they will be listed on the CCR. Sometimes these violations don’t mean your water had unsafe contaminants, just that your water supply failed to submit required samples or report test results.

3.) Who regulates water quality in Oklahoma?

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board both have roles in regulating the state’s water.

The DEQ is responsible for water quality. The OWRB regulates water rights and usage. The OWRB also deals with water safety issues, like dam maintenance and flood preparedness.

Have you taken the KOSU Waterline survey yet?

Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
Kateleigh Mills was the Special Projects reporter for KOSU from 2019 to 2024.
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