Why Are Water Quality Standards Important?
*Reviewed by Ken Christopher, Senior Vice President at Rayne Dealership Corporation
We all depend on water. From the water that flows through our own homes to the water used by industries like petroleum refineries, smelting facilities, and the production of food, paper, and chemical products, high quality water improves our lives in many ways.1
But what is high quality water exactly? And why are water quality standards important?
At the most basic level, American water quality standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintain a healthy water supply and help promote better tasting drinking water quality. That said, businesses and homeowners can take additional steps to improve the quality of their water no matter the designated uses.
Benefits of High-Quality Water
Per the 1972 Clean Water Act, the EPA follows a set of standards that aim to reduce contamination of drinking, recreational, agricultural, and industrial water. More specifically, water is monitored for a variety of contaminants, including microorganisms, disinfectants, chemicals, and radionuclide mineral deposits.2
Clean water serves numerous benefits and is critical to the health of plants, animals, and humans. These advantages include:
- Safety – Tap water from public water sources is regulated and treated to reduce levels of over 90 different contaminants. If left untreated, those contaminants can harm those who drink, bathe in, or clean their homes with the contaminated water.3 More specifically, the contaminants monitored by the EPA may increase your risk for certain diseases, nervous system complications, and gastrointestinal problems. In turn, using water from EPA-regulated sources and paying attention to reports on water quality in your area can help you stay informed and healthy.
- Taste – Some water sources contain materials that, while not harmful to people’s health, may affect the taste, smell, or color of the water. This can make the water less pleasant to drink or otherwise use. Public water sources can treat water to improve taste, color, and scent using EPA guidelines.3 You can also treat water at your home or business using options like a reverse osmosis system or a water softener.
- Prevent buildup – Hard minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and manganese can build up in pipes and water-using appliances over time, which may cause long-term damage and lead to costly repairs. Using a water softener to improve the quality of your water can help your plumbing and appliances last longer.
The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, also requires bodies of water designated for specific uses to remain at a certain quality level. For example, water officially designated for recreation, drinking, agriculture, industry, and the protection of fish and wildlife must all have sufficiently low levels of pollutants.4
How Pollutant Levels Are Determined
In the U.S., water is considered safe to drink if it meets certain EPA water quality standards. Since 1974, the EPA has required public water suppliers to ensure their water is sufficiently free of certain chemicals, germs, and other pollutants.3
These regulations fall into two categories:
- National Primary Drinking Water Regulations – These regulations protect public health by providing treatment requirements for over 90 different contaminants. These stipulations also require that the contaminants never rise above a certain level.3 As stated above, these contaminants can be categorized as microorganisms, disinfectants, disinfectant byproducts, inorganic chemicals, organic chemicals, and radionuclides.5
- National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations – These optional guidelines help public water systems improve factors not tied to health, such as the taste, color, and smell of their water. While not legally required, following these guidelines can help populations enjoy their water source.3
If you drink water from a private commercial source, such as a company that sells bottled water, that water falls under the regulation of the Food and Drug Administration, not the EPA.
The EPA has more stringent reporting and disclosure requirements, making tap water generally safer than bottled water.
Protecting Natural Water Sources
Protecting water sources is critical to maintaining water quality and starts with understanding where the most common pollutants come from.
Water Sources In Need of Restoration
Every two years the EPA requires states to submit a report on the quality of their waters, including information about any significant sources of pollution, which are then compiled in the National Water Quality Inventory Report to Congress.6
The report evaluates, among other things, the overall biological health of the nation’s rivers and streams. According to the 2017 report:7
- 28% of rivers and streams have good biological conditions
- 25% of rivers and streams have fair biological conditions
- 46% of rivers and streams have poor biological conditions
While over half of the nation’s streams and rivers have good or fair conditions, a significant portion of them have problematic levels of pollutants. That’s a trend that continues, albeit at lower levels, in both lakes and coastal waters.7
Luckily we can take clear steps to protect our water sources, both immediately and in the long run.
How to Protect Water Sources
Instead of just learning how to test water quality, it’s important to also know how to help protect water sources through two tactics: protection and treatment. That said, pollutants most often come from:7
- Agricultural activities – These can include crop production as well as animal grazing and animal feeding operations.
- Atmospheric deposition – Airborne pollutants, such as factory emissions or car emissions, can settle in rivers and streams.
- Hydraulic modification – When humans change the natural path of a river or stream through dams, channelizations, or other water diversions, it can affect the overall biological health of that body of water.
Businesses and communities can help reduce pollutants in their water by reducing the primary sources of pollution in their water sources.
This might include:
- Reducing agricultural activities or moving them farther from water sources to prevent potential run-off and other disruptions
- Reducing air pollutants by shifting more eco-friendly automobiles and factory models that produce lower emissions
- Avoiding modifying the natural path of a body of water when possible
- Improving the health of riverbanks and likeside areas, which can help catch run-off before it reaches the water7
It’s also possible for a water source to receive pollution from more than one source. As such, communities must conduct regular analysis of pollution sources to mitigate contamination and keep their water source safe and clean for residents
When we can’t prevent contaminants from reaching our water sources, public water sources can typically treat the water to address those contaminants and make it safe for human consumption by following the EPA’s National Primary Drinking Water Regulations.3
Private citizens also have additional options to improve the quality of their water at their home or business.
How to Improve the Quality of Your Water
Adhering to water quality standard is essential for human health, so it’s important that your water supply quality is at its best. One way to adhere to water standards is to get a water treatment. A water treatment specialist can visit your home or business to evaluate your current water quality and determine if certain water treatment systems or alternative options could improve the caliber of your water.
Possible ways of improving your water include:
- Water softeners – Home water softeners and commercial water softeners eliminate hard minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and manganese from your water supply. This can help prevent build-up and corrosion in your pipes, as well as help water-using appliances last longer and improve the taste of your water.
- Salt-free systems – Available for residential use, the Rayne Spartan Series Systems offers many of the benefits of soft water, without using salt, utilizing electricity, or wasting water. It reduces hard water damage and can reverse existing hard water corrosion damage. It’s also an environmentally friendly way to reduce chlorine, chloramines, and bad tastes or odors in your water.
- Hybrid softener-conditioners – Available for home use, hybrid softener-conditioners can eliminate hard materials from your water, as well as reduce the presence of chlorine, chloramines, bad tastes, and bad odors in your home’s water supply. The on-demand regeneration feature can also help you save water and electricity.
- Drinking water systems – Available for commercial and home use, reverse osmosis systems work by pushing unfiltered water through a reverse osmosis membrane, also known as a semi-permeable membrane. The membrane removes contaminants, impurities, and undesirable dissolved solids. The newly filtered water then flows to the storage tank so that it’s ready for you when you need it. Reverse osmosis drinking water systems can help improve the taste, smell, and appearance of water. It’s an easily installed option that’s more environmentally friendly than bottled water.
- Portable exchange services – Available for home and commercial use, portable exchange services offers you a simple way to have higher quality water delivered to your home. You can choose between various options including Soft Water Exchange, Carbon Tank Exchange, and DI Water Exchange systems so you can find the best portable exchange service to best meet the needs of your home and business.
- Bottle-free or bottleless coolers – Cheaper and more convenient than heavy bottles of water, bottleless water coolers come in a variety of sizes and use a reverse osmosis filtration system paired with multi-stage carbon filtration to give your office a virtually unlimited supply of clean filtered water.
These are some of the most effective and popular methods to improve the quality of water in your home or business. If the variety seems overwhelming, don’t worry. A water treatment specialist can guide you to the best solution for you based on your current water quality, overall water needs, and energy use preferences.
Taking the time to learn about and invest in your water quality can help you improve your life and your business—one drop of water at a time.
Improve Your Water Quality with Rayne Water
Water quality standards set by the EPA ensure that the water we drink and use is safe and free from contaminants that may harm our health and homes.
At Rayne Water, we’ve been helping folks improve their water quality since 1928. Today, we provide homes, businesses, and commercial industries with high quality water using a range of water treatment systems. Our equally high standards for each of our products means we can offer our customers some of the best warranties in the industry.
From the office water cooler to the first glass of water you drink in the morning, we’re in the business of improving every drop of water to meet industrial water quality requirements.
- Scientific American. Should You Drink Tap or Bottled Water? https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/should-you-drink-tap-or-bottled-water/
- EPA. Stage 1 disinfectants and disinfection byproducts rule: a quick reference guide. https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPDF.cgi?Dockey=P100C8XW.txt
- CDC. Regulations. https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/public/regulations.html
- EPA. What are Water Quality Standards? https://www.epa.gov/standards-water-body-health/what-are-water-quality-standards
- EPA. National Primary Drinking Water Regulations. https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/national-primary-drinking-water-regulations#Disinfectants
- Source Water Protection Initiative. Source Water Stewardship: A Guide to Protecting and Restoring Your Drinking Water. https://www.cleanwateraction.org/files/publications/national/sourcewater-stewardship-guide.pdf
- EPA. National Water Quality Inventory Report to Congress. https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2017-12/documents/305brtc_finalowow_08302017.pdf
- CDC. Uses in Manufacturing and Industry. https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/other/industrial/index.html