California's Drinking Water

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With recent headlines about high levels of lead in drinking water in Flint, Michigan, there has been public concern about the safety of drinking water in other parts of the country, including California. For many reasons, California's drinking water generally is at low risk for lead contamination and water agencies test water in accordance with state and federal drinking water laws to ensure it is safe to drink.

Outreach Resources for ACWA Members

To assist with public outreach and education efforts related to drinking water safety, ACWA has developed several resources recommended for use by local water agencies. These materials are intended to assist member agencies with communicating to customers, the media and the public that California’s drinking water is safe and generally has a lower risk for lead contamination.

Resources include:

* Please note that this graphic was created as an exclusive ACWA member benefit. Member login is required to access this resource. 

ACWA member agencies with questions or concerns regarding these outreach tools should contact ACWA Director of Communications Lisa Lien-Mager at (916) 441-4545. 

EPA Enhances Lead and Copper Rule Enforcement

In response to the Flint water crisis, the EPA on Feb. 29 announced plans to increase oversight of state drinking water programs tasked with implementing EPA's LCR.  

Established in 1991, EPA’s LCR requires public water systems to monitor and report lead and copper in drinking water that may result from corrosion of household plumbing or a water distribution system components. If lead concentrations exceed 15 parts per billion or copper concentrations exceed 1.3 parts per million in more than 10% of customer taps sampled, the water system must take corrective action to control corrosion and inform the public.

Specific steps related to EPA’s enhanced oversight plan were laid out in letters sent to governors and state primacy agencies in every state. A technical memo providing clarifications on recommended tap sampling procedures for LCR testing accompanied the letters.

According to the letters, EPA will meet with every state drinking water program nationwide to address LCR implementation issues and provide training for state and public water systems on LCR requirements. State agencies also will receive additional information related to optimal corrosion control treatment and proper LCR sampling techniques.

EPA also is encouraging state agencies to improve public transparency and accountability by posting information related to state testing methods and public water system testing results on public websites and ensuring that California residents receive the testing results from their homes and information on how to reduce lead risks.

According to EPA proposed changes to the LCR are expected in 2017. The LCR was last revised in 2007 and changes to the rule were previously expected in 2016.

EPA’s Feb. 29 letters are available here. The technical memo that accompanied the letters also is available here.

State Water Board Outreach Recommendations

Public water agencies are being urged by the State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water (DDW) to enhance public outreach efforts and access to information related to compliance with the EPA's LCR.  DDW’s request follows EPA’s recently announced plans to increase enforcement of the LCR by meeting with every state drinking water program in the country.

In a March 7 letter sent to community water systems in California, the DDW recommends that water agencies post on their websites or include with other water quality notices such as the Annual Consumer Confidence Report the following information:

  • The latest 90th percentile values for the most recent round of LCR tap sampling;
  • The number of sites sampled, the number of sites that exceeded an action level, and the number of samples that were invalidated (if applicable);
  • Justifications for invalidation of LCR samples (if applicable);
  • Information on the locations of lead service lines in the distribution system, together with a map of the identified area sand an inventory of lead plumbing in the system; and
  • Additional health information on how to minimize lead in drinking water if lead was detected above the action level in more than 5%, and up to and including 10%, of sites sampled. The health information language in Section 64482(c), Chapter 15, Title 22 of the Consumer Confidence Report regulations may be used for this purpose.

More information about the EPA’s LCR and steps DDW is taking to ensure California’s water systems are in compliance is available here

Questions regarding water quality or the EPA’s LCR may be directed to ACWA Deputy Executive Director, Government Relations Cindy Tuck at (916) 441-4545.

Other Water Quality Issues

Chromium-6 Drinking Water Standard

California’s drinking water standard for chromium-6 took effect on July 1, 2014. It established a maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 10 parts per billion (ppb) for chromium-6 in drinking water and is the only drinking water standard for chromium-6 in the nation. 

On Sept. 4, 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 385 into law an ACWA-sponsored bill that aids compliance with the state’snew chromium-6 drinking water standard. SB 385 was needed because the timeline provided for compliance under the new regulation did not take into account the complex steps some water systems must take to meet the drinking water standard. SB 385 took effect immediately.

ACWA is actively engaged on this issue and is providing a number of resources for use by our member agencies. 

Click here to view ACWA's chromium-6 page

ACWA's Water Quality Committee

The Water Quality Committee recommends policy and programs to the Board of Directors, the State Legislative Committee and Federal Affairs Committee regarding water quality issues.

Click here to read news related to the committee or water quality issues

Technical Resources