EPA Database Tracks Water Systems

The Environmental Protection Agency maintains an extensive database containing basic information on approximately 175,000 public water systems, including the number of people served, type of violations reported and any enforcement actions taken.

The Environmental Protection Agency maintains an extensive database containing basic information on approximately 175,000 public water systems, including the number of people served, type of violations reported and any enforcement actions taken.

EPAs Safe Drinking Water Information System/federal version (SDWIS/FED) is designed to replace the system known as FRDS (Federal Reporting Data System). The Safe Drinking Water Act requires states to report drinking water information periodically to EPA; this information is maintained in SDWIS/FED.

EPA uses the information to determine if and when it needs to take action against non-compliant systems, oversee state drinking water programs, track contaminant levels, respond to public inquiries, and prepare national reports. EPA also uses this information to evaluate the effectiveness of its programs and regulations, and to determine whether new regulations are needed to further protect public health.

EPA is in the process of determining additional information states may be required to report in the future, such as the city and county where the system is located (most states already report this information), and the latitude/longitude of the source water intake. EPA may also ask for treatment data including all sources and treatment plants, information on new or innovative treatment techniques, and the treatment status of the seller of purchased water.

Current Information

Currently states provide EPA with basic information on each water system, including: name, ID number, number of people served, type of system (year-round or seasonal), and source of water (ground water or surface water). States also must track and report violation information for each water system: whether it has followed established monitoring and reporting schedules, complied with mandated treatment techniques, or violated any Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs).

Current Information

Other information provided includes any enforcement information: what actions states have taken to ensure that drinking water systems return to compliance if they are in violation of a drinking water regulation; and sampling results for unregulated contaminants and for regulated contaminants when the monitoring results exceed the MCL.

Current Information

Utilities are also required to report certain "milestones" for the Lead and Copper and Surface Water Treatment Rules. Milestones are essentially the point when a utility completes or meets a particular requirements under the rules: for example, successful completion of a corrosion control treatment study.

Current Information

States have 60 days from the end of each quarter to report to EPA any violations, enforcement actions, variances, or milestones, and another 30 days to verify and correct this information. For example, a violation that occurred in the middle of the first quarter of the fiscal year (November) is available in SDWIS/FED by the beginning of the third quarter (April).

Current Information

SDWIS/FED information is available for free through the Internet. The EPA website Envirofacts (http://www.epa.gov/enviro/html/sdwis/sdwis_ov.html) makes a sub-set of SDWIS/FED information easily available to anyone with access to the Internet.

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