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Consumer Confidence Reports

The guiding principle behind consumer confidence reports (CCRs) is that all people have the right to know what is in their drinking water and where it comes from. The CCR provides an opportunity for water suppliers to educate consumers about the sources and quality of their drinking water and to involve them in decisions about it. U.S. EPA has revised its public notification requirements to speed up notification of serious health threats, and simplify notification of other violations. Consumers who are familiar with the basic drinking water information in CCRs will be able to participate more effectively in these processes. The reports will not only help consumers to make informed choices that affect the health of themselves and their families, they will encourage consumers to consider the challenges of delivering safe drinking water. Educated consumers are more likely to help protect drinking water sources and to be more understanding of the need to upgrade the treatment facilities that makes their drinking water safe. Even before generation and distribution of a CCR was required, many water suppliers saw the benefits associated with educating consumers and were distributing some form of a CCR voluntarily.

1. What is a consumer confidence report?

In 1996, the U.S. Congress and the President amended the Safe Drinking Water Act. They added a provision requiring that all community water systems deliver to their customers an annual water quality report. The law specifies certain content for the reports, and requires water systems to distribute these reports to all of their customers. CCRs summarize information that water systems already collect. The report includes basic information on the source(s) of water, the levels of any contaminants detected in the water, and compliance with other drinking water rules, as well as some brief educational material. U.S. EPA expects that most reports will fit on one or two sheets of paper. A report that contains too much information, or is full of technical jargon, will discourage consumers from learning the basics about their drinking water.

2. Who must prepare a consumer confidence report?

Every community water system that serves at least 25 residents year round or that has at least 15 service connections must prepare and distribute a consumer confidence report. These systems typically include cities, towns, homeowners associations, and mobile home parks. A community water system that sells water (parent supply) to another community water system (satellite supply) must provide monitoring data and other information that will enable the satellite to produce a CCR.

3. When must a water system prepare and distribute a consumer confidence report?

The reports are based on calendar year data. The first report included sample data collected from January 1, 1998, through December 31, 1998, and was distributed to consumers by October 19, 1999. Beginning in the year 2000, systems must deliver reports for the previous year by July 1. Parent supplies must deliver information to their satellites by April 19, 1999, and annually thereafter. The two systems may enter a contractual agreement that could result in an alternate delivery date of sample data to the satellite. A new community water system must deliver its first report by July 1 of the year following its first full calendar year in operation, and annually thereafter.