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With its many uses for drinking, recreation, sanitation, hygiene, and industry, water is our most precious global resource. Clean and safe drinking water is critical to sustain human life and without it waterborne illness can be a serious problem. Water, which is necessary for recreational water activities like swimming, also helps promote healthy living. Often, water’s vital role is most apparent during an emergency or disaster. Answers to your water-related questions can be found within our healthy water pages, below.

Drinking Water Topics

Public Water Systems

Quality & Testing, Regulations, Sources, Treatment...

Bottled Water

Basics, Immunocompromised Individuals, Fluoride...

Camping, Hiking, Travel

Safe Drinking & Recreational Water, Illness...

Private Water Systems

Wells (Basics, Testing, Treatment), Nonpublic Water Sources...

Water & Nutrition

Health Benefits, Daily Water Needs, Weight Management...

Water Fluoridation

Benefits, Safety, Guidelines, Fact Sheets...

Drinking Water Fast Facts

Drinking Water Systems

Two types of Drinking Water Systems: Public and Individual

There are two types of drinking water systems in the United States. They are:

According to the EPA, approximately 286 million Americans receive their tap water from a community water system. These public water systems are monitored and regulated as set by the EPA.

An estimated 15% of Americans, or about 45 million people, get their water from private ground water wells that are not subject to EPA regulations. Private ground water wells can provide safe, clean water. However, well water can also become contaminated, leading to illness. It is the responsibility of well owners to maintain and treat their well 1,2,3.

  1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Factoids: drinking water and ground water statistics for 2007.
  2. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Private Drinking Water Wells.
  3. U.S. Census Bureau. National and State Population Estimates.
  4. Cutler, D., G. Miller, 2004. The role of public health improvements in health advances: the 20th century United States. [PDF - 50 pages] National Bureau of Economic Research. Working Paper 10511. Cambridge, MA, USA.
  5. CDC. Achievements in public health, 1900-1999: Fluoridation of drinking water to prevent dental caries. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 1999;48:933-40.

* Based on tracking of waterborne outbreaks from 1971-2006. Outbreak reporting is dependent on detection, investigation, and reporting of the outbreak. This requires health effects to be measured and these health effects to be linked to water exposure. However, many contaminants (i.e., many chemicals) in drinking water may not cause easily recognizable outbreaks because they require a long chronic exposure period. As a result, they would not be part of waterborne disease outbreak reporting or part of these Top 5 lists.

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