Understanding Your Drinking Water
In a typical community public water system, water is transported under pressure through a distribution network of buried pipes. Smaller pipes, called house service lines, are attached to the main water lines to bring water from the distribution network to your house.
In many community water systems, water pressure is provided by pumping water up into storage tanks that store water at higher elevations than the houses they serve. The force of gravity then "pushes" the water into your home when you turn on your tap.
Some water suppliers use treatment processes if it's necessary to remove contaminants from the drinking water. The most commonly used processes include filtration, flocculation, sedimentation and disinfection. If you want to know what types of treatment are used for your water supply, contact your local water supplier or public works department.
More information about where your drinking water comes from is also available.
Types of Water Systems
A public water system is defined as a system that provides water for human consumption to at least 15 service connections or serves an average of at least 25 people for at least 60 days each year. This includes water used for drinking, food preparation, bathing, showering, tooth brushing and dishwashing. Public water systems range in size from large municipalities to small churches and restaurants relying on a single well.
- Community water systems serve at least 15 service connections used by year-round residents or regularly serve at least 25 year-round residents. Examples include cities, mobile home parks and nursing homes.
- Non-transient, non-community systems serve at least 25 of the same persons over six months per year. Examples include schools, hospitals and factories.
- Transient non-community systems serve at least 25 different persons over 60 days per year. Examples include campgrounds, restaurants and gas stations. In addition, drinking water systems associated with agricultural migrant labor camps, as defined by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, are regulated even though they may not meet the minimum number of people or service connections.
Private water systems are regulated by the Ohio Department of Health. Private water systems are households and small businesses that serve fewer than 25 people per day 60 days out of the year, and are thus not public water systems (e.g., small bed and breakfasts, small day cares and small churches).
U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA use a multiple barrier approach to defend against waterborne pathogens and chemical contaminants in drinking water. Protection against contaminants occurs at each step from source to tap, beginning in the watershed or aquifer recharge area, continuing at the treatment facility and extending through the distribution system.
Source Water Selection and Protection
Selection of the best source of water available is an important step in protecting against contamination. For surface water sources, this means locating and constructing water intakes to ensure little or no contamination. For ground water sources, this means constructing wells in appropriate locations, at appropriate depths and with approved construction methods (e.g., casing and grouting).
Source Water Assessment and Protection helps public waters systems understand where the drinking water comes from, how contaminants can get into the water supply and how to protect the water from contamination at the source. Ohio EPA completes source water assessments for every public water system. Each assessment includes:
- Delineating (or mapping) the source water assessment area;
- Conducting an inventory of potential sources of contamination in the delineated area;
- Determining the susceptibility of the water supply to those contamination sources; and
- Releasing the results of the determinations to the public.
The results of the assessment can be used to organize, develop and implement a source water protection plan.
System Design and Operation
Plan approval ensures that the system is well-engineered and constructed to reliably protect finished water from contamination. The type of treatment required depends on the physical, microbiological and chemical characteristics and the types of contaminants present in the source water. Also, storage facilities and distribution systems must have full circulation and avoid stagnant water conditions that might facilitate contamination.
Sanitary surveys are routine inspections of public water systems to ensure proper construction and operation. The purpose of the sanitary survey is to evaluate and document the capabilities of a water system’s sources, treatment, storage, distribution network, operation and maintenance and overall management to continually provide safe drinking water and to identify any deficiencies that might adversely impact a public water system’s ability to meet applicable regulations and provide a safe reliable water supply.
Competent operating personnel are vitally important to the safety of drinking water. Ohio EPA's Operator Certification rules require that certain public water systems have a certified operator that is qualified to operate the system. To become a certified operator, a person must meet educational and experience requirements, pass an exam and maintain their certification through continuing education (contact hours).
U.S. EPA sets national limits on contaminant levels in drinking water to ensure that the water is safe for human consumption. These limits are known as maximum contaminant levels (MCLs). For some regulations, U.S. EPA has established treatment techniques in lieu of a MCL to control unacceptable levels of contaminants in water by measuring the level of treatment. To ensure drinking water safety, public water systems are required to test their water for contaminants on a regular basis. The tests must be conducted at laboratories that are certified to perform such testing.
Generally, the larger the population served by a water system, the more frequent the monitoring requirements. However, the frequency varies depending on which contaminant is being evaluated and the type of source water used by the public water system (e.g., surface water systems and systems that use ground water under the direct influence of surface water typically monitor more frequently than a ground water system). Monitoring requirements also vary by public water system type, which is based on how long a person is likely to have access to the water.
Typically, testing would be most limited at a church that people attend only once per week, more expanded at a school or office building, and most extensive in a village or city. This is because the health effects of some contaminants are acute, such as E. coli bacteria, meaning they have the potential to pose an immediate risk to health. Other health effects are chronic, meaning that adverse health effects may result if the contaminant is consumed over an extended period of time. Examples of contaminants with chronic effects include arsenic and lead. Some contaminants can aesthetically impact drinking water, meaning the effects are in appearance or odor. Examples of these contaminants include iron or sulfate.
Contaminants that may be tested for include:
- Microbiological contaminants, such as viruses and bacteria, which may come from sewage treatment plants, septic systems, agricultural livestock operations and wildlife
- Inorganic contaminants (IOCs), such as salts and metals, which can occur naturally or result from urban stormwater runoff, industrial or domestic wastewater discharges, oil and gas production, mining or farming
- Synthetic organic chemicals (SOCs), such as pesticides and herbicides, which may come from a variety of sources such as agriculture, stormwater runoff and residential uses
- Volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), such as industrial chemicals and solvents, which can be byproducts of industrial processes and petroleum production, and can also come from gas stations, urban stormwater runoff and septic systems
- Radiological contaminants (Rads), which can be naturally occurring or be the result of oil and gas production and mining activities
- Disinfection byproducts (DBPs), which can form when disinfectants such as chlorine, chlorine dioxide or ozone react with organic and inorganic substances present in the raw water.
More detailed information on specific contaminants can be found in the Common Contaminant Information section of the 'Monitoring' tab.
The majority of water testing shows that Ohio's drinking water meets standards. When water does not meet a standard, the public water system is required to inform its consumers of the results. Public notification is required to include a clear and understandable explanation of the nature of the violation, its potential adverse health effects, steps that the public water system is taking to correct the violation and the possibility for the need to obtain alternative water supplies during the violation. Notification is required within 24 hours for acute contaminants and within 30 days for chronic contaminants.
Additionally, all community public water systems are required to prepare a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) annually and distribute the report to their customers. The reports contain information on the community's drinking water, including the source of the water, the contaminants detected, the likely sources of detected contaminants, the health effects of contaminants when violations occur and the availability of source water assessments.
Finally, Ohio EPA’s Drinking Water Use Advisories page is available to help make water testing results for health-related contaminants more accessible to the public.
Additional Resources Include:
Action level: The concentration of lead or copper in water that may trigger requirements for corrosion control, source water treatment, lead service line replacement and public education. Compliance with an action level is based on multiple samples.
Human consumption: The ingestion or absorption of water or water vapor as the result of drinking, cooking, dishwashing, hand washing, bathing, showering or oral hygiene.
Maximum contaminant level (MCL): The maximum allowable level of a contaminant in public drinking water. Most often, compliance with an MCL is based on an average of multiple samples.
Maximum residual disinfectant level (MRDL): The maximum allowable level of disinfectant in public drinking water. Most often, compliance with an MRDL is based on an average of multiple samples.
Milligrams per liter (mg/L): Milligrams of contaminant per liter of drinking water.
Public water system (PWS): A system that provides water for human consumption to an average of at least 25 individuals daily at least 60 days out of the year, or has at least 15 service connections. This includes water used for drinking, food preparation, bathing, showering, tooth-brushing and dishwashing.
Community PWS: Serves at least 15 service connections used by year-round residents or regularly serves at least 25 year-round residents. Examples include cities, mobile home parks and nursing homes.
Non-transient, non-community PWS: Regularly serves at least 25 of the same persons over six months per year. Examples include schools and businesses.
Transient, non-community PWS: Regularly serves at least 25 different persons over 60 days per year. Examples include restaurants and gas stations.
Public water system identification number (PWSID): A unique identifier for each public water system.
Secondary maximum contaminant level (SMCL): The advisable maximum allowable level of a contaminant in public drinking water.
Treatment technique: A method for treating water to achieve acceptable levels of contaminants in lieu of establishing a maximum contaminant level.
See Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) 3745-81-01 for additional definitions.
Public Drinking Water Use Advisories
Public water systems are required to monitor their water regularly for contaminants. Currently, more than 95 percent of community water systems meet all health-based standards. When a system doesn't meet a standard, consumers are notified. Notifications may be in the form of signs or multimedia announcements. Advisories are also posted on the public drinking water advisories map.
Apparent Monitoring Violations
Ohio’s public water systems are required to monitor for a variety of contaminants on a regular basis, according to the system's monitoring schedule. When a public water system fails to monitor as required, Ohio EPA issues them a monitoring violation. Before issuing a violation to the system, Ohio EPA publishes a list of apparent monitoring violations, to give the system or the laboratory a final opportunity to submit sample results.
To view the list of systems that are on the current apparent violation list for missed monitoring, please click on the link below. This list contains the systems that do not have results submitted to Ohio EPA for the specified monitoring time period. Laboratories that have any of the missing results should submit the results to this office electronically as soon as possible in order to remove a system from the apparent violation list and prevent the system from receiving a violation letter. If you have any questions about this information, please contact the staff member indicated or call (614) 644-2752.
Ensure confidence in the quality of your water and save money by sampling on time. It costs an average of $25 for each total coliform sample and $20 for each nitrate sample. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, failing to sample for total coliform or nitrate will cost you $150 or more in penalties for each monitoring violation. Save a Dime. Sample on Time!
To receive notifications by email, subscribe to the electronic mailing list.
Consumer Confidence Reports
Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs) must be prepared by community public water systems and distributed by July 1 annually. Public water systems that sell water to community public water systems must provide information that is necessary to complete their CCRs to the communities by April 1 annually. Please consult Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) Chapter 3745-96 for the rules associated with CCRs.
CCR Template, Instructions and Forms
Tools and Calcualtors for Making a CCR Table
CCR Electronic Delivery Options
Electronic delivery is one instrument that public water systems can use in order to meet the requirement to directly deliver their CCR to each customer.
For Electronic delivery the notification must reach all consumers and include:
- A notice that the Consumer Confidence Report or Annual Water Quality Report is available
- A direct link to the viewable CCR on the web page
- A contact method to request a paper copy (i.e. a phone number)
Ohio EPA has updated our CCR Delivery Certification Form and our CCR Instructions to include electronic delivery information for this year.
For guidance on electronic delivery of CCRs, please click on the links below or see the CCR Instruction guide above for example language
CCR Contact Information
Questions About Consumer Confidence Reports?
By Email: CCR@epa.ohio.gov
By Phone: (614)644-2752
Using ONLY ONE of the methods below, both your CCR and CCR Certification Form must be received no later than July 1 to:
Ohio EPA Division of Drinking and Ground Waters
P.O. Box 1049
Columbus, OH 43216-1049
Note: Do not send CCR information to the Ohio EPA District Office
CCR Table of Detected Contaminants
2018 CCR Table of Detected Contaminants for public water systems with a population of 500 are posted below. Tables are sorted by district office and then by PWS ID order. To find your draft CCR table, click on the appropriate district office and use CTRL+F to search for your water system by name or PWS ID number.
Disclaimer for Table of Detected Contaminants
The Table of Detected Contaminants provided by Ohio EPA is not intended to be complete or all inclusive. The tables are intended to assist public water systems with their data collection and consolidation efforts. Public water systems will need to verify and add additional information to ensure their Table of Detected Contaminants is complete as required by the Consumer Confidence Rule.
- All tables must include chlorine. Please ensure chlorine is in the table and correct
- Individual Lead results over 15ppb must be added to the table (i.e., If 2 samples are over 15ppb, at 22ppb and 28ppb, you must include both values in the table)
- Surface Water Systems must include turbidity levels, the percentage meeting the standard, and total organic carbon (TOC)
- For systems serving a population over 500, DBP values are not correct and must be recalculated.
License to Operate (LTO)
In Ohio, most public water systems are required to obtain a license to operate (LTO) from Ohio EPA. The LTO indicates the public water system is approved by the Agency to supply drinking water to the public, and it must be prominently displayed at the facility.
Public water systems with LTOs are required to apply for a license renewal by December 31 each year, unless instructed otherwise. The license renewal application must be submitted with the appropriate fee.
Ohio EPA issues different licenses depending on the facilities' compliance with safe drinking water rules. Each type of license is color-coded (i.e., green, yellow or red) to represent the status of the system's license.
A green license to operate means it was issued without any conditions. Most public water systems in Ohio receive green licenses.
A yellow license means it was issued to the public water system with conditions. Conditions usually require correction of violations of safe drinking water rules and may include conducting all required water quality monitoring, hiring a certified operator or paying an administrative fine.
A red sign is issued to a public water system that is not licensed because its LTO renewal application was denied or its license was suspended or revoked. These actions are taken due to violations of safe drinking water rules. Public water systems with red signs are not permitted to provide water for human consumption.
Click here to view LTO enforcement actions in the eDocument System. For better search results, select “Permit” under Document Type and “Drinking Water” under Program.
LTO Preapplication/Inventory Portal
Public water systems are sent a preapplication each year. This allows the public water system to update their information including contacts, mailing address, population, and more. All preapplication changes are now made through the LTO preapplication portal. The division of Drinking and Groundwaters’ has developed an online application for public water system owners to update water system information. The application allows owners to update their contact information, including Owners, Administrative, financial and Operator of record contact information. Phone numbers, email addresses and mailing addresses. Water system information will be verified or updated. Information, such as, Population counts, service connections and Operator of records are available to update.
The application will need to be accessed and updated by November of each year in order for our License to operate invoices to be accurate and mailed to the correct location. The application will provide a preliminary projection of your expected LTO fee for the year.
The application will contain the certification statement for fulfilling the Asset Management and Contingency Plan requirements.
Operator of Record information is displayed and the update form may be generated for signatures and hard copy submittal to the Operator Certification Unit in the division.
Public Water System LTO Pre-Application demonstration video
Public Water System LTO Pre-Application Instructions
In order to access the application, you will follow this link to the agency’s Customer Support Center Ohio EPA Customer Support Center.
Applicants have been sent a userid associated to their water systems. Your first step will be to re-set the password for your login. Once you have set your password and logged into the application, a list of your water system or systems will be displayed. Each PWS has a link to revise your information. If you have not received a userid, please contact Brian Tarver at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (614) 728-1740.
Public water systems that have not paid for their 2020 LTO can find the 2020 invoice below. Public water systems can search the District Office PDF for their individual invoice. Your district office is determined by public water system county.
To locate your individual invoice:
- Select your district office
- Scroll through invoices to locate your systems invoice or use Ctrl+F to find the invoice by name or PWS ID number.
To print your invoice:
- Have your invoice in the screen
- Right click and select print or press the print button on the bottom of the pdf page
- In the print dialog box select “Current page” under Pages to Print.
2020 LTO Invoices - CDO
2020 LTO Invoices - NEDO
2020 LTO Invoices - NWDO
2020 LTO Invoices - SEDO
2020 LTO Invoices - SWDO
*Please verify that you have the correct invoice for your public water system before making a payment*
To pay by check: Invoices must be printed and signed to be mailed in with a check. Checks should be made out to “Treasurer State of Ohio”. Please follow instructions on the invoice for mailing.
For online payment: Public water systems wishing to pay online can do so at Ohio EPA’s business Center. Instructions for online payment can be found here.
A person applying for a license or license renewal to operate a public water system under Section 6109.21 of the Ohio Revised Code shall pay the appropriate fee at the time of application to the director. Any person who fails to pay the fee at that time shall pay an additional amount that equals 10 percent of the required fee. Fees shall be calculated according to the following schedules.
Source: Ohio Revised Code 3745.11
A public water system may determine how it will pay the total amount of the fee calculated, including the assessment of additional user fees that may be assessed on a volumetric basis.
Community Water Systems
|Number of Service Connections
|Not more than 49
|Number of Service Connections
||Avg. Cost Per Connection
|100 to 2,499
|2,500 to 4,999
|5,000 to 7,499
|7,500 to 9,999
|10,000 to 14,999
|15,000 to 24,999
|25,000 to 49,999
|50,000 to 99,999
|100,000 to 149,999
|150,000 to 199,999
|200,000 or more
Non-Transient Non-Community Water System
|Fewer than 150
|150 to 299
|300 to 749
|750 to 1,499
|1,500 to 2,999
|3,000 to 7,499
|7,500 to 14,999
|15,000 to 22,499
|22,500 to 29,999
|30,000 or more
Transient Non-Community Water System
|Number of Wells Supplying System
|System designated as
using a surface water source
“Service Connection” means the number of active or inactive pipes, goosenecks, pigtails, and any other fittings connecting a water main to any building outlet. “Population Served” means the total number of individuals having access to the water supply during a 24-hour period for at least 60 days during any calendar year. In the absence of a specific population count, that number shall be calculated at the rate of three individuals per service connection.
“Number of Wells Supplying System” means those wells or sources that are physically connected to the plumbing system serving the public water system. A public water system designated as using a surface water source shall pay a fee of $792 or the amount calculated using the number of service connections or population served, whichever is higher.
Source: Ohio Revised Code 3745.11