July 2021

· 5 min read

What’s in Your Water? Understanding Your Water Quality Report

Concerned about the quality of the water coming out of your tap? Here are some tips for reading your water report from our water systems experts.
Young father giving bottle of water to his little son at home - Understand Your Water Quality Report | NSF International

We can’t always take it for granted that the water we are drinking is clean.

You may want to read your water quality report.

Your water report reveals what's really happening in your pipes — where your water comes from and how it is treated before it gets there.

You may be asking, “Where do I find my water report?” And, “How do I understand it?”

Your water report contains a chart with a detailed breakdown of all the contaminants found in your town’s public drinking water. Don’t be intimidated by the codes and abbreviations.

Since you’re probably not a scientist, your water report initially can seem daunting and complex. But it is worth learning how to read it because it will help you decide if or what kind of water filter would be a good choice for you and your family to make your drinking water quality the best it can be.

We get these questions all the time, so here are some helpful tips and expert advice from our water systems experts at NSF International:

  • In it together: If you live in the United States and are on city water, the EPA requires communities to provide information about local drinking water quality in a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) each year by July 1. In Canada, some provinces follow this same schedule. In Europe, you may want to contact your local water provider to get a copy of its most recent water testing results for your area.
  • What’s in the report: These reports highlight what contaminants, if any, are present in your drinking water. They also include a list of the regulated pollutants that were found in your water over the last year showing the most recent testing results. The report compares the contaminant levels to national standards and points out any violations of health-based standards. The report also tells you where your water comes from—such as groundwater, a lake, a river or another source, as well as how the water is treated to bring it up to drinking water quality. If you are on a private well, you may consider having your water tested by a private lab, which can provide you with a report of your water quality.
  • Digging in: Your water report contains a chart with a very detailed breakdown of all the contaminants found in your town’s public drinking water. Don’t be intimidated by the codes and abbreviations. Here are some terms you might see and what they mean:
    • Contaminant: The name of the chemical being tested and reported, such as lead
    • Disinfectant: The chemical used to treat public water to remove bacteria that can make you sick
    • MCL (maximum contaminant level): The highest level of a contaminant allowed in drinking water for which there are no known or expected risks to your health
    • MCLG (maximum contaminant level goal): Consider this the level of contaminants that the U.S. EPA, Health Canada, the European Commission or other regulatory bodies recommend should be in your water
    • MRDL (maximum residual disinfectant level): The highest level of a disinfectant allowed in your tap water
  • Tapping into the info: Contact our consumer guru for info on certified water filters and more at +1 800 673 8010 or info@nsf.org.

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