As a consumer of drinking water from a Public Water System (PWS) it is important to know where your drinking water comes from and if it contains any impurities that could pose a health risk, but where to start? This webpage contains frequently asked questions, resources, and information to help you become more knowledgeable about the water you drink. If you have a private well please visit our Private Drinking Water Wells & Systems webpage.
View Drinking Water Data
Drinking Water Watch is a tool for viewing data the Drinking Water (DW) Program maintains on public water systems (PWS) in Alaska. Specifically, consumers can view PWS information including, the size and type of population served, water system facilities (e.g., wells, intakes, treatment plant, storage tanks, and distribution system), any treatment used, sampling results reported to the State, violations, and PWS contact information.
NOTE: This application does not apply to private wells or other water systems not regulated as a PWS.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Where does my drinking water come from?
- Most of the PWSs in Alaska utilize groundwater (water found under the surface of the ground) as their source. However, a greater percentage of the population is served by systems using a surface water source. This is primarily because several of the systems serving the largest populations in the state utilize a surface water source.
- How will I know if my water is not safe to drink?
- PWSs must notify the people who drink their water (i.e., consumers) if any of the following occur: (1) if the level of a contaminant in the water exceeds drinking water regulations, (2) if a waterborne disease outbreak or any other situation occurs that may pose a risk to public health, (3) and if the water system fails to test its water as required. These notices immediately alert consumers (within 24 hours or sooner) if there is a serious problem with their drinking water (e.g., a boil water notice).
- What is a Boil Water Notice?
- A Boil Water Notice (BWN) is issued if an event threatens public health, such as confirmed detection of E. coli, inadequate system pressure, or emergency situations like flooding, warranted immediate action by the water system owner or operator. If a BWN is issued in your community, boil all water for drinking, cooking, and teeth brushing for at least 2 minutes. Let the water cool before using, and store in sanitized containers. The BWN will remain in effect until the problem has been corrected and the water is determined by the DW Program to be safe to consume.
- What should I do if I want my drinking water tested?
- If you are connected to a PWS, it is the systems responsibility to be in compliance with the state drinking water regulations and as such they must test their drinking water for various contaminants. If you are not served by a PWS and have a private well, we encourage you to refer to the Private Drinking Water Wells & Systems - Testing Your Water webpage for guidance.
- How do PWSs remove harmful contaminants from drinking water?
- The most common ways PWSs remove harmful contaminants from drinking water include: disinfection and filtering. Disinfecting uses chemicals like chlorine, or UV light to inactivate most bacteria and viruses, but some protozoa can be resistant to disinfection. On the other hand, filtering water physically removes organisms, like protozoa. Filtration is normally used in conjunction with disinfection to make water safe to drink.
- What if I do not like the taste of chlorine in my water? What can I do?
- The chlorine odor of tap water is a result of the chlorine "residual" which is a low level of chlorine maintained in the water as it flows throughout the distribution system (from the treatment plant to your home). A residual level of chlorine is necessary to protect you from harmful microorganisms like bacteria, viruses and parasites'. For additional information, refer to the following guide: Chlorine Taste in Water.
- What should I do if my drinking water is discolored?
- Water discoloration does not necessarily mean your water has become unhealthy. In fact, EPA has identified 15 contaminants that may affect color, odor or taste – but will not hurt your health. That being said, it is always important to investigate changes in water color. Contact your local utility if you observe discoloration in drinking water.
- How does lead get into drinking water?
- Lead can enter drinking water when plumbing materials, that contain lead, corrode. The most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets, and fixtures. The most significant source of lead in the water are lead pipes that connect the home to the water main (i.e, lead services lines). Lead pipes are more likely to be found in older cities and homes built before 1986. In homes without lead service lines, the most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and plumbing with lead solder.
- How do I know if there is lead in my drinking water supplied by PWS?
- PWSs are required to alert their customers if there is a problem with your drinking water (covered under the Public Notification Rule). Also, the annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) summarizes information regarding source water, detected contaminates, compliance, and educational information. CWSs are required to provide the CCR to their customers. To learn more, refer to the Consumer Confidence Report webpage. Additionally, for more information on lead in drinking water, refer to EPA's Basic Information about Lead in Drinking Water. If your water comes from a household well you can test your drinking water. For further guidance see the Private Drinking Water Wells & Systems webpage.
- Is bottled water safer to drink than tap water?
- Bottled water is not necessarily safer than your tap water. EPA sets standards for tap water provided by PWSs while the Food and Drug Administration sets bottled water standards based on EPA's tap water standards. Also, bottled water and tap water are both safe to drink if they meet these standards. Some bottled water is treated more than tap water, while some is treated less or not treated at all. Bottled water is valuable in emergency situations (such as loss of pressure and floods), and high quality bottled water may be a desirable option for people with weakened immune systems. Consumers who choose to purchase bottled water should carefully read its label to understand what they are buying (e.g., determine the water source and treatment method).
- When an emergency occurs, what should I do to ensure my water is safe to drink?
- In an emergency, having a supply of clean water for drinking, cooking, and hygiene is vitally important. Refer to the Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water (PDF) for additional guidance on how to keep your drinking water safe during an emergency.
- Before an emergency occurs, what should I do to ensure my water is safe to drink?
- If a natural or man‐made disaster strikes your community, you might temporarily lose access to clean water so it is necessary to include water in your emergency supplies kit. Refer to the Planning for an Emergency Drinking Water Supply (PDF) for additional guidance.
- How will I know if a PWS is significantly out of compliance?
- If a PWS is significantly out of compliance, they will be noted on the Enforcement Targeting Tool (ETT). The ETT is a tool created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help State DW Programs track PWSs that are deemed by EPA to be significantly out of compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) regulations. For more information, refer to the Enforcement Targeting Tool (ETT) webpage.
- How can I learn more about fluoride in drinking water?
- For additional information on fluoride in drinking water, refer to the following: