Are Small Water Systems Safe?

A recent investigative series by USA Today (published December 13, entitled “Broken System Traps Rural Americans with Poisoned or Untested Water”) paints a very bleak picture of small rural water systems across the country. Does this mean you need to worry about your water supply?

WaterPro and the community of Draper fall far outside the type of water system and community described in the article. USA Today focused on very small systems, some serving only a few hundred people, in mostly impoverished rural areas where there is a lack of money for maintaining high levels of training for employees.

WaterPro is fortunate to be able to provide staff that are not only trained to a high level, but are recognized as leaders in their field. As just one example, Jerry Nielsen, who is in charge of our water treatment plant, was recognized as Operator of the Year by the Intermountain Section of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) in 2007. All WaterPro employees who are responsible for the safety of our water and our system keep their knowledge up-to-date through continuing training and conferences.

Of course, it is possible for any water system to have a contamination event, and no system can promise to provide 100% pure water all the time. But WaterPro does continual testing and monitoring to ensure the safety of our water supply, and to make sure we are compliant with all relevant federal and state regulations.

What about other systems in Utah?

While our customers can have confidence in their water supply, many Draper residents have family or friends in rural areas, or perhaps spend time in small communities themselves. How can you be sure that the water in those communities is safe?

The Rural Water Association of Utah (of which WaterPro is a member, and our Assistant General Manager David Gardner is a board member) responded to the USA Today article with the following points.

  • If you are concerned, your best route is to get involved. Local governments – which in small communities are the residents – are responsible for the safety of the drinking water supply. Local water supplies are operated and governed by people whose families drink the water every day.

The public drinking water supply in rural America is actually very safe. When there are violations, they are often technical in nature – for example, a water sample was not taken exactly in compliance with complicated procedures, or was submitted late. A violation does not automatically mean the water is unsafe. If you hear of a violation, investigate and find out exactly what it means for water safety.

  • The federal operator certification requirements are just as stringent for small towns and rural systems as they are for large systems. Isolated cases where operators are undertrained are not representative of our national drinking water system, which delivers some of the safest water anywhere in the world.
  • Stricter regulations and more fines are not the answer; education is. The Rural Water Association of Utah provides extensive and affordable training and support for small water systems.