Frequently Asked Questions About Drinking Water
Where does my drinking water come from?
- Your drinking water comes from either groundwater (wells) or surface water sources (rivers, lakes, or reservoirs).
- In South Carolina, about 80% of public water systems use surface water as their source of drinking water and about 20% use groundwater.
- To find the source of your drinking water, contact your water supplier or read your Water Quality Report provided by your water supplier every year.
- For more information on South Carolina's water supply usage, see SC Water Use Report.
Who is responsible for drinking water quality?
- DHEC regulates all public water systems (PWS) and is responsible for ensuring that these public water systems are in compliance with all state and federal regulations.
- Local municipal, county, and other governmententities, along with private water suppliers, are directly responsible for the quality of water that flows to your faucet.
- Water systems test and treat their water, maintain the distribution systems that deliver water to consumers, and report on their water quality results to DHEC.
- States and EPA provide technical assistance to water suppliers and can take legal action against systems that fail to provide water that meets state and federal standards.
- If you get your drinking water from an individual residential well, you are not subject to the state and federal regulations.
- The owner of a residential well is responsible for the quality of the water.
- If you are concerned about the quality of your well water,
Why does my drinking water taste or smell funny?
- Although bad tasting or bad smelling water can be offensive to consumers, in most cases it is not considered to be a public health problem.
- Your drinking water may have an "off taste" if it's been sitting in the pipes for too long.
- Flushing out the pipes in your home by turning on all the faucets at the same time for a few minutes may get rid of the off taste.
- Additional information on taste and odor problems.
What can I do about it?
- First, determine if the problem is coming from your household plumbing or the water supplier.
- Ask your neighbors if they are having a similar problem.
- You may contact your water supplier or local EQC Regional Office.
- You may also want to consider using certified water filters or treatment units.
- The National Sanitation Foundation provides a list of certified units.
What are the most common problems in drinking water?
- Chlorine or chemical taste or smell
- Can be caused by chlorine that is added to the water by your public water supplier
- May be caused by the interaction of chlorine with a build-up of organic matter in your household plumbing.
- Sulfur or rotten egg smell
- Usually caused by bacteria growing in your sink drain or water heater.
- In some cases is caused by naturally occurring hydrogen sulfide.
- Musty, moldy, earthy taste or smell
- Usually caused by bacteria growing in a sink's drain or from fungi
- Can also be algae or fungi that naturally grow in surface water sources.
- Metallic taste
- Can be caused by metals such as iron.
How do I disinfect my drinking water in the event of an emergency?
- In the event of an emergency, you may need to disinfect (kill germs) small quantities of drinking water.
- Boiling is a very effective means of disinfecting drinking water.
- Chemical disinfection of small quantities of water for drinking is more convenient and if done correctly, is as effective as boiling.
- For information on how to disinfect your water, visit EPA's Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water Web Site.
Should I be concerned about lead in my drinking water?
- Lead is found almost everywhere: food, paint, dust, soil, air, and even some drinking water.
- Lead is rarely in drinking water when it leaves the treatment plant; however, it can leach into the water from old plumbing.
- Children and pregnant women are most susceptible to health risks from lead in drinking water.
Should I be concerned about copper in my drinking water?
- Copper is a metal that is commonly used in household plumbing and pipes.
- Like lead, copper may leach into your drinking water from copper pipes and copper-containing fixtures in older plumbing.
- The most noticeable effect produced by copper is a blue-green stain on bathroom fixtures such as tubs and sinks.
- Learn more about copper in drinking water.
Should I be concerned about radium in my drinking water?
- Radium is a radioactive element, which can occur naturally in soil and rocks.
- Radium is usually not a problem in surface water sources, but can affect some groundwater sources due to local geology.
- Learn more about radium in drinking water.
Who do I contact?
- For information on the quality of your drinking water, read your Water Quality Report from your water supplier or contact them directly.
- Your water supplier will have their contact information on your water bill.
- If you are concerned about the water quality of your private well, contact DHEC's Residential Well Program for more information.
- You can also call your local DHEC regional office.
Where can I find more information on my drinking water?