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 government entities, 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 concern.
  • 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.

What can I do about it?

  • First, determine if the concern is coming from your household plumbing or the water supplier.
  • Ask your neighbors if they are having a similar issue.
  • You may contact your water supplier or local EA 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 concerns 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.
  • Children and pregnant women are most susceptible to health risks from lead in drinking water.
  • Lead is rarely in drinking water when it leaves the treatment plant; however, it can leach into the water from old plumbing.



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 an issue 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?


Drinking Water Public Health