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Tracking Water Quality, Researchers Use National Database On Drinking Water Violations

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To find a comprehensive list of nationwide drinking water violations, you don’t have to go digging through dusty archives, the list dating back to 1993 is available online.

“So SDWIS, which it’s colloquially called, or Safe Drinking Water Information Systems, is publicly available through the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA,” said Dr. Nicole Jones, an assistant professor at the University of Florida.

She uses the SDWIS database to study how county-level drinking water violations interact with sociodemographic factors, like age and race. The database, she says, can also search violations at the city and state level.

“So you could look up the one here in Logan or where I’m from in Gainesville [Florida] and actually see as to whether they have any kind of drinking violation, whether it’s health based as well as other factors.” 

Other violations include monitoring and reporting, which can indicate samples were not collected in a timely matter. These differ from health-based violations like coliform bacteria, which Jones sees at a higher rate. 

“So typically coliform, which is just bacteria in water, is harmless," she said. "However, some coliform such as E.coli if there are large quantities of it in your drinking water it can cause gastrointestinal issues.”  

While drinking water is generally safe unless an alert has been issued, preliminary findings from the study suggest smaller communities, like rural areas, as well as minority communities, have higher counts of drinking water violations. For this, Jones suggests staying informed and aware of developments in your region.

 
To locate your unique water system ID and any drinking water violations in your area, visit the SDWIS website here and learn about water sampling in your area by visiting the Utah Division of Drinking Water here.
 
 
A note, according to Utah’s Division of Water Quality, surface waters are tested for E.Coli regularly from May to October. Currently, three advisories remain issued and only one site, Midas Creek, is observed in exceedance.