Where Does Our Drinking Water Come from and How Do the Quality & Cost of Water Compare, Community-to-Community?
Our drinking water comes from surface and ground water; the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) regulates the water quality; communities are served by different water suppliers (some publicly owned, some privately owned); and the costs vary from community-to-community based on a number of factors.
Water, a supremely important substance for human life (rivaled only by air and soil), is something we may take for granted in this water-rich state. But, what is our source of water? What is safe to drink? How much does our water cost? It’s important to understand the source of water and how it is regulated—and why it isn’t “free”. This set of topics will be explored in this section.
1. Where Does Water Come From?
2. How does Drinking Water Get to Your Faucet?
3. Ground Water
4. Surface Water
5. Local Water Supply and Sources
6. What is Safe to Drink?
Where do the contaminants come from? How are contaminants removed?)
7. What are the Costs of Our Water?
(local costs of water)
(Ohio Environmental Protection Agency [OEPA] and Ohio Department of Natural Resources [ODNR] websites, sample “Consumer Confidence Reports”)
Where Does Water Come From?
“Drinking water comes from both surface water and ground water. Surface water sources include rivers, lakes and reservoirs. Ground water is pumped from wells that are drilled into aquifers. Aquifers are geologic formations that contain water. Both surface water and ground water sources are replenished by rain or melted snow that has either filled up a surface water body or seeped into the ground. Your water utility or public works department can tell you the source of your public drinking water supply. In Ohio, 57% of the drinking water is from the surface and 43% is from ground water supplies.” (Ohio EPA)
How does Drinking Water Get to Your Faucet?
“In a typical community public water system, water is transported under pressure through a distribution network of buried pipes. Smaller pipes, called house service lines, are attached to the main water lines to bring water from the distribution network to your house. In many community water systems, water pressure is provided by pumping water up into storage tanks that store water at higher elevations than the houses they serve. The force of gravity then "pushes" the water into your home when you turn on your tap. Some water suppliers use treatment processes if it's necessary to remove contaminants from the drinking water. The most commonly used processes include filtration, flocculation and sedimentation, and disinfection. If you want to know what types of treatment are used for your water supply, contact your local water supplier or public works department.” (Ohio EPA)
Ohio's Ground Water Quality Characterization Program
The four major aquifer types in Ohio are:
1. sand and gravel aquifers
2. sandstone aquifers
3. carbonate aquifers
4. interbedded shale and carbonate aquifers
“Ohio's most productive water-bearing formations or aquifers are valley outwash deposits of sand and gravel that were deposited by glacial meltwater. In the eastern portions of Ohio where buried valley aquifers are not present, the common aquifer is sandstone… The production rate depends on the type, distribution, extent, and thickness of permeable glacial/alluvial deposits.”
To learn more, see this website: http://www.epa.state.oh.us/ddagw/pdu/gw_aqtype.html
Ohio’s Surface Water
“Ohio is a water-rich state with more than 25,000 miles of streams and rivers, a 451-mile border on the Ohio River, more than 5,000 lakes, ponds, and reservoirs (>1 acre), and 236 miles of Lake Erie shoreline. Ohio has 10 scenic rivers comprising more than 629 river miles, the fourth largest total of any state in the nation.” [Note: In Ohio, The Mahoning River is 108 miles long.]
“The goal of Ohio's surface water program… reflects the national water quality objective as contained in the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA)… often referred to as the "fishable/swimmable goal.”
“The fishable/swimmable goal is different from the popular idea of clean water as being water that is chemically pure. Instead, fishable/swimmable waters are resources that support stable, balanced populations of aquatic organisms which are ecologically "healthy,” and provide safe water to the people of Ohio for public and industrial water supplies and recreation.” (Ohio EPA) To learn more:
Local Water Supply and Sources: Varied Reports and Various Sources
The EPA requires each water supplier to provide a written report on the quality of the drinking water that it supplies. Each report has its own individual style. Some reports are one-page, two-sided. Other reports are several pages long. Some of the content is required, i.e.: “What are the sources of contamination to drinking water” is a set of paragraphs that are identical in all reports. Other aspects of the reports are similar, but differ in layout and style:
1. Each report has a table that describes the “detected contaminants” for the period of the report—but the style of table and its description will differ.
2. There is descriptive copy for the area of supply.
3. Each report describes its source water.
All suppliers must send their consumers a copy of the report. For general access, some suppliers have put their reports on the web but others must be requested. For your convenience, we have provided the latter on this site.
Consumers Water of Ohio – See Consumer Confidence Report within this site.
Source water is drawn from Lake Evans and is treated before sending it through the distribution system to homes and businesses in Struthers and Boardman.
Trumbull County: Source water is drawn from the Mahoning River, various streams, lakes and reservoirs, depending on the district. Contact each municipality’s water department for a Consumer Confidence Report. (Water fact sheets listed, not clickable:
1. The Champion/Bazetta Water District obtains water from the City of Warren (Mosquito Creek Reservoir).
2. The Howland Water District obtains water from either the City of Niles (Mahoning Valley Sanitary District – Meander Reservoir) or Consumers Pennsylvania Water Company (Shenango River).
3. The Mineral Ridge Water District obtains its water from the City of Niles and the City of Youngstown (both, Mahoning Valley Sanitary District – Meander Reservoir).
4. The Mosquito Creek Water District obtains water from the City of Warren (Mosquito Creek Reservoir) and the City of Niles (Mahoning Valley Sanitary District – Meander Reservoir).
5. The Southeast District obtains water from Consumers Pennsylvania Water Company (Shenango River).
6. The Warren Township Water District obtains water from the City of Warren (Mosquito Creek Reservoir) or from the City of Newton Falls (Mahoning River).
Warren: Source water is drawn from Mosquito Creek Reservoir in Trumbull County. Contact the Warren Water Department for a Consumer Confidence Report.
Youngstown: Mahoning Valley Sanitary District (Meander Reservoir).
“The Mahoning Valley Sanitary District treats approximately 28 million gallons per day of raw water from Meander Creek Reservoir and pumps it to Youngstown, Niles and McDonald. These communities distribute the water to residents and surrounding areas. Youngstown distributes approximately 21 million gallons per day through 750 miles of pipelines to residents of Youngstown, Austintown, Boardman, Canfield Twp., North Jackson and Liberty, and sells bulk to Mineral Ridge, Girard and the City of Canfield.” (From CITY OF YOUNGSTOWN
Drinking Water Consumer Confidence Report for 2000. To learn more, click:
Mahoning County – Craig Beach Consumer Confidence report, click here:
Other local water information: Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheets
Mahoning County - Water Resources Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet AEX-480.50-97: Ninety-two percent of the overall Mahoning County population depends on surface water for their water supply. This fact sheet provides a brief overview of Mahoning County's water resources, and is intended to help increase public awareness and understanding about this vital resource. By understanding where water is obtained and how it is used in the county, residents can gain a better appreciation for their water supply. See this site for details about water supply, contaminants and distribution:
What is safe to drink?
Fortunately, Ohio has some of the best water quality standards in the nation and they are often used as a model in the development and improvement of other state’s water quality standards. While earlier models of water quality were based solely on chemical features, Ohio established the case for biological indices (i.e.: diversity, abundance and hardiness of aquatic life) that quantify important aspects of stream health. Much has been done in Ohio to reduce the point source pollutants, for example: wastewater, industry. (There is greater control over the discharge of wastewater, although NPDES permits [National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] are still issued, which allow communities and industries to discharge an “allowable” amount of pollution into the streams and river.) Additionally, Ohio is tackling the issue of non-point sources of pollution. (See Ongoing Pollution under Mahoning Watershed Issues.)
What are sources of contamination to drinking water?
“The sources of drinking water, both tap water and bottled water, include river, lakes, streams, ponds, reservoirs, springs and wells. As water travels over the surface of the land or through the ground, it dissolves naturally occurring minerals and, in some cases, radioactive material, and can pick up substances resulting from the presence of animals or from human activity.
“Contaminants that may be present in source water include: (A) Microbial contaminants, such as viruses and bacteria, which may come from sewage treatment plants, septic systems, agricultural livestock operations and wildlife; (B) Inorganic contaminants, such as salts, sediments and metals, which can be naturally occurring or result from urban storm water runoff, industrial or construction activities, domestic wastewater discharges, oil and gas production, mining or farming; (C) Pesticides and herbicides, which may come from a variety of sources such as agriculture, urban storm water runoff, and residential uses; (D) Organic chemical contaminants, including synthetic and volatile organic chemicals, which are by-products of industrial processes and petroleum production, and can also come from gas stations, urban storm water runoff, and septic systems; (E) Radioactive contaminants, which can be naturally occurring or be the result of oil and gas production and mining activities.”
“In order to ensure that tap water is safe to drink, the EPA prescribes regulations which limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by public water systems. FDA [Food & Drug Administration] regulations establish limits for contaminants in bottled water, which must provide the same protection for public health.” (From CITY OF YOUNGSTOWN - Drinking Water Consumer Confidence Report for 2000 – EXCERPTED)
[Note: EPA/CDC guidelines are available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.]
How are contaminants removed?
“The most commonly used processes include filtration, flocculation and sedimentation, and disinfection. If you want to know what types of treatment are used for your water supply, contact your local water supplier or public works department.” (Ohio EPA)
“Treatment includes chemical addition for softening, disinfection, fluoridation, taste and odor control, mixing, settling, filtration and pumping.” (CITY OF YOUNGSTOWN - Drinking Water Consumer Confidence Report for 2000 - EXCERPTED)
Approaches to Solving Water Quality Problems in Community Water Systems
Ohio State Extension Fact Sheet AEX-421-96
“Local officials often become involved in providing water for the community. Every homeowner wants a water supply that is safe to drink and pleasant to use. A public water system must make several provisions to ensure that a water supply remains safe. Regular water testing is one important tool that a water system uses to protect its customers. If water testing reveals a water quality problem, four options can be used to solve a problem: 1) better protection of the water supply; 2) locate and eliminate sources of contamination; 3) develop a new water supply; or 4) treat the water. Each option should be considered to determine which is the most effective and affordable.”
What are the Costs of Our Water?
The cost of water is not limited to the water itself. Costs include the treatment process (i.e.: the facilities and technology) as well the distribution systems (i.e.: pipes, pumps and water towers) and the source (i.e.: water in the reservoir, river or well). Each of these components (process, systems and source) requires employees whose jobs range from engineers to computer technicians to chemists to bookkeepers. The amount we pay for water is set by the municipality (the boundaries of a township, village or city). It is the municipality that purchases water from a supplier.
Our drinking water in the Mahoning River Watershed comes from many sources, including: Mosquito Creek Reservoir, the Shenango River (Consumers Pennsylvania), Meander Reservoir (Mahoning Valley Sanitary District), the Mahoning River (City of Sebring, City of Newton Falls, alternate feed to Warren Township), and various privately-owned reservoirs including Lake Hamilton and Lake Evans. (See Consumer Confidence reports for source information.)
Some of the reservoirs in the Mahoning River Watershed often have an objectionable taste and odor that originates from eutrophication (water that becomes enriched in dissolved nutrients, stimulating growth of aquatic plant life, reducing dissolved oxygen). Most of the odors can be removed from the water by appropriate treatment methods but these methods are relatively expensive. Watershed development, which often includes the destruction of forests and construction of buildings and roads, may accelerate eutrophication. Thus, rising water treatments costs are, in part, a hidden cost of watershed “development.”
Consider the basic costs of source water treatment: filtration, flocculation, sedimentation, and disinfection. Then, add the cost of newer technologies, for example: “Ozone Disinfection” which is a new and expensive treatment used for cyrptosporidium. Then, add the cost of disposing the by-products—that may be hazardous—from ozonation, the process of treatment, etc.
The least expensive way to have clean water is to protect it at its source (where our drinking water comes from). The least expensive and most effective way to protect our water supplies is to have substantial streamside forests around our bodies of water—the forests protect the water from pollution, erosion and siltation and benefit the aquatic life and the balance of the ecosystem. To protect our water at its source requires watershed-wide planning that takes into account what we as humans are doing to cause pollution and water degradation—and how we can create practices that are sustainable (allow for healthy water supplies for now and future generations).
The case below explains the costs of local municipalities: The City of Warren and Trumbull County, The City of Youngstown and Mahoning County. (Other cities and townships receive water from these municipalities as well as other sources.) Making sense of the varying cost structures can seem complicated because the “unit of water sold” is described differently. Therefore, to make a comparison, you must convert to “cost per 1,000 gallons” or “cost per 100 cubic feet” and use a common measurement for each of the following rate structures.
ACTUAL PRICES FOR LOCAL WATER
City of Warren: cost per 100 cubic feet (748 gallons = 100 cubic feet)
Inside the City, rate:
20, 100 cf = $1.86
21 to 40, 100 cf = $1. 49
41+, 100 cf = $1.03
Outside the City, rate:
20, 100 cf = $2.79
21 to 40, 100 cf = $2.24
41+, 100 cf = $1.55
[Note: Rate increases are planned through 2005 to provide for EPA mandated improvements to the filtration system. New technology will cost $12 million.]
Trumbull County: cost per 1,000 gallons, based on minimum requirement of 50% over the “inside-the-city rate” of Warren.
Mosquito Creek $4.64
Mineral Ridge $4.11
Howland Water $3.29
Warren Township $3.50
Youngstown – City Rates:
Note: to determine water rates from Youngstown Water Department (applicable in the city, as well as Mahoning County
or North Jackson) you must apply a calculation. The Amount Due = BASE (+RATE x # [1,000 cubic feet used in the range]). Range = location (city, county, North Jackson).
RATE RANGE* BASE
3.94 First 100 cubic feet/any part 3.94
3.03 Next 200 cubic feet/any part 6.97
17.97 (*/M) 400 cubic feet to 3300 cubic feet 6.37
5.52 First 100 cubic feet/any part 5.52
4.21 Next 200 cubic feet/any part 9.74
25.13 (*/M) 400 cubic feet to 3300 cubic feet 8.90
7.88 First 100 cubic feet/any part 7.88
6.05 Next 200 cubic feet/any part 13.93
26.96 (*/M) 400 cubic feet to 3300 cubic feet 13.04
(*Please note: this has been abridged for students; the full range included large consumption rates and sewer. Contact Office Manager at 330-742-8747 for a rate sheet / explanation.)
US Environmental Protection Agency reports on Trumbull & Mahoning County
systems: Mahoning County
Consumer Confidence Reports
Consumers Ohio Water (Struthers, Boardman)
Ohio Water Company - PDF document
City of Youngstown http://www.youngstownwater.com/water-report.htm
Craig Beach http://www.mc-se.com/craigbeach-lakemilton.htm
Mahoning County - Water Resources Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet AEX-480.50-97: See this site for details about water supply, contaminants and distribution:
Ohio EPA Websites: For more facts about Ohio’s drinking water, see the Ohio EPA websites listed below.
EPA Water Pages http://www.epa.gov/ebtpages/water.html
EPA – Arsenic In Your Drinking Water http://www.epa.gov/epahome/hi-arsenic.htm
“Surf your Watershed” http://www.epa.gov/surf/
“Water Atlas” http://www.epa.gov/wateratlas/
Ohio EPA (Division of Drinking and Ground Water) http://www.epa.state.oh.us/ddagw/index.htm
Ohio EPA Division of Surface Water http://www.epa.state.oh.us/dsw/index.html
Ohio Office of Pollution Prevention (OPP) http://www.epa.state.oh.us/opp/oppmain.html
Ohio Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
Ground Water Quality (fact sheet)
Project Wet, Activity Guide
“Drips and Drops” Newsletter
US Department of Agriculture
US Geological Services
Gives topographic maps http://www.topozone.com/
American Water Works Association
All across the country, Drinking Water Week brings attention to our most precious Natural resource: water
By Leanne Turner, 2002, through a grant from the US EPA. The Mahoning River Education Project: A Partnership between Youngstown State University and the Mahoning River Consortium. Mahoning River website: www.cc.ysu.edu/mahoning_river