May 5, 2016
May 1-7 is Safe Drinking Water Week in Minnesota
All residents have role to play in protecting sources, ensuring safe drinking water
Recognizing that Minnesotans’ health and quality of life depend on an ample supply of safe drinking water, Governor Mark Dayton has declared May 1-7 as Safe Drinking Water Week in Minnesota. In observance of the week, state health officials are inviting Minnesotans to consider what they can do in their homes and communities to protect their drinking water sources and help ensure safe drinking water.
The week coincides with National Drinking Water Week, which celebrates the contributions of public water supply operators in providing safe drinking water for the nation’s residents. In Minnesota, there are more than 7,000 public water supply systems providing drinking water to more than 80 percent of the state’s residents.
“We all must do our part in maintaining this valuable resource – from the source to the tap,” said Randy Ellingboe, manager of the Drinking Water Protection program for the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). “From both a health and cost standpoint, it is better to prevent problems than to fix them after they’ve happened.”
Earlier this year, Governor Dayton proposed a $219.7 million plan to modernize Minnesota’s aging wastewater and drinking water infrastructure, and to protect groundwater from contamination. While the work of thousands of public water supply operators around the state is vital in providing safe drinking water and protecting its sources, there are things people can do in their homes, yards and neighborhoods to protect the quality and quantity of drinking water sources. For example, in your home:
- Fix leaking faucets.
- Run full loads of laundry or dishes.
- Use biodegradable soaps.
- Don’t flush leftover medicines down the drain. Learn how to dispose of them properly.
- Use water-saving appliances.
In your yard or property:
- Use water-saving landscaping.
- Minimize use of fertilizers and pesticides.
- Seal any unused wells on your property.
- If you have a septic system, make sure it’s properly maintained.
In your neighborhood or community:
- Know where your water comes from (whether ground or surface water), and be aware of the areas that most need protection from contamination. In many communities, Drinking Water Supply Management Areas have been identified – these are key areas for protection. Contact your public water utility for more information about this.
Minnesota has maintained one of the highest rates of compliance to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in the country. In addition to routinely checking the drinking water to ensure its safety, MDH works with communities to keep the water from corroding water main pipes and plumbing. If the water is too corrosive, it can absorb harmful contaminants like lead. Whenever a public water supply changes its source of water, the operators must work with MDH engineers to understand any changes in water chemistry and take steps to prevent problems.
People can also take actions in their homes to reduce the potential for lead in their drinking water, which can come from their service lines (the pipe that connects homes to the water main in the street) or plumbing fixtures, such as faucets.
- When tap water has been sitting in pipes overnight or for long periods, before using it for drinking, cooking or brushing teeth, run the water for a few minutes or until it feels cold to the touch. This will flush out water that may have absorbed trace amounts of lead. Use that water for watering plants or cleaning.
- Choose to do other tasks that use water to flush the pipes first thing in the morning before drinking or cooking, such as shower, flush toilets, or wash clothes or dishes.
- Fill a pitcher during periods of regular water usage and keep it in the refrigerator for drinking, or use a pitcher filter designed to remove lead.
Safe drinking water is essential not just for physical health, but for jobs and a healthy economy in the state, said Jim Sadler, water superintendent for the City of Maple Grove and current chair of the Minnesota Section of American Water Works Association.
“Communities depend on a safe and reliable supply of water,” Sadler said. “If that goes away, so does any economic development.”
Protecting sources of water is the first step in providing safe water. Efforts in recent years to identify potential sources of contamination and keep them away from lakes, streams and underground sources of water has proven to be cost effective.
Regardless of how well-protected a water source is, public water systems may still need to treat their water. Owners and operators of public water systems work with MDH to identify harmful contaminants and take steps to remove or treat them in order to provide safe, reliable drinking water. Drinking Water Protection staff at MDH routinely sample the water at public water systems for more than 100 different type of chemicals or contaminants.