Safe Water for Community Health (Safe WATCH)

SAFE WATCH - Safe Water for Community Health

CDC helps health departments reduce harmful exposures from wells and other private drinking water systems.

CDC supports drinking water programs at health departments to address problems with private drinking water systems in their communities. These systems include private (or household) wells, cisterns, water storage tanks, and trucked water. CDC encourages health departments to strengthen and improve their programs by

Strong public health programs can help people with wells or other private water systems find potential problems and take steps to address them. Based on identified gaps, drinking water programs can help

  • Increase awareness among people with possible drinking water contamination and make recommendations about
    • How and when to test their water.
    • How to interpret test results and what contaminants were found in their water.
    • Services and products and where to find additional information.
  • Develop interventions to address contaminants found in their drinking water.

Private Water & Public Health Quick Stats

  • About 1 in 8 American residents get their drinking water from a private well.[1-3]
  • About 1 in 5 sampled private wells were found to be contaminated with at least 1 chemical at levels that could affect health.[4]
  • From 1971 through 2008, the proportion of outbreaks associated with private water sources increased.[5,6]
  • Fifty-six percent of local health departments regulate, inspect, or license private drinking water in their community.[7]
References and Notes

[1] Dieter CA, Maupin MA, Caldwell RR, Harris MA, Ivahnenko TI, Lovelace JK, et al. Estimated use of water in the United States in 2015.external icon Circular 1441 [Supersedes USGS Open-File Report 2017–1131]. Reston, VA: U.S. Geological Survey; 2018. p. 23.

[2] U.S. Census Bureau. Population estimates, July 1, 2018 (V2018).external icon QuickFacts, United States.

[3] Numerator calculated by multiplying the percentage of self-supplied domestic withdrawals from ground water (98.47%) by the 42.5 million total self-supplied population (Dieter et al. 2018), resulting in an estimated 41.8 million people using private wells. Denominator is the 2018 U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau).

[4] DeSimone LA, Hamilton PA, Gilliom RJ. Quality of ground water from private domestic wells in principal aquifers of the United States, 1991–2004: overview of major findings.external icon Circular 1332. Reston, VA: U.S. Geologic Survey; 2009.

[5] Craun GF, Brunkard JM, Yoder JS, Roberts VA, Carpenter J, Wade T, et al. Causes of outbreaks associated with drinking water in the United States from 1971 to 2006.external icon Clin Microbiol Rev. 2010;507-28.

[6] Brunkard JM, Ailes A, Roberts VA, Hill V, Hilborn ED, Craun GF, et al. Surveillance for waterborne disease outbreak associated with drinking water–United States, 2007-2008. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011;60:38-75.

[7] National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). 2016 national profile of local health departments. pdf icon[PDF – 865 KB]external icon Washington, DC: NACCHO; 2017.

Page last reviewed: October 28, 2019