In Recognition of Drinking Water Week, State's Top Health Official Encourages New Yorkers to "Get to Know Your H2O"

ALBANY, NY (May 2, 2013) – To help celebrate the 35th year of National Drinking Water Week, May 5 – 11, 2013, New York State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., highlighted the essential role drinking water plays in our daily lives and encouraged New Yorkers to get to know their H2O.

"Drinking Water Week provides an opportunity for New Yorkers to learn about their water and how they can become better advocates of this precious resource," Commissioner Shah said. "The State Health Department and our state and local partners are committed to maintaining a safe and sustainable supply of drinking water and we hope consumers will help to keep our water sources and water systems healthy and vibrant."

Nearly 95 percent of New Yorkers receive their drinking water from public water systems. Approximately 17.8 million people are served by community public water systems, including about 12 million receiving drinking water from surface water sources (reservoir, lake or river) and more than 4.7 million obtaining their water from groundwater sources.

All public water systems in New York are required to meet stringent federal and state drinking water standards, including monitoring of 80 contaminants such as lead, coliform bacteria and volatile organic compounds. Each system must report any occurrence where maximum (allowable) contamination levels are exceeded and actions taken to resolve these issues.

Throughout the week, the American Water Works Association (AWWA), New York State agencies, and community partners will provide valuable tips to protect our water resources and the quality of drinking water within our homes. Tips Include:

  • Consumers using public water should read the Annual Water Quality Report available through their community water system. Water Quality Reports are required to be delivered to all consumers by May 31 of each year. Larger public water supplies (serving more than 100,000) are required to post their reports on their website.
  • If there is a Boil Water Notice in your area, know the proper precautions to take. A boil water notice may go out after a water line break, a power outage or a flood, for example, to protect consumers from drinking water that may have potentially become contaminated with microorganisms that could cause illness. Bring water to a full rolling boil for one minute, then cool before use. For more details, contact your local health department or water utility, or log onto the DOH website at:
  • Consumers using a private well should test their water once a year for coliform bacteria and nitrates. Water quality testing is good for both new and existing drinking water wells. Well owners should check their water more frequently if:
    • There is a change in the taste, odor, or appearance of the water
    • There have been bacteria problems in the past
    • A problem occurs such as a broken well cap or a potential contamination source is discovered
    • The well has been recently flooded, or experiences frequent flooding
    • Family members or house guests have recurrent incidents of unexplained gastrointestinal illness (of course, recurrent unexplained illnesses should be followed up by a visit to the doctor)
    • An infant or immune compromised individual is living in the home
    • There is a need to monitor the efficiency and performance of home water treatment equipment.

All well samples should be analyzed by a laboratory certified by the DOH Environmental Laboratory Approval Program (ELAP).

Significant investment is necessary to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to high quality drinking water. Since 1996, New York State's Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program has provided nearly $4 billion in grants and reduced or zero-interest loans to eligible drinking water systems to address water system needs, including upgrades or replacement of aging infrastructure. As these financial awards are repaid through the DWSRF program, additional funding is made available for new projects. The State Health Department continues to work closely with the Environmental Facilities Corporation, the State Department of Environmental Conservation and other federal, state and local agencies to provide guidance and assistance to local systems to ensure sustainable compliance with drinking water standards.

For additional information about the regulation, monitoring and delivery of drinking water in New York State, consumers can obtain a copy of their water utility's Annual Water Quality Report. For more details on the DOH Drinking Water Protection Program, visit: