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All About Drinking Water: Monitoring

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy works closely with public water system (PWS) operators to monitor the drinking water that’s provided to Nebraskans.

In this All About Drinking Water series, we’ve provided a broad overview of the state’s Drinking Water Program and discussed the role NDEE’s Drinking Water Engineers play when a new system goes online, as well as the training drinking water operators are required to undergo to provide safe drinking water.

This installment will focus on NDEE’s Drinking Water Monitoring and Compliance Team. This team ensures that public water systems comply with the Nebraska Safe Drinking Water Act and the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), which set safe standards for contaminants in drinking water.

NDEE ensures PWSs comply with the requirements for over 90 potential drinking water contaminants. This includes:
· Nitrate – fertilizers
· Coliform bacteria (including E. coli)
· Lead and Copper
· Volatile Organic Chemicals – chemicals used in manufacturing
· Synthetic Organic Chemicals – pesticides and herbicides
· Inorganic Chemicals – naturally occurring contaminants in Nebraska’s geologic formation
· Disinfection byproducts (DBPs) – byproducts of disinfection used in water systems
· Radionuclides – naturally occurring radiologic decay from Nebraska’s geologic formation
· Surface Water Treatment – systems that use lakes or rivers as their primary water supply

The SDWA and Nebraska’s Title 179 – Public Water Systems provide rules and regulations for drinking water, including maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) and the monitoring framework for specific contaminants.

PWSs are required to sample for contaminants in the drinking water they provide. The frequency in which they monitor depends on the contaminant itself and previous sample results. For example, if the result for of a contaminant is above the MCL then the PWS would monitor that source more frequently than if the result was below the MCL.

NDEE’s Drinking Water Monitoring and Compliance team reviews PWSs sample results, provides guidance to the water operators, issues enforcement actions, and provides guidance to help a system return to compliance if they are in violation.

Later in this series, NDEE will provide more information about what happens when a PWS exceeds a MCL and how NDEE ensures they return to compliance.

In addition to NDEE reviewing regularly scheduled sample results, these results are also available to the public on the state’s Drinking Water Watch website, and the PWS releases an annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) that provides results for the analytes that were monitored in the previous calendar year. NDEE will provide more information on drinking water public records in a future edition of this series.

With regularly scheduled monitoring, NDEE and the state’s public water system operators ensure Nebraskans have safe water to drink.