Where you drink water: An assessment of the Tennessee, USA public water supply

Water (Basel). 2022 Aug 2;14(16):2562. doi: 10.3390/w14162562. Epub 2022 Aug 20.


Monitoring drinking water quality is essential to protect people's health and wellbeing. In the United States, the Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) database records the occurrence of a drinking water violation regulation in public water systems. A notable shortcoming of SDWIS is the lack of the contaminant concentration level about the allowable maximum contaminant threshold. In this study, we take advantage of both the SDWIS violation database and the contaminants sampling database at the state level to examine the drinking water quality of all kinds of drinking water systems in detail. We obtained sampling data (i.e., the concentration level of contaminants) of public water systems (PWSs) in Tennessee and explored the statistical distribution of contaminant concentration data in relation to the enforceable maximum regulatory contaminant level). We use both SDWIS violation records and actual concentrations of contaminants from the sampling data to study the factors that influence the drinking water quality of PWSs. We find that different types of violations were more frequent in (1) specific geological regions, (2) counties with PWSs that serve a larger population (10,000 to 100,000 people), and (3) places with abundant surface water, such as near a lake or major river. Additionally, the distribution of measured concentrations for many contaminants was not smooth but was punctuated by discontinuities at selected levels, such as at 50% of the maximum contaminant level. Such anomalies in the sampling data do not indicate violations, but more investigation is needed to determine the reasons behind the punctuated changes.

Keywords: contaminant concentration; drinking water; public water systems.