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Are You a Public Water System User?

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The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) defines public water systems (PWS) as one that serves piped water to at least 25 persons or 15 services connections for at least 60 days each year. There are approximately 161,000 public water systems in the United States. Such systems may be publicly or privately owned. Specifically, public water system can be separated into two categories:

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  • Community Water System (54,000 systems)—A public water system that serves the same people year- round. Most residences are served by Community Water Systems.

  • Non-Community Water System (approximately 108,000 systems)- A public water system that does not serve the same people year-round. There are two types of non-community systems:

    • Non-Transient Non-Community Water System (almost 19,000 systems)—A non-community water system that serves the same people more than six months of the year, but not year-round. For example, a school with its own water supply is considered a non-transient system.

    • Transient Non-Community Water System (more than 89,000 systems)— A non-community water system that serves the public but not the same individuals for more than six months. For example, a rest area or a campground may be considered a transient system.

Large-scale water supply systems tend to rely on surface water resources, while smaller water systems tend to use ground water. An underground network of pipes typically delivers drinking water to the homes and businesses served by the water system. Small systems serving just a handful of households may be relatively simple, while large metropolitan systems can be extremely complex—sometimes consisting of thousands of miles of pipes serving millions of people.

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