What are Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs)?

March 11, 2022

What is a consumer confidence report and what does it mean for your water?

About the author:

Saleha Kuzniewski, Ph.D. has written on several scientific and legal issues and is an environmental scientist specializing in remediation and biotechnology research. Dr. Kuzniewski received her Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Public Policy from George Mason University. Kuzniewski can be reached at [email protected]

What is a CCR? 

A consumer confidence report (CCR), also known as an annual drinking water quality report or simply as a water quality report, provides information to customers from their water utility about their community water system’s drinking water quality.  The US EPA requires community water systems to deliver CCRs to their customers.  There is specific information and a format that must be followed for all CCRs and this will be discussed further in this article.  

Community water systems (CWSs) are a part of the public water systems, accounting for one-third of the public water systems (PWSs) and as of 2019, serving 94.1% of the population.  So is a PWS report the same as a CCR? Not necessarily.  A PWS report could be any water report – a CCR for the CWS or a report on the other water systems in the PWS.  These are transient and non-transient non-community water systems, serving 4% and 2% of the population respectively, and surface water.  Private wells, while a source of drinking water for 15% of the population, are not included in PWSs.    

Who regulates CCRs?

The CCRS are regulated in 40 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) that fall under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and this regulatory structure is summarized in Figure 1. 

Figure 1: Regulatory structure for the CCRs and content of Subpart O

What role does the US EPA play in CCRs?

Congress authorized the US EPA to set regulations for the SDWA and these regulations, known as 40 CFR 141 (The National Primary Drinking Water Regulations) include regulations on CCRs for CWSs (Figure 1).  The US EPA manages and enforces 40 CFR 141 and this means, the EPA manages and enforces the regulations for the CCRs.  

Additionally, the US EPA plays the following specific roles in 40 CFR 141 Subpart O (i.e. in the regulations for the CFRs).  For specific details, click on the links: 

  • In § 141.151 (Purpose and applicability of subpart O) (f):  The appropriate US EPA regional office may carry out primary enforcement responsibility for public water systems in certain situations. 
  • In § 141.153 (Content of the reports):  
    • (c) (2): In certain situations, the EPA’s permission is required for variance or exemption for the CWS’s CCR.  
    • (e) (3): The EPA strongly encourages CWSs to report any results for the presence of other contaminants, in additional to the ones mentioned in Subpart O for some CWSs.  
  • In § 141.154 (Required additional health information)
    • (a) This implies that the EPA/CDC have guidelines to reduce the risk of infections from Cryptosporidium and other microbial contaminants.   
    • (b) (1) This clause, on the short informational statement, includes that the EPA continues to research the health effects of low level of arsenic.
  • In § 141.155 (Report delivery and record-keeping)
    • (b) This clause includes that the EPA expects that adequate good faith effort will be planned to deliver CCRs to consumers who are served by the CWSs but are not bill-paying customers.  

What roles does the CDC play in CCRs?

In addition to providing guidelines to reduce the risk of infection by Cryptosporidium in § 141.154 (a), as described above in this article, the CDC also: 

These points imply that the CDC supports the EPA in performing its duties and responsibilities in enforcing the regulations for CCRs.  

When are CCRs from CWSs for water quality due? 

By July 1st of each year.  However, the dates could vary depending on existing/new CWSs and if it sells water to another CWS and this is summarized in Table 1 based on § 141.52.  

Table 1: The annual due dates to customersa for CCRs from CWSs for water quality 

CWS 

Due date for CCR to customersa

CCR issued to whom? 

Where is this specified in 40 CFR 141 § 141.152?

Existing CWS

1st report due by October 19, 1999, 2nd by July 1, 2000 and after this, July 1st annually 

Customers

(b)

New CWS

July 1st of the year after one full calendar year in operation and annually after this

Customers

(c)

CWS that sells water to another CWS

By April 19, 1999, April 1, 2000 and every April after this OR on a date mutually agreed upon by the seller and buyer and specifically included in a contract between the two 

Must deliver the applicable information in § 141.153 to the buyer system

(d) (1) and (2)

a: Definition of customer in 40 CFR 141 § 141.151 (b): billing units or service connections to which water is delivered by a community water system. 

How can I get a CCR for my water? 

Every CWSs are required to mail or directly deliver a copy of the CCR to each customer, § 141.155 (a), unless they fit into the waiving criteria in § 141.155 (g).  CCRs must be available to the public on request, § 141.155 (e) and copies must be retained by the CWSs for a minimum of three years, § 141.155 (2) (h).  Copies of the CCRs for CWSs typically serving more than 100,000 people are also available on the internet on these websites: 

What is included in a CCR for my water? 

All CCRs by CWSs must include specific information as in 40 CFR 141 Subpart O § 141.153 and § 141.154.  The CDC also includes a generalized outline of what is included in a CCR.  

The following are weblinks to some of the available CCRs to illustrate the specific information they contain and their format: 

As could be seen from the above examples, these CCRs for CWSs include the following basic information: 

  • The calendar year the report covers
  • The source of the drinking water
  • Terms, abbreviations, and definitions of the terms
  • A table containing: 
    • detected values for the regulated contaminants and the MCLs
    • Date of sampling
    • Whether the contaminant detected and quantified is in violation
    • The likely source of origin of the contaminant in the water

Overall, they contain information and the specific language as required in 40 CFR 141 Subpart O § 141.153 and § 141.154

About the Author

Saleha Kuzniewski

Saleha (Sally) Kuzniewski, Ph.D. is a scientist specializing in water research, including environmental remediation and biotechnology research. In addition to her work as a researcher, adjunct faculty, and scientific consultant, she received an award for outstanding contribution at the U.S. Geological Survey, best paper at the Virginia Academy of Science, and local funds to develop a biotechnology undergraduate course. She has also authored several publications including on the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and on other environmental regulations including on the Safe Drinking Water Act.  Dr. Kuzniewski received her BS in biology from William Smith College, Master of Environmental Science from Memorial University of Newfoundland, and her Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Public Policy from George Mason University. Kuzniewski can be reached at [email protected].

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