Water Quality Month: Understanding third-party water quality testing programs

Water Quality Month: Understanding third-party water quality testing programs

In recent weeks, our area has experienced an increase in third-party water quality programs that offer home water quality testing (several of our employees have even been approached). While we don’t want to discredit these programs, we do want to offer some insight and share some information about how we maintain the highest level of quality in the water we distribute.

These third-party water quality testing programs typically test for factors like chlorine levels and water hardness (defined by the USGS as the amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium in the water) in an effort to sell you a water softening system for your home. Water softeners filter out magnesium, calcium and other minerals that are naturally occurring in dirt and rock, and are often picked up as the water travels to ground water sources like lakes and rivers. These minerals won’t hurt you, but they do increase the hardness of your water. A free, and easy, at home test is to run the dishwasher. If your dishes are cloudy or looked spotted, you likely have harder water.

Photo from USGS


Click the image to view a chart that shows the natural hardness of ground water across the U.S. Middle Tennessee falls in the second lowest category for water hardness.


As for chlorine levels, chlorine is one of the most common disinfectants used by water providers. WHUD closely monitors chlorine levels in our water supply to ensure that it is within the acceptable range. In addition, we, and every other utility in the country, are closely monitored for more than 80 potential water contaminants that are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including chlorine, turbidity (or water clarity), and harmful bacteria, among others.

To give you a quick look into our water quality program, at our Water Treatment Plant, our plant operators pull samples of our finished water every two hours, in addition to 24/7, real-time, online monitoring. Our water quality team pulls 100 field samples from all across our service area every single month to ensure the preservation of water quality throughout our distribution system, and they also pull home samples anytime a customer calls with a concern. Water samples are carefully documented and submitted to the state, every month, and a comprehensive report is submitted annually. Each spring, we publish a Water Quality Report and make it available to our customers. In this report, we are required to disclose any contaminants detected in our raw water supply (Old Hickory Lake). We are pleased to share that we continue to meet or exceed all state and federal guidelines for water quality.

Throughout August, which is nationally recognized as Water Quality Month, we’ll be sharing more on how we keep our water safe – from 24/7, real-time water monitoring and regular manual sampling to random field sampling and responding to customer requests. Importantly, we want to remind you that we offer free home water sampling as a service to all of our customers. If you ever have questions or concerns about your water, call us at 615-672-4110 or email customerservice@whud.org and let us know. We will send someone out to pull a sample from your house and test it.

All that said, there are some benefits to water softening systems – dishes may look better, clothing can last longer and your skin might feel softer – and the decision to install a water softener is entirely up to each individual customer. At WHUD, our goal is to make sure our customers understand what these outside water quality tests are checking, and what they are not checking. And our reasoning is simple: Water quality is something we take very seriously, and we work very hard to make sure the water we deliver is high quality, safe and reliable, every single day.