While it varies on the time of year and drought conditions, much of the water in Southern California including SMWD, is generally considered hard. Hard water means that it has higher levels of minerals, such as calcium and magnesium. These are naturally occurring minerals found in the Colorado River which is one of SMWD’s primary drinking water sources. The State Water Resources Control Board and the US Environmental Protection Agency both consider hard water only an aesthetic issue and is completely safe to drink.
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SMWD’s top priority is to ensure the safety of your drinking water. The District operates a State-certified water quality laboratory with certified laboratory analysts performing over 18,000 drinking water analyses annually. SMWD has a State permit to monitor and test the water quality within its distribution system which stretches from El Toro Road in Lake Forest to Avenida Pico in San Clemente.
Results of the District’s water quality analyses are published annually in our Consumer Confidence Report which can be found on our website here. We are proud that our water continues to meet or surpass all Federal and State drinking water standards.
The District’s Board of Directors has a Water Quality and Treatment Committee that meets monthly and focuses on water quality throughout the service area. The Committee has been a part of cutting-edge research on water quality monitoring using advanced molecular biology testing and working closely with multiple universities to evaluate emerging contaminants.
The vast majority of the District’s drinking water is imported from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California which supplies water to nearly 19 million people from Ventura County to San Diego County. They operate one of the most advanced water quality laboratories in the world where they conduct over 200,000 water quality tests each year.
California has also developed Public Health Goals (PHGs) for water contaminants that are used by the State in setting MCLs. PHGs are not regulated limits, they are goals developed by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). The PHG value is a theoretical estimate where no known or anticipated adverse effect on the health of persons would occur if a consumer was to drink two liters of water daily for 70 years. PHGs are unique to California and are comparable in concept to the EPA’s Maximum Containment Level Goals (MCLGs).
It is important to note that PHGs do not consider whether the level is technologically or economically feasible or even measurable. The role of the PHG is to be utilized to ensure that MCLs are set "as close as possible" to the corresponding PHG with the primary emphasis on the protection of public health but also considering technological and economic feasibility.
Federal: The Safe Drinking Water Act established the authority of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set regulations for drinking water quality. These standards cover microorganisms, disinfectants, disinfection by-products, inorganic chemicals, and radionuclides. The EPA sets the maximum containment levels (MCL) for regulated contaminants that a utility must meet. Water utilities and the EPA are constantly scanning water for newly identified compounds to determine if additional regulations are necessary. SMWD participates in this effort by analyzing for these unregulated compounds. The last revision made to the Safe Drinking Water Act was a revision to the Total Coliform Rule in 2013 and has indicated that regulations related to PFAS are being worked on currently.
State: The State of California can also establish and enforce regulations because the EPA has approved California to administer regulations in a concept known as primacy. California’s regulations are established by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and must be at least as stringent as those established by the EPA. The SWRCB produced this 2018 report which details both the Federal and State standards. The SWRCB is responsible for setting the MCL “as close as feasible” to the corresponding public health goal (PHG) with primary emphasis on the protection of public health but also considering technological and economic feasibility. Additionally, each primary drinking water standard must be reviewed at least every five years to determine if technology or treatment techniques have changed. The State has produced this website which details the review process.
Trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids are by-products of the disinfection process. Water is disinfected to protect against a wide variety of disease-causing organisms such as cholera, hepatitis and dysentery. Disinfectants react with small amounts of naturally occurring matter and produce trace levels of these by-products. The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is responsible for developing Public Health Goals (PHGs) and they state, "The use of chemical disinfectants in water treatment usually results in the formation of chemical by-products. However, the risks to health from these byproducts are extremely small in comparison with the risks associated with inadequate disinfection, and it is important that the disinfection efficacy not be compromised in attempting to control such by-products.”1 The Centers for Disease Control website provides further information on disinfection byproducts.
Regardless, SMWD has taken several steps to reduce the levels of these by-products in the drinking water system. The vast majority of the District’s drinking water is treated with ozonation which limits the formation of these compounds. Additionally, SMWD utilizes chloramines in the distribution system which limits the formation of by-products while also preserving the microbiological quality of the water.
If you would like additional water testing of your home or business, contact an independent laboratory accredited through the State’s Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP). The State has a helpful tool located here to assist you in finding a certified commercial lab.
Independent water quality testing cannot be performed at SMWD’s water quality laboratory.
The white residue commonly found in showers and kitchenware is the result of dissolved minerals, particularly calcium and magnesium.
SMWD imports a large portion of water from the Colorado River. As the water travels through rock canyons it picks up an appreciable amount of dissolved minerals, which is often referred to as “hard water”. These minerals do not pose a health risk, but may be a nuisance when they buildup on fixtures or hinder detergent performance.
Commercial products are available to remove white residue. SMWD recommends that you read the owner’s manuals for your dishwasher and washing machine for the manufacturer's recommendations regarding settings for mineral buildup or hard water.
Cloudy water is often caused by air that enters pipes and escapes in the form of oxygen bubbles.
Air bubbles are more prevalent in cold months because water from outside pipes is colder and holds more oxygen than water in household pipes. Consequently, when the cold water enters your home and begins to warm up, the oxygen bubbles escape and cause the water to look cloudy or even milky. Construction in the distribution system can also allow air to enter the pipes and cause the appearance of cloudy water.
The air bubbles should naturally disappear in a few minutes. Test this by filling a clear container with water. After a few minutes, the air bubbles rise to the surface and the water should clear up from the bottom to the top of the container.
If the cloudiness does not disappear, please email Customer Service or call 949-459-6420.
SMWD relies 100% on imported drinking water which comes from the Colorado River and Northern California. Because these sources are surface water supplies, there is an extremely low risk of PFAS contamination compared to groundwater sources near industrial areas, airports, and landfills. SMWD has performed PFAS testing on various points of the imported water system and found that all of the PFAS chemicals were either not detected or were below the detection limit of 2 parts per trillion. For reference, a part per trillion is an exceedingly small amount equivalent to adding ten drops of liquid into a container the size of the Rose Bowl.
While there are over 5,000 chemicals classified as PFAS, the Federal and State regulators are focused on two of the most frequently detected PFAS chemicals: PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (Perfluorooctyl sulfonic Acid). The EPA set an advisory level for the sum of PFOA and PFOS at 70 parts per trillion while the State set a notification level for 5.1 parts per trillion for PFOA and 6.5 parts per trillion for PFAS.
The odor you smell is most likely coming from the sink drain and not the water. Over time the plumbing beneath your sink, which is typically a u-shaped pipe, can collect debris and create an odor. If you smell an odor, fill a clean glass with tap water and smell the water in a separate room or outdoors. If the odor is no longer present, the odor is likely from the plumbing beneath your sink.
If the odor is not from the sink drain or the problem persists, please email Customer Service or call 949-459-6420.