Frequently Asked Questions
For inquiries, please contact the Amador Water Agency Operations Department at 209-223-3018 Mon-Fri, 8 am – 5 pm. Drops-ins are welcome but, if possible, calling ahead to make an appointment will assure that the appropriate staff members are available to assist you.
Is my water safe to drink?
If you are on the Amador Water System (AWS) treated system, the CAWP System, LaMel Heights or CSA 3 Camanche area, the answer is “yes”. Our water meets all the health requirements set forth by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Health Services. The quality of the water is monitored continuously at the treatment plant and in the distribution system. However, isolated water quality impairments do occur, so if you do experience a change in the quality of water, notify Amador Water Agency at once at 209.223.3018. If you are a raw water customer, your water is not safe to drink and you should be using bottled water as drinking water and for domestic household use.
Please see our Health Notice to Raw Water Customers.
What is the definition of safe water?
Water that is safe to drink contains no impurities that would cause a person that drank the water to become ill. Safe water contains no pathogenic organisms or other contaminants that would render the water non-potable. You hear a lot about tap water being unsafe, or that tap water is getting worse. Water suppliers say that the water is safe to drink. Who is right? We all want the same thing: safe drinking water. Water quality standards are becoming stricter as scientists research the health effects of certain materials commonly found in drinking water. The media has helped the general public become more aware of water quality issues, and the public is demanding more information. If my water is safe, why are scientists and engineers doing more and more and more research, and why is the government considering more and stricter regulations? Even though our water is safe to drink for most people, it is not entirely risk free. Producing risk free water would make water too expensive. Government sets regulations that have an acceptable risk (very small). Every one wants to lower this risk even further, without adding a lot of costs. Also, researchers are looking for any new potential problems that might be uncovered.
Can I tell if my water is safe to drink by looking at it, smelling it, or tasting it?
No. None of the chemicals or microbes commonly found in water can be detected by these methods.
How can I tell if my water is safe to drink?
If you are on your own private well, you can have the water analyzed for impurities by a private laboratory, or you can call the County Health Department to see what help might be available there. Local well drillers may also assist you with the taking of samples and having them tested. You should take that analysis to the Health Department for an interpretation if you have any questions. If you are connected to a public water supply, you can call the provider or the California Department of Health Services or (DHS) for information about water quality. When moving to a new area, this is something you should check out first. The Water Agency publishes an annual report on water quality for all potable systems. Check out the Annual Consumer Confidence Report found on our reports page.
What is a boil water order about?
When a water system loses pressure due to a break or rupture in a water line, often the water company will isolate the break, in order to repair the line. When this happens, Amador Water Agency will issue a boil water order as a precaution against the possible entrance of contaminants into the system. Once the break is fixed and pressure is restored, the water company will flush the affected system and take samples for testing. If the samples show no coliform contamination for two consecutive samples, then the boil water order is lifted.Residents are re-notified through door hangers or phone call. Be sure to boil water used for drinking or cooking for at least five minutes. Also, discard your ice cubes in your icemaker. The Water Agency may also issue a boil order if MCL’s (maximum contaminant levels) are exceeded or routine bacteriological testing indicates the possibility of contamination.
Is my drinking water completely free of microorganisms?
No. The water has been disinfected with liquid chlorine to kill all the pathogenic organisms (germs). Most microbes are harmless.
What are coliforms, and what is going on?
Coliform bacteria are generally harmless bacteria that are found in the gut of warm-blooded animals and aid in digestion. The presence of coliform bacteria indicates that the water in unsafe to drink, because pathogenic bacteria are also found in the intestines of animals and humans. This is why coliforms are called indicator organisms. The presence or absence of coliforms in a water sample indicates whether or not the water is safe to drink.
What is Cryptosporidium?
Cryptosporidium is a parasite protozoan that can live in the intestine of humans and animals. Outside the host body, the protozoan becomes a cyst, very much like a seed, with a tough outer coating that is resistant to disinfection. Once swallowed, the protozoan emerges form the cysts, multiplies, and may cause the disease crytposporidiosis. In people with normal immune systems, this disease causes diarrhea and cramping for up to two weeks. Persons with compromised immune systems, such as people with AIDS or very young children, are at serious risk from this disease. Cryptosporidium is not present in all source water. Cryptosporidium has been linked to source water where domestic animals such as cattle have direct access to the water or are in the water shed. Filtration and disinfection remove the majority of cysts. Outbreaks of Cryptosporidium from drinking water are rare. If you think you are infected, you should see a doctor. Also, drinking water is not the only vector for this disease.
Will home treatment device protect me from cryptosporidium?
Micro and ultra filtration systems will likely remove the cysts, but other systems will be somewhat effective to not at all effective. Boiling the water will always work.
Are we running out of water?
The amount of water on the globe is constant. Periodic, localized shortages of water do occur. These are called droughts. Amador Water Agency has very good water rights and is blessed with a high quality water source – the Mokelumne River.
How does nature recycle water?
The earth constantly recycles water through the hydrologic cycle. Water in streams and rivers, which contain contaminants and pollutants, is warmed by the sun, causing an increase in evaporation. Water lost through the leaves of green plants is call transpiration. The gaseous water raises, and is cooled in the atmosphere, making clouds. When conditions are right, the water falls to the Earth as rain, refilling the streams, lake, oceans, and aquifers. The processes of evaporation and transpiration purify the water. In lakes and streams, algae and microbes eat certain contaminants, removing the pollutants from water.
How much water is used in America each day?
There is about 37 billion gallons of tap water produced daily. Agriculture is the biggest user of water, using about 200 billion gallons every day. Industrial water usage is estimated at 160 billion gallons per day.
Where does my water come from?
The primary source of consumptive water is the Mokelumne River which is supplied from rainfall and snowmelt from the Sierra Mountain Range. This water is diverted from the Tiger Creek afterbay or Lake Tabeaud forebay and then either it gravity flows or is pumped to our treatment plants. The Agency’s two main water systems are the Amador Water System (AWS) and the Upcountry Central Amador Water Project System (CAWP). The Agency supplies drinking water to the cities of Jackson, Ione, Sutter Creek, Amador City, the communities along the Highway 88 corridor, and the Lake Camanche area and other surrounding areas. If you are not an Amador Water Agency customer, call your water purveyor to get more details.
I heard aluminum is used to treat water. Does this cause Alzheimer’s disease?
The Amador Water Agency does not use aluminum to treat water. However, most surface water treatment plants use alum or aluminum sulfate as a coagulant aid. This causes the small particles of dirt to become larger and heavier floc, which will settle out and be removed. Thus, very little, if any, aluminum stays in the water. Aluminum is present in large concentrations in foods such as tea. There is very little evidence to indicate that aluminum in drinking water is harmful. The EPA does not regulate aluminum.
Is the chlorine in the water safe?
Yes. The amount of chlorine typically used by water purveyors is safe. Some people do not like the taste, however. When Chlorine reacts with some naturally occurring chemicals in the water, disinfection byproducts are formed, which may cause cancer. EPA has established a maximum contaminant level for trihalomethanes, which is a group of disinfection byproducts. AWA’s water is under this level.
Are all chemicals in my drinking water bad for me?
No. Some chemicals, such as fluoride, in controlled amounts, has been shown to be beneficial in tooth decay prevention. Others may be beneficial, or of no effect. Water is a chemical compound of hydrogen and oxygen. We depend on chemicals in food to keep us alive. Drinking water contains no calories, caffeine, fat, sugar, or cholesterol.
Are chemicals that are found in water naturally (not because of pollution) safe to drink?
Not necessarily. Some chemicals that may be found in water naturally may be harmful, such as selenium, arsenic, and radon. Some harmless chemicals in water react with other chemicals and form harmful compounds. The U. S. E. P. A. requires public water purveyors to test for 100 different chemicals, and that list is expected to grow. If you want a current analysis of AWA’s water, please call the office at 209.223.3018 or write to: Amador Water Agency, 12800 Ridge Road, Sutter Creek, California 95685.
I read that organic chemicals are dangerous. What are they, and why doesn’t the water company remove them from the water?
Organic chemicals contain carbon and hydrogen atoms linked together. Sugar is a common organic chemical, so not all organic chemicals are bad for you. Some, like gasoline, diesel fuel, and solvents, are carcinogens, that is, they may cause cancer. Conventional water treatment plants typically do not remove dissolved chemicals from the water, only particulate matter, such as bacteria and cysts.
I heard that nitrate was bad for babies and pesticides are bad for everyone. How do these get in the water supply?
The EPA has set a maximum contaminant level for nitrates, since a high dose of nitrates has been linked with a rare blood disorder in infants called “blue baby syndrome”, because the baby’s skin will have a bluish cast. Pesticides are organic chemicals that farmers use against insects. Private wells are the chief source of water contaminated with these chemicals. Nitrates may come from fertilizers or from human or animal wastes, such as feedlots or septic tanks. Anything applied to the land may wind up in the ground water, as rain percolates downward to the water table.
Do hazardous wastes contaminate our drinking water?
Possibly. Runoff from hazardous waste disposal sites may contaminate the water. Leaking underground storage tanks may cause contamination of the ground water. This is why the government has such strict regulations for storage tanks and liners for toxic waste dumps and gas stations.
How does lead get into the drinking water?
Not all drinking water contains lead. When household plumbing contains lead solder, and the water is in contact with the solder for long periods (like overnight), there may be some lead that does dissolve and enter the water. This is also a function of the corrosivity of the water. Very hard water tends to form a scale on the walls of the pipes, and seals the solder. Lead solder has been outlawed since 1986. Testing in Amador Water Systems has not detected any lead or copper in the system above action levels set by EPA.
How do I get lead out of my drinking water?
Not all homes have a lead problem, but if testing indicates you have one, or, if you have rusty water or water leaves a blue stain in your sink, you may want to take precautions to protect yourself and your family. The best way is to flush the faucet or hydrant you will be drinking from for a few minutes before using the water for drinking. The time needed will vary from house to house; typically, you want ‘fresh” water from the public main line.
Is the fluoride in my water safe?
Yes. Naturally occurring or added by the supplier, fluoride has been shown to greatly improve the dental health of the consumers. Fluoride and chlorine in the water make it unsuitable for kidney dialysis machines, however.
Should I be concerned about the chlorine in the water I use for bathing?
No. Chlorine can’t be absorbed through the skin, and the amount of chlorine is too small to harm the skin itself.
Do we have fluoride in the water?
No, fluoride is not available at this time. In systems of 10,000+ connections, fluoride is required by State Regulations.
What is radon and is it harmful in drinking water?
Radon is a radioactive gas found in some groundwater supplies. Radon is formed by the natural decay of radium and uranium. Scientists believe that long term exposure to radon causes cancer. Most exposure to radon comes from the ground underneath the residence through the air and into the lungs. EPA will set standards for radon in drinking water in the near future. If you suspect radon in your home, call the local health department.
My water is black. What causes this, and is it harmful?
A metal called manganese, which occurs naturally in water, is colorless and harmless. When combined with chlorine, it becomes black. If you have manganese, you may want to install a filter or other point of use water treatment system.
Please do not hesitate to call the Amador Water Agency if you have any concerns with the appearance, feel, taste or smell of your water. Please call the Amador Water Agency if your water changes from its normal characteristics.
Why does my water taste or smell funny?
Taste is very subjective, but most taste and odor problems are associated with algae or fungi present in the water supply. Chlorine, added to the water to kill germs, may react with organic chemicals and cause a bad taste. An earthy smell or taste is caused by the presence of Actinomycetes (a harmless fungus) in the raw water supply. A rotten egg odor (caused by the presence of hydrogen sulfide) may be present in a well supply. In small amounts these things are harmless. Point of use water treatment devices may help the situation some. If you have a water quality problem, call the Water Agency or your water purveyor right away.
My well water is reddish brown. Is it safe to drink?
The chemicals in the water that cause it to be colored are non-toxic, but not completely harmless. Iron is the culprit usually, and can cause stains and discolorations of clothing and fixtures. The iron is coming from the well water, or the pipes, or the hot water heater. Water softeners can help with this problem. Letting the water run usually lets it clear up. We recommend taking samples to a lab for testing.