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What You Should Know about Your Water System

April 23, 2019

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about what you should know about your water system. Hello. I'm Amy Myers, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Dr. Jason Barrett, Mississippi State University assistant extension professor. Dr. Barrett, of course having clean, properly running water is something we essentially cannot live without. I understand there are some questions I should ask when purchasing or moving into a home. Tell me what I should ask about my water system. 

Jason Barrett: Well, one of the first things you'd want to ask is how does this property or this house get drinking water? Where does it actually come from?

Amy Myers: Okay, so we should ask is our property on a private well or a community water. If it's community water, should I ask if it's run by the county or city?

Jason Barrett: You're correct. Whether it's on a private well or community water, you really have two different, I'm going to say, legal structures there. Under a private well, which is going to be any well constructed less than six inches in diameter that only serves that home, that is the sole responsibility of the homeowner. Under a community system, whether it's run by a utility district, a city, municipality, or a rural association, that system actually falls under some pretty stringent federal and state regulations for drinking water quality.

Amy Myers: What's the difference between community water systems and the private well that you talked about?

Jason Barrett: The private well is usually a privately-owned drinking water source just for that home. Now, under a community water system, you realistically have the same infrastructure but a different legal formation. With a city, which we would could consider a municipal system, it's going to be owned and operated by the municipality itself, or you may have a utility district, which is usually formed out within a county or adjacent to a municipality where you would have a board that's either set or guided by the county board of supervisors, or you might have what we call a rural association. Some people refer to them as a cooperative. These rural associations are actually run by the members. It's member owned, member run, but they all fall under the exact same federal and state drinking water supply regulations. They're all community water systems.

Amy Myers: Okay. That sounds really important to know. If I'm on a private well, I can still have the city or county come out and fix something if something's wrong with my water, right?

Jason Barrett: Actually, not really. You're more than welcome to call anyone, but do understand, if you have a private well, it is your sole responsibility. It's not anyone else's. It's not a community system. It's not the mayor or [inaudible 00:02:48] alderman in the adjacent town. It's not the county board of supervisors. If you're on a private well, it is your responsibility, so if you have an issue, you're responsible to fix it. Now, if you're on a community system and you have an issue between the meter and your home, that's your responsibility as well, but anything the meter out towards the system you can call the utility.

Amy Myers: Unless if you have a private well and someone else is doing something that affects your water.

Jason Barrett: Sure. When we start talking about source water protection, so actually anything around your area that you think could be running off or running towards that could possibly impact your drinking water, sure, I would definitely call. First, I'd call at the local level and, if you don't get any traction there, maybe move up to a state level or a county level.

Amy Myers: Like the health department?

Jason Barrett: You could call the health department or, in Mississippi, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.

Amy Myers: That would be if someone else is doing something that's affecting your system.

Jason Barrett: Sure.

Amy Myers: If I have questions about maybe getting my water tested or how my water supply works, what are my sources of contact?

Jason Barrett: Well, if you're on a community system, I always tell people start with the utility itself. Call that utility office. Call your local office. If you don't feel like you get your answer there, you can always go up a level to a county or a regional. If you don't feel like you got that contact or know it, the Mississippi State Department of Health Bureau of Public Water Supply is the regulatory agency for the state, so you can look them up online for this region. Every person that's on a community system in the state of Mississippi has a regional state health department engineer that can assist them.

Amy Myers: For a breakdown of those sources, I can also go to the Environmental Protection Agency at Correct?

Jason Barrett: Sure. That's the federal regulatory body over all community systems in the nation.

Amy Myers: Thank you so much. Today we've been speaking with Dr. Jason Barrett, Mississippi State University assistant extension professor. I'm Amy Myers, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Department: Ext Ctr for Government & Comm Devel

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