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Consumer Confidence Report (CCR): Definitions

Explanation of terms and acronyms used in Consumer Confidence Reports.

The following words and terms, when used in this document, have the following meanings, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise. The definitions for these terms were extracted from Rules and Regulations for Public Water Systems; Glossary, Water and Wastewater Control Engineering; State Source Water Assessment and Protection Programs Guidance; Susceptibility Assessment Document, and Title 40 Code of Federal Regulations.

Alphabetical Index



action levels—used in place of MCLs. Triggers additional requirements but exceeding action levels does not constitute a violation as does exceeding an MCL.

acute—typically used in the phrase, contaminants with acute health effects, which is sometimes abbreviated to acute contaminants. Acute health effects, as used in the drinking water program, are effects which occur shortly after exposure to a drinking water contaminant, i.e., usually a matter of hours or days.


chronic—typically used in the phrase, contaminants with chronic health effects, which is sometimes abbreviated to chronic contaminants. Chronic health effects, as used in the drinking water program, are those which occur over many years. The health risk for these contaminants is usually estimated over a 70-year period.

community water system—a public water system with a potential to serve at least 15 residential service connections on a year-round basis or serves at least 25 residents on a year-round basis.

connection—a single family residential unit or each commercial or industrial establishment to which drinking water is supplied from the system.

contaminant source inventory—the process of identifying and inventorying contaminant sources within delineated source water protection areas through recording existing data; describing sources within the source water protection area; identifying likely sources for further investigation; collecting and interpreting new information on existing or potential sources through surveys; and verifying accuracy and reliability of the information gathered.

contamination—the presence of any foreign substance (organic, inorganic, radiological, or biological) in water, which tends to degrade its quality and can constitute a hazard or impair the usefulness of the water.

conveyance—refers to canals, aqueduct, or piping that carries water from the intake or well to the general area of the distribution system. It does not include the distribution system itself or storage tanks, treatment plants, or other infrastructure associated with the distribution system.

cross-connection—a physical connection between a public water system and either:

  • another supply of unknown or questionable quality,
  • any source which may contain contaminating or polluting substances, or
  • any source of water treated to a lesser degree in the treatment process.

Cryptosporidium—a protozoan associated with the disease cryptosporidiosis in humans. The disease can be transmitted through ingestion of drinking water, person-to-person contact, or other exposure routes. Cryptosporidiosis may cause acute diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and fever that lasts 1-2 weeks in healthy adults, but may be chronic or fatal in immunocompromised people.


detection—some amount of contaminant was found, not necessarily in an amount that exceeds the MCL.

drinking water—all water distributed by any agency or individual, public or private, for the purpose of human consumption or which may be used in the preparation of foods or beverages or for the cleaning of any utensil or article used in the course of preparation or consumption of food or beverages for human beings. The term "drinking water" shall also include all water supplied for human consumption or used by any institution catering to the public.

drinking water standards—the commission rules covering drinking water standards in §290.101—290.121 (relating to Drinking Water Standards Governing Drinking Water Quality and Reporting Requirements for Public Water Supply Systems).

Drinking Water State Revolving Fund—under section 1452 of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the EPA awards states capitalization grants to develop drinking water revolving loan funds that help finance drinking water system infrastructure improvements and source water assessment and protection programs as well as enhance operations and management of drinking water systems and other activities that encourage PWS compliance and protection of public health. In Texas, the drinking water state revolving fund is administered by the Texas Water Development Board.


E. coli Escherichia coli. A bacteria which can cause acute intestinal distress.

exposure—contact between a person and a chemical. Exposures are calculated as the amount of chemical available for absorption by a person.


fecal coliform—a bacteria used to indicate the presence of other disease-causing organisms.

fibers per liter—the number of fibers found in one liter of water and is the unit of measurement for asbestos. MFL is the abbreviation for million fibers per liter.

fluoride—in drinking water decreases the incidence of tooth decay when the water is consumed during the period of enamel calcification. Excessive quantities in drinking water consumed by children during the period of enamel calcification may cause a characteristic discoloration (mottling) of the teeth.


Giardia lamblia—a protozoan, which can survive in water for one to three months, associated with the disease giardiasis. Ingestion of this protozoan in contaminated drinking water, exposure from person-to-person contact, and other exposure routes may cause giardiasis. The symptoms of this gastrointestinal disease may persist for weeks or months and include diarrhea, fatigue, and cramps.

G/L—micrograms per liter. Roughly equivalent to ppb.


hydraulic—refers to fluid and is used in this document in the context of how water or waterborne contamination can move overland flow to groundwater, or vice versa.

hydrogeologic—usually refers to the geologic characteristics that influence the underground flow or movement of water, as in hydrogeologic characteristics of the aquifer.

hydrologic—refers to water, and is often used to refer to the natural geographic characteristics affecting the overland flow of water, as in hydrologic characteristics.


intake—refers to surface water intakes, as distinguished from wells, which refers to groundwater intakes.


maximum contaminant level—is defined in the SDWA as the maximum permissible level of a contaminant in water which is delivered to any user of a public water system.

maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG)—the level of a contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected risk to health.

MCL violation—finding a contaminant in an amount greater than that allowed by the EPA.

mg/L—milligrams per liter. Roughly equivalent to ppm.


ND—not detected.

NM—not measured.

NTU—Nephelometric turbidity units.

nitrates—inorganic compounds that can enter water supplies from fertilizer runoff and sanitary wastewater discharges. Nitrates in drinking water are associated with methemoglobinenemia, or "blue baby syndrome" which results from interferences in the blood's ability to carry oxygen.

noncommunity water system—any public water system which is not a community system.

nonregulated—contaminants which require monitoring but do not have MCLs.

nontransient/noncommunity water system—a public water system that is not a community water system and regularly serves at least 25 of the same persons at least six months out of the year.


organics—chemical molecules that contain carbon and other elements such as hydrogen. Organic contaminants of concern to drinking water include chlorohydrocarbons, pesticides, and others.


PAH—polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Found in fossil fuels and a byproduct of burning coal and oil. Some may cause cancer and have developmental and reproductive effects.

PCB—polychlorinated biphenyl. Commonly used in electrical transformers. May cause cancer as well as problems with the skin, liver, and with hearing and vision.

PCi/l—Picocuries per liter. Unit of measurement for radioactive substances. A pCi/l is equivalent to two atoms disintegrating per minute per liter.

PPB—parts per billion. Roughly equivalent to g/l .

PPM—parts per million. Roughly equivalent to mg/l.

PQL—practical quantitation level. The amount at which laboratories can accurately determine quantity of a substance.

per capita—per person; generally used in expressions of water use, gallons per capita per day (gpcd).

phthalate—Used in PVC pipes and other plastics. May cause cancer.

point-of-use water treatment—refers to devices used in the home or office on a specific tap to provide additional drinking water treatment.

point-of-entry water treatment—refers to devices used in home where water pipes enter to provide additional treatment of drinking water used throughout the home.

public water system—a system for the provision to the public of piped water for human consumption, which includes all uses described under the definition for drinking water. Such a system must have a potential for at least 15 service connections or serve at least 25 individuals at least 60 days out of the year. This term includes any collection, treatment, storage, and distribution facilities under the control of the operator of such system and used primarily in connection with such system; and any collection or pretreatment storage facilities not under such control which are used primarily in connection with such system. Two or more systems with each having a potential to serve less than 15 connections or less than 25 individuals but owned by the same person, firm, or corporation and located on adjacent land will be considered a public water system when the total number of individuals served by the combined systems total 25 or more at least 60 days out of the year. Without excluding other meanings of the terms "individual" or "served," an individual shall be deemed to be served by a water system if he lives in, uses as his place of employment, or works in a place to which drinking water is supplied from the system.


radionuclides—elements that undergo a process of natural decay. As radionuclides decay, they emit radiation in the form of alpha or beta particles and gamma photons, which can cause adverse health effects such as cancer. Because of this, limits are placed on radionuclide concentrations in drinking water.

regulated—contaminants that require monitoring with specific MCLs set by the EPA.

risk—the potential harm for people exposed to chemicals. In order for there to be risk, there must be both hazard and exposure.


SOC—synthetic organic compound. Chemicals commonly used in pesticides, herbicides, plastics, and fuels.

sanitary control easement—a legally binding document securing all land within 150 feet of a public water supply well location from pollution hazards. This document must fully describe the location of the well and surrounding lands and must be filed in the county records to be legally binding.

source water protection area—the area delineated for one or more source water intakes or wells for the purpose of defining the geographic boundaries of a source water assessment. A wellhead protection area is an example of an SWP area.

subwatershed—a topographic boundary that is the perimeter of the catchment area of a tributary of a stream.

susceptibility analysis—an analysis to determine, with a clear understanding of where the significant potential sources of contamination are located, the susceptibility of the PWS(s) in the source water protection area to contamination from these sources. The analysis will assist the state in determining which potential sources of contamination are "significant."


THM—trihalomethane. A byproduct of the disinfection process which have certain health effects.

transient noncommunity water system—a public water system that is not a community water system and serves at least 25 persons at least 60 days out of the year, yet by its characteristics, does not meet the definition of a nontransient noncommunity water system.

treatment technique—a specific treatment method required by the EPA to control the level of contaminant in drinking water. In specific cases, where the EPA has determined it is not technically or economically feasible to establish an MCL, the EPA can instead specify a treatment technique.

Total Coliform—bacteria that are used as indicators of fecal contaminants in drinking water.

toxicity—the property of a chemical to harm people who come into contact with it.

turbidity—suspended materials which cause water to become cloudy.


VOC—volatile organic compound. Chemicals that evaporate into the air and are commonly found in gasoline, paint, solvents, plastics, and adhesives.


watershed—a topographic boundary area that is the perimeter of the catchment area of a stream.

watershed area—a topographic area that is within a line drawn connecting the highest points uphill of a drinking water intake, from which overland flow drains to the intake.

well—refers to groundwater intakes including the well structure (i.e., casing, etc.) and wellhead.

wellhead protection area—the surface and subsurface area surrounding a well or well field, supplying a PWS, through which contaminants are reasonably likely to move toward and reach such water well or well field.