Skip to Content
Questions or Comments:

What is a Public Water System?

Find out if your water system is considered a public water system and must follow state rule requirements for drinking water.

Definition of a Public Water System

  • System that supplies water to be used for human consumption, and
  • serves at least 15 service connections or serves at least 25 individuals for at least 60 days out of the year.

The term public water system (PWS) 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.

Individuals served by a PWS include people that live in houses served by a system but can also include people that don’t live there, like employees, customers, or students.

If two or more systems are owned by the same person, firm, or corporation and located on adjacent land, they will be considered a single PWS if the total potential service connections in the combined systems are at least 15 or if the total number of individuals served by the combined systems is at least 25 at least 60 days out of the year.

The full definition of a PWS can be found in Title 30 Texas Administrative Code (30 TAC) §290.38(73) .

The term human consumption includes any uses by humans in which water can be ingested into or absorbed by the human body. Examples of these uses include, but are not limited to drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, bathing, washing hands, washing dishes, and preparing foods [30 TAC §290.38(38)].

Three types of public water systems

Community water system (C)

A PWS that has the 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 [30 TAC §290.38(17)]. Most municipalities meet this definition, so do some boarding schools and prisons.

Nontransient noncommunity water system (NTNC)

A public water system that is not a community water system and regularly serves at least 25 of the same people at least six months out of the year [30 TAC §290.38(58)]. Many factories, schools, camps, child care facilities, recreational vehicle parks with long-term residents, and other businesses are NTNCs. Businesses that purchase and redistribute potable water may fall under the regulations for PWSs if the utility that provides them with water does not have sanitary control over their facilities [30 TAC 290.102(a)].

Transient noncommunity water system (TNC)

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. [30 TAC §290.38(86)] Parks, recreation parks, convenience stores, restaurants, and other businesses often are TNCs.

Have questions?

Contact us if you have questions about your drinking water system.

All PWSs are assigned seven-digit PWS IDs. When you speak to TCEQ about your PWS please have your seven-digit PWS ID available. The first three digits in the PWS ID represent the Texas county that the facility is located in. Texas’ 254 counties are numbered alphabetically from Anderson (001) to Zavala (254).

Find more resources about how to operate a public water system, water quality requirements, and reporting requirements at Operating a Public Water System.