Public Water Systems
A “Public Water System” is a water system meeting certain definitions found in Federal and State drinking water regulations. These systems are monitored and inspected by the Environmental Health Division for compliance with strict treatment, reporting, and water quality standards.
This activity includes annual inspections of the water sources, treatment equipment, storage and distribution, as well as routine monitoring for bacteriological contamination, inorganic minerals, and other contaminants of concern. Larger public water systems (typically municipalities and some mobile home parks) are required to provide an annual water quality report to its customers describing the monitoring results for the year.
Types of Public Water Systems
The NYS Department of Health has developed several types of “Public Water Systems” based on the level of their potential impact on public health. A list of public water system types and the definition of each follows.
- Community Water Systems – A “community water system” is any water system serving at least five service connections used by year-round residents, or regularly serves at least 25 year-round residents. These include all municipal water systems, mobile home parks and larger apartment buildings.
- Noncommunity Water Systems – A “noncommunity water system” is any water system that provides water to the public, which regularly serves at least 25 individuals daily at least 60 days per year. These water systems include many rural businesses (typically restaurants) that do not have access to public utilities.
- Nontransient Noncommunity Water Systems – A “nontransient noncommunity water system” is any water system that regularly serves 25 of the same people for four or more hours per day, for four or more days a week, for 26 or more weeks per year. These water systems include many rural schools & business with more than 25 employees that do not have access to public utilities.
- In addition, some water systems may be regulated like a public water supply as a condition of a “Permit to Operate” issued by the Department of Health, regardless of whether or not they meet the criteria above. These include water systems serving the following:
- Children’s Camps
- Migrant Farmworker Housing
- Agricultural Fairgrounds
- Hotels, Motels & Cabin Colonies
- Seasonal Food Service Establishments
Reporting Requirements for Public Water Systems
All public water systems are required to regularly provide the Department of Health numerous water sample results in order to verify compliance with the applicable drinking water standards. At a minimum, sampling for bacteriological contamination is performed quarterly (larger systems require more frequent sampling). Water samples for organic and inorganic chemical contaminants are also reported on a regular schedule (frequency of these samples varies by contaminant).
New York State requires all public water systems to provide water disinfection treatment, unless a waiver is granted. Only water systems meeting all design criteria (i.e. separation distances from potential sources of contamination) and having a one-year satisfactory bacteriological sample record are eligible to apply for a disinfection waiver. Public water systems with disinfection treatment must also submit monthly operation reports, which document the daily operation of their water treatment equipment.
Startup Procedures for Seasonal Water Supplies
As of April 1st, 2016, all seasonal public water systems must perform and approved disinfection procedure before opening, including collection of a bacteriological sample before opening. Additionally, all systems must certify that the disinfection procedure has been completed, with all bacteriological samples deemed negative. Disinfection instructions and the certification form can be found using the links below.
Resources for Water System Operators
Operators of Large community water systems and nontransient noncommunity systems must be trained and certified by the NYS Department of Health (see the link below for more information). If you have questions regarding your public water system, or if you intend to develop a public water system, please contact the Water Resource Specialist, Timothy Zerfas at (716) 701-3388 or at tdzerfas [at] cattco [dot] org.
Forms & Links
NYS Department of Health - Operator Certification Program (Links to NYSDOH Webpage)
NYS Department of Health - Certified Backflow Testers Listing (Links to NYSDOH Webpage)
NYS Sanitary Code - Subpart 5-1: Public Water Systems (Links to NYSDOH Webpage)
NYS Sanitary Code - Subpart 5-1, Appendix 5B: Standards for Water Wells (Links to NYSDOH Webpage)