Aqua provides water and wastewater service to more than 250,000 people in 51 counties throughout North Carolina. Our service territory encompasses portions of the map shaded in dark blue.
Water Quality Updates
Frequently Asked Questions
Have a question about Aqua North Carolina’s water quality or operations? We’ve compiled some frequently asked questions to help you learn about Aqua’s system investments, naturally occurring iron and manganese, hard water, and drought. If you have a question not addressed here, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Water Aesthetics (color, odor, taste)
Why is my water discolored?
All sources of drinking water contain naturally occurring minerals. In North Carolina, iron and manganese are minerals that occur naturally in groundwater. These minerals can discolor water and affect its taste and are the most common reason Aqua North Carolina customers may experience discolored water.
Just as the dirt and clay in this area are typically red from oxidized iron (rust), water from many wells in this area include the same minerals. Although these minerals are not noticeable at lower levels or in their soluble form, these minerals oxidize and become visible when chlorine is added to water during the water treatment process for disinfection purposes.
My water is typically clear but why do I occasionally get periods of discolored water?
Temporary discoloration is typically caused by:
Between Aqua’s flushing activities for well systems that have iron and manganese in the water, the minerals will settle-out along the system’s pipes and can collect and build up over time. During periods of normal flow, these minerals remain stationary and will not affect water quality. However, if a line breaks or the pressure abruptly changes from heightened use, the buildup can break off or get stirred up, causing the minerals to travel through the system to your home, which can result in discolored water. When this happens, you can typically flush these minerals through your plumbing by running an outside spigot or faucet.
In systems where a filter has been installed on a well, intermittent discoloration could also be caused from a filter malfunction or filter media that has become exhausted. If this is the case, Aqua will make immediate necessary adjustments/repairs to the filter and discoloration would only be temporary.
I live on a cul de sac. Why do I seem to have more water discoloration issues than my neighbors?
Iron and manganese mineral levels travel through distribution systems and will build up at the end of the distribution lines. Cul de sacs often have distribution lines that dead-end, and as a result the minerals build up in these locations. This issue can sometimes be addressed by installing an automatic flush-off on these dead-end lines that automatically turns on and periodically flushes to remove the minerals that start to build up in these locations. When Aqua becomes aware of water quality issues caused by this circumstance, the company will typically install an automatic flush-off to help address this concern, if possible.
Why is my water hard and is there anything I can do to soften it?
Hardness is often a characteristic of groundwater and occurs naturally. As the water travels through the ground and enters the aquifer, minerals such as calcium and magnesium that are present in the bedrock dissolve into the water supply. These minerals that leach into the water give the water what is commonly called “hard” water.
These minerals often build up in home hot water heaters. Here are some tips to help reduce water hardness:
Why does my water smell like rotten eggs?
Although this is not a pervasive issue in Aqua’s water systems, sulfates are a naturally occurring mineral in some areas of North Carolina. By themselves, sulfates are not a problem. However, when non-harmful, sulfur-reducing bacteria — which are also naturally present in the water — feed on the sulfates, it gives an odor to the water that is often said to smell like rotten eggs. Many times, a sulfur smell is caused by the diode in your water heater.
Why does my water sometimes smell like bleach?
Before water enters the distribution system, it is disinfected. Chlorine, chloramines, chlorinates or chlorine dioxides are most commonly used for this purpose because they are very effective. The residual concentrations can be maintained in the water distribution system for periods of time, which can give off slight chlorine or bleach smells by the time it reaches your tap. While Aqua uses chlorine to disinfect all source water in North Carolina, water provided for certain community systems may be purchased from other water utilities (municipals, authorities) that may utilize chloramines to provide disinfection.
Aqua North Carolina’s Water Quality Improvement Plan
What does Aqua do to address naturally occurring iron and manganese?
Working with its state regulators, Aqua has developed a multi-phase plan for improving water quality across our communities. First steps included instituting specific criteria to analyze and prioritize filtration needs based on the level of iron and manganese found in the water.
Aqua will prioritize filter installations for systems with the greatest levels of iron and manganese and work with the Public Staff of the North Carolina Utilities Commission to gain NCUC approval. Most wells will see filters within the next three to five years. All priority systems will see filters and Aqua will have invested nearly $20 million to address naturally occurring iron and manganese, and improve water quality.
In the meantime, Aqua will begin an aggressive tank-cleaning and system-flushing program in communities served by these wells.
In communities with lower levels of iron and manganese, Aqua will examine the possibility of filter installation, as well as the need to add new processes that will keep iron and manganese in its colorless state. Tank cleaning and system flushing will be carried out as mineral levels dictate.
What can customers do to help reduce the effects of iron and manganese?
Water from your tap might be clear, but when exposed to air or chlorine, iron and manganese can oxidize and change from a colorless, dissolved (soluble) form into a colored, solid (insoluble) form. Exposure to heat might also cause the iron and manganese to change from a colorless, dissolved form to a colored, solid form.
At certain concentrations, iron has the potential to stain laundry, porcelain, dishes, utensils, and even glassware a reddish, brown color. At elevated concentrations, manganese causes a brownish-black stain. Soaps and detergents don’t remove these stains, and chlorine bleach and some laundry detergents can intensify these stains. Steps you can take to help alleviate discoloration include:
When Aqua schedules flushing for a system in your area, it’s important that you limit the use of water for that period of time. In most cases, Aqua will notify you via WaterSmart Alert before any planned flushing. To address an immediate discoloration issue, Aqua will flush the system at that time.
If discoloration occurs, open the cold tap nearest the water main – usually the front outside faucet – to full flow and run the water into your garden or lawn for five to seven minutes until it is clear. If the water does not clear, wait a few minutes and run the water again. Also, it is important to not run hot water if you notice it is discolored to avoid drawing the discolored water into the hot water tank.
If this does not clear your water, please call Aqua Customer Service at 877.987.2782.
Why aren’t filters already installed on wells?
The developer of each community is typically responsible for installing the water system, including drilling a well and installing the distribution system to service all homes to be built. The level of treatment, including filtration that is installed, is required to meet North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality standards. Developers will sell or transfer all of this infrastructure to Aqua as the lots are sold to home builders.
As a regulated utility, the costs incurred by Aqua have a direct relationship to the rates customers pay. Aqua’s rates are determined through a judicial process by the North Carolina Utilities Commission and are based on the “actual cost of service.” The cost of a filter to remove iron and manganese can range from less than $5,000 to more than $1,000,000 depending on the levels of minerals.
As a result, it is important that Aqua is diligent in determining system options to maximize effectiveness and cost efficiencies for its customers.
What is flushing?
Water main flushing is done to clean and maintain water distribution systems. During this activity, water is forced through underground water mains at high speed and flushed out of hydrants to remove accumulated sediment. Flushing can take a few minutes or several hours.
Since flushing can use a high volume of water, it is typically scheduled during low water usage seasons (winter and early spring) to take advantage of increased water capacity available within the system during these times. To address immediate discoloration issues, flushing is done at that time.
What will happen in my neighborhood when flushing takes place?
Aqua will notify customers in advance of planned outages to make repairs that may cause discolored water during regularly scheduled, proactive flushing activities. During flushing operations, residents may hear water discharging with force from the hydrants and see water flowing in the streets. Drivers are asked to take extra care during this time to avoid hydroplaning and other hazardous conditions.
To address immediate discoloration issues, flushing is done at that time.
What will happen in my home or business when Aqua flushes my system?
When crews are flushing the water system close to your residence or business, you may experience temporary periods of low water pressure. Flushing operations may also lead to heightened brown, red or black discolored water, which can be drawn into homes and businesses if the water is being used during or immediately following the flushing. This is a temporary condition and should only affect customers for a few hours at most. The discoloration can stain laundry so it is best to make sure your water is clear before doing laundry.
If discoloration occurs, open the cold tap nearest the water main – usually the front outside faucet – and run the water full flow into your garden or lawn for five to seven minutes until it is clear. If the water does not clear, wait a few minutes and run the water again. Also, it is important to not run hot water if you notice it is discolored to avoid drawing the discolored water into the hot water tank.
Is the water safe to drink while it is being flushed?
Yes, it is safe to drink water while it is being flushed. The temporary discoloration is caused by minerals and other fine particles, such as iron and manganese, which are not harmful to your health.
What is enhanced treatment?
Aqua uses sequestration, which controls problems caused by iron and manganese without removing them. This safe treatment methodology holds minerals like iron and manganese in suspension so they are not visible. Heating the water may negatively impact the effectiveness of sequestration.
Water Quality and Safety
Is my water safe to drink?
Yes, your water is safe to drink. Although iron and manganese can discolor water and affect its taste, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) doesn’t consider these minerals to be a risk to human health.
Aqua conducts required testing for water contaminants to ensure compliance with state and federal drinking water standards. Aqua tests the water at its wells and treatment plants, and also schedules customer tap sampling and tests for lead in potential high-risk areas to comply with the EPA lead and copper rule.
Aqua provides annual water quality reports on every water system it owns and operates. Customers can view their community’s test results on the Aqua America web page located at: https://www.aquaamerica.com/. Start by entering your zip code in the “Water Quality” section at the bottom of the main page.
Are there laws in place to ensure my drinking water is safe to drink?
Yes, there are laws to ensure your water is safe to drink. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is the principal federal law in the United States intended to ensure safe drinking water for the public. The act requires the EPA to set standards for drinking water quality and oversee all states, localities, and water suppliers that implement the standards. The SDWA applies to every public water system in the United States, which includes all Aqua customers. The Act does not cover private wells.
What standards does the EPA use to ensure water quality is maintained?
The SDWA requires EPA to establish National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWRs) for contaminants that may cause adverse public health effects. The EPA also establishes secondary drinking water levels to manage minerals that may have aesthetic impacts.
Primary contaminants in drinking water are those that have the potential to affect health at certain levels. The EPA sets the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) that is allowed in public water systems under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The limits are usually expressed as a concentration in milligrams or micrograms per liter of water.
Secondary drinking water standards are non-regulatory guidelines for aesthetic characteristics and include the naturally occurring iron and manganese found in the groundwater in North Carolina. Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level (sMCL) is also determined by the EPA to help measure certain contaminants in drinking water that do not affect public health.
The EPA establishes both mandatory levels (Maximum Contaminant Levels, or MCLs) for primary contaminants and non-enforceable levels for aesthetic (for example, taste, color, and odor) purposes called sMCLs (secondary Maximum Contaminant Levels).
Does the EPA monitor every public water system in the United States?
Yes, the EPA monitors U.S. public water systems. Public water systems (PWS) are required to regularly monitor their water for contaminants. Water samples must be analyzed using EPA-approved testing methods by laboratories that are certified by the EPA or a state agency. A PWS must notify its customers if it violates drinking water regulations or is providing drinking water that may pose a health risk. Such notifications are provided as soon as possible (required within 30 days of the violation) or annually, depending on the health risk associated with the violation.
How does the EPA monitor every public water system in the United States by itself?
The EPA delegates primary enforcement responsibility (also called primacy) for public water systems to states and Native American Tribes, if they meet certain requirements. All states and territories, except Wyoming and the District of Columbia, have received primacy approval from the EPA to supervise the PWS in their respective jurisdictions. A PWS is required to submit periodic monitoring reports to its primacy agency. Violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act requirements are enforced initially through a primacy agency’s notification to the PWS and, if necessary, followed up with formal orders and fines.
How do I know if there are contaminants in my water?
Community water systems, must provide an annual “Consumer Confidence Report” (CCR) to customers. The report identifies contaminants, if any, in the drinking water and explains the potential health impacts. You may view your CCR at any time on the Aqua America web page located at: https://www.aquaamerica.com/. Start by entering your zip code in the “Water Quality” section at the bottom of the main page.
How does Aqua alert its customers of a water emergency or quality issue?
Aqua alerts its customers to water emergencies or quality issues via WaterSmart Alerts. To enroll, customers need to provide their 16-digit Aqua account number, zip code, and the last name/company name as it appears on their bill. Customers can sign up online at the WaterSmart Alerts web page or call customer service at 877.987.2782.
Once a customer enrolls, notifications are sent through a preferred method of communication (email, telephone or text/SMS message) to ensure messages are received promptly.
How do I know if I’m under a drought restriction?
For more information on current drought restrictions, please go here.
What happens when customers violate a drought restriction?
In most cases, our water systems have enough supply for reasonable use. However, some customers may not use water reasonably. Aqua could be given authority by the NCUC to disconnect drought violators.
Why are my water rates rising?
The cost of drinking water is rising as suppliers need to address aging infrastructure, comply with more stringent public health standards, and provide additional water capacity as the number of customers served increases.
Aqua North Carolina filed an application for increased water and wastewater rates with the North Carolina Utilities Commission on March 7, 2018. The majority of the rate increase would recover money already spent by Aqua on filter installations and upgrades to address naturally occurring iron and manganese, and improve water quality and other improvements and repairs to water and wastewater systems for customers.
Since 2014, Aqua has invested approximately $94 million in water and wastewater system repairs and improvements statewide. Examples include: