Last Updated: 2014-04-14

Richmond's Drinking Water: A History

Richmond's Water Treatment Plant was built on the banks of the James River in 1924. Before then, more than 300 years ago, Richmond's drinking water came from numerous springs and an open stream flowing from the Capitol across Main Street. Over the years the plant has been upgraded and enlarged to meet growing demand.

A picture detailing how water comes into our system for treatment

Today, Richmond's Department of Public Utilities' (DPU) water plant can produce up to 132 million gallons per day (MGD). DPU also provides water to Henrico, Chesterfield, Hanover, Goochland and Powhatan counties through wholesale contracts.

DPU has invested millions of dollars to ensure it always meets or exceeds federal regulations as well as the increasing regional demands for reliable, high-quality drinking water. Water utility employees perform numerous water tests every day and maintain more than 1,200 miles of water lines so that when you turn on the tap, your family will receive water that is clean and safe.

Dedicated to Drinking Water Quality

The City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities is a member of the American Water Works Association, the American Water Works Association Research Foundation, and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies. These organizations are dedicated to furthering knowledge and research on safe drinking water.

Drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some substances. The presence of substances does not necessarily indicate that the water poses a health risk.

More information about substances and potential health effects may be obtained by calling the Environmental Protection Agency ’s (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

Substances Expected to be in Drinking Water

Drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some substances. The presence of substances does not necessarily indicate that the water poses a health risk. More information about substances and potential health effects may be obtained by calling the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

As water travels over land or through the ground, it dissolves naturally occurring minerals and, in some cases, radioactive material. Water can pick up substances resulting from the presence of animals or human activity. Substances that may be present in source water include:

  • Microbial substances such as viruses and bacteria, which may come from domestic animals, wildlife, septic systems, livestock and sewage treatment plants.
  • Inorganic substances such as salts and metals, which can be naturally occurring or result from urban stormwater runoff, industrial or domestic wastewater discharges, oil and gas production, mining or farming.
  • Pesticides and herbicides, which may come from a variety of sources such as agriculture, urban stormwater runoff and residential uses.
  • Organic chemicals, including synthetic and volatile organic chemicals, which are byproducts of industrial processes and petroleum production, and can come from gas stations, urban stormwater runoff and septic systems.
  • Radioactive substances, which can be naturally occurring or be the result of oil and gas production and mining activities.

Water treatment significantly reduces the level of these substances in drinking water. In order to ensure that tap water is safe to drink, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations limit the amount of certain substances in water provided by public water systems. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations establish limits for substances in bottled water, which must provide the same protection for public health.

Lead

If present, elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. Lead in drinking water is primarily from materials and components associated with service lines and home plumbing. The City of Richmond is responsible for providing high quality drinking water, but cannot control the variety of materials used in plumbing components. When your water has been sitting for several hours, you can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing your tap for 15-30 seconds or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature before using water for cooking or drinking.

If you are concerned about lead in your water, you may wish to have your water tested. Information on lead in drinking water, testing materials, and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from the Drinking Water Hotline.

Cryptosporidium

Crytosporidium is a microbial parasite found in surface water throughout the United States. We collected 48 samples between 2004 and 2005 and found an average of 2.9 Oocysts/100L. This is less than the Action Level of 7.5 Oocysts/100L.

Health Information

Some people may be more vulnerable to certain substances in drinking water than the general population. Immuno-compromised people - such as those with cancer who are undergoing chemotherapy, those who have undergone organ transplants, those with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders, and some elderly people and infants - can be particularly at risk from infections. These people should seek advice from their health care providers about drinking water. EPA/CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines on appropriate means to lessen the risk of infection by Cryptosporidium and other microbial substances are available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

Why We Report on Water Quality

The 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act requires water utilities to provide consumers with a yearly report on the source and quality of the water they drink. You may also find our Water Quality Reports on this page.

The Virginia Department of Health conducted a source water assessment of our system during 2002. The Richmond Water Treatment Plant was determined to be of high susceptibility to contamination, using criteria developed by the state in its EPA-approved Source Water Assessment Program. The assessment report consists of maps showing the source water assessment area, an inventory of known land use activities of concern, and documentation of any known contamination within the last five years from the date of assessment. This report is available by contacting the Department of Public Utilities at 646-8938.

Inside the Water Quality Report

This brochure is a snapshot of the city’s 2013 drinking water quality. Included is information about your water, what it contains and how it compares with standards mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Virginia Department of Health. This report is being provided to comply with the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act. Landlords, businesses and other property owners are encouraged to share this drinking water quality report with tenants.

For free additional copies or more information about your water and this report, call the City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities at 646-5224.

For information about public participation opportunities, visit the DPU website and the Department of Public Utilities Blog. Additionally, you may also visit the city of Richmond blog for meeting announcements.

Yearly Reports - PDF Format

Current Water Quality Data

Water Quality Report Definitions - Click to Expand
  • AL – Action Level: The concentration of a substance which, when exceeded, triggers treatment or other requirements.
  • LRAA – Locational Running Annual Average: The running annual average at each sampling location.
  • MCL - Maximum Contaminant Level: The highest level allowed by regulation. MCLs are set as close to the MCLGs (see below) as feasible using the best treatment technology.
  • MCLG - Maximum Contaminant Level Goal: The level of contaminant below which there is no known or suspected health risk.
  • MRDL - Maximum Residual Disinfectant Level: The highest level of a disinfectant allowed in drinking water.
  • MRDLG - Maximum Residual Disinfectant Level Goal: The level of a drinking water disinfectant below which there is no known or expected risk to health.
  • NTU – Nephelometric Turbidity Unit: A measure of turbidity, water cloudiness.
  • ND - Not detected.
  • pCi/L – Picocuries per liter: A measure of radioactivity
  • ppb – parts per billion or micrograms per liter (μg/L)
  • ppm – parts per million or milligrams per liter (mg/L)
  • su – standard units. Used in pH measurements.
  • TT – Treatment Technique: Process intended to reduce the level of a substance in drinking water.
  • Source water – Untreated water
  • Finished water – Treated water
  • Regulated Substances are regulated by the EPA and their concentration cannot be above the MCL.
  • Unregulated Substances are not regulated by the EPA, but they must be monitored so information about their presence in drinking water can be used to develop limits.
Microbial Contaminants - Click to Expand
Substance Likely Source Richmond's Samples Indicating Bacteria Presence Richmond's Highest Monthly % of Positive Samples MCL MCLG Sample Date Meets EPA Standards
Total Coliform Naturally present in the environment 1 0.83%1 5% of all samples positive per month 0 May 2013 YES
Fecal coliform and Escherichia coliform Human and animal fecal waste 02 0% A routine sample and repeat sample are total coliform positive; one is fecal or E. colo positive 0 2013 YES

1 Total Coliforrm - Highest monthly percentage of positive total coliform samples for 2013
2 Fecal Coliform - Highest total number of positive samples per month in 2013

The EPA has implemented the Stage 2 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproduct Rule (Stage 2 DBPR) and the Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT2ESWTR). The Stage 2 DBP Rule provides increased protection against health effects associated with disinfection byproducts (DBPs). The LT2ESWTR further protects public health against Cryptosporidium and other microbial pathogens that may be present in drinking water.

Regulated Substances - Click to Expand
Substance Likely Source Richmond's Results Richmond's Range MCL MCLG Sample Date Meets EPA Standards
Fluoride Added to promote dental health 0.7 4 4 Jan. 2013 YES
Nitrate + Nitrate (ppm) Fertilizer runoff, septic tank leakage, sewage, erosion of natural deposits 0.46 10 Jan. 2013 YES
Total organic carbon removal ratio3 Naturally present in source water 1.5 -2.9 - 2.9 TT, removal ratio >= 1.0 2013 YES
Alpha Emitters (pCi/L)4 Erosion of natural deposits < 0.7 15 0 Feb. 2012 YES
Combined Radium (pCi/L)4 Erosion of natural deposits < 0.6 5 0 Feb. 2012 YES
TTHMs (ppb) Total trihalomethanes5 Byproduct of drinking water chlorination 34 15 - 48 80 2013 YES
HAA5 (ppb) Haloacetic Acids5 Byproduct of drinking water chlorination 26 12 - 34 60 2013 YES
Barium (ppm) Discharge of drilling wastes; Discharge from metal refineries; Erosion of natural deposits 0.025 mg/L 2 mg/L Jan. 2013 YES

3 TOC Removal Ratio – Amount detected is the lowest of the annual rolling average of the four quarterly calculations made in 2013; range is the minimum and maximum of all samples used to calculate average
4 Radioactive Contaminants – Analyzed in 2012
5 TTHMs and HAA5s – 2013 highest THM and HAA value of locations sampled

Disinfectant - Click to Expand
Substance Likely Source Richmond's Results Richmond's Range MRDL MRDLG Sample Date Meets EPA Standards
Chloramines (ppm)6 Disinfection 3.6 2.2 - 5.5 4 4 2013 YES

6 Chloramines – Amount detected is the maximum of the annual rolling average; range is the minimum and maximum of all samples used to calculate average

Turbidity - Click to Expand
Substance Likely Source Richmond's Results MCL MCLG Sample Date Meets EPA Standards
Turbidity (NTU) Soil runoff 0.09, 100%7 TT, 1.0 NTU, Max <0.3 (95% of the time) 12/6/2013 YES

7 Turbidity – Highest single measurement and the lowest monthly percentage of samples meeting monthly turbidity limits.

Lead and Copper - Click to Expand
Substance Likely Source Richmond's Results Richmond's Range MCL MCLG Sample Date Meets EPA Standards
Copper (ppm) Corrosion of household plumbing; leaching from wood preservatives 0.062 No results exceeded action level Action Level = 1.3 1.3 2013 YES
Lead (ppb) Corrosion of household plumbing; erosion of natural deposits 6 5/50 Action Level = 15 0 2013 YES
Unregulated Monitored Substances - Click to Expand
Substance Likely Source Richmond's Result MCL Sample Date Unit
Aluminum Erosion of natural deposits; addition of water treatment substances < 0.05 2013 ppm
Manganese Naturally present in the environment < 0.01 2013 ppm
Nickel Corrosion of household plumbing < 0.01 2013 ppm
Sodium Naturally present in the environment; addition of water treatment substances 12.2 * 2013 ppm
Sulfate Naturally present in the environment; addition of water treatment substances 34.2 2013 ppm

*For low or no salt diets, a limit of 20 ppm is suggested

For More Information

Contact the City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities at (804)646-5224 for additional copies of this report. For more information about Richmond’s water quality, call (804)646-8938.

For general information about drinking water, visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's website or call the EPA at (800)426-4791. You may also refer to the Virginia Department of Health.

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