Lincoln’s water source is groundwater that is naturally high in quality. It comes from wells along the Platte River near Ashland. Approximately one-half of the supply is groundwater and approximately one-half is groundwater under the direct influence of surface water. Thanks to the natural filtration of groundwater, nature has already done much of the work in enhancing the quality of Lincoln’s water.
Lincoln’s source water still contains iron and manganese, which can stain clothing and plumbing fixtures if left untreated. To remove these unwanted elements, water is pumped to the water treatment plants. The water flows through one of two processes before it is distributed to your home or business.
- The oldest process, highly effective since the 1930s, uses aeration, chlorination, detention and filtration. An exact amount of chlorine is added to the water in a large underground reservoir. The water is held in the reservoir for up to two hours. The iron and manganese form particles which are then trapped in the sand and gravel filters. The filters are cleaned every 120 hours using a process called backwashing.
- The second process uses ozone technology. Ozone, an extremely strong oxidizer and disinfectant, reacts quickly with iron and manganese to form particles which are then removed in the filtration process.
The next step is vital to protecting the health of our community. Once the water passes through the filters, small but exact amounts of chlorine and ammonia are added. These chemicals combine to form a disinfectant called “chloramine,” which limits the growth of bacteria in the City’s water distribution pipes. Finally, fluoride is added to help prevent tooth decay.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and Nebraska Drinking Water Program establish the safe drinking water regulations that limit the amount of contaminants allowed in drinking water. As the regulations require, Lincoln Water System routinely tests your water for numerous contaminants. The test results in the annual Drinking Water Quality Report show the concentrations of detected substances in comparison to the regulatory limits. The State requires monitoring of certain contaminants less than once per year because the concentrations of these contaminants do not change frequently. Therefore, some of this data may be older than one year.
The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate a health risk. More information about contaminants and potential health effects can be obtained by visiting the USEPA’s website at epa.gov, calling the USEPA hotline at 800-426-4791 or calling the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department at 402-441-8000.
Lead And Copper
Lincoln’s drinking water does not contain detectable levels of lead and copper in its source water or after treatment. However, the presence of lead and copper used in plumbing systems can introduce detectable levels of these contaminants into the drinking water at individual homes or businesses. Water testing conducted by Lincoln Water System has found detectable levels of lead and copper in homes built before 1988. These homes are more likely to have pipes, fixtures, and solder that contain lead. In Nebraska, plumbing materials containing high concentrations of lead were banned in 1987. Homes built before 1950 may have a portion of the water service actually constructed using lead pipes, and these homes may have higher levels of lead in their drinking water.
Safe drinking water properties vary across the country depending on the water source. Lincoln’s drinking water chemistry does not promote excessive lead and copper leaching from plumbing systems. As a result, Lincoln Water System remains in compliance with USEPA requirements for lead and copper.
Lead and copper sampling is performed by Lincoln Water System every three years as required by the USEPA Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). The collective test results for the 66 samples collected in 2019 were below the USEPA action level of 15 parts per billion lead and 1,300 parts per billion copper. The statistical analysis of the test results continues to show Lincoln’s drinking water remains in compliance with USEPA requirements for lead and copper.
If present, elevated levels of lead and copper can cause serious health problems, especially for infants, young children and pregnant women. Lead and copper in drinking water comes primarily from materials and components associated with service lines and home plumbing. Other sources of lead exposure can be leadbased paint and lead-contaminated dust, as reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Lincoln Water System is responsible for providing high quality drinking water, but cannot control the variety of materials used in household and business plumbing components. When the water in your pipes has been sitting for several hours, USEPA recommends minimizing the potential for lead exposure by flushing your cold water tap for 30 seconds to two minutes before using the cold water for drinking or cooking. Because private plumbing system construction varies, Lincoln Water System recommends flushing for at least five minutes in homes constructed prior to 1950. Consider filling a water pitcher for drinking water to avoid repeated flushing.
If you are concerned about lead in your water, you may wish to have your water tested. Information on lead in drinking water, testing methods, and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from these sources:
- USEPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.
- USEPA website at epa.gov/safewater/lead.
- Department of Health and Human Services / Division of Public Health / Office of Drinking Water at 402-471-2541.
- The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department at 402-441-8000.
Special Health Requirements
While the presence of chloramines in our water is not a cause for concern among the general public, home dialysis patients, immunocompromised individuals and aquarium owners must take special precautions before the water can be used.
Water used for kidney dialysis equipment may require further treatment. Please contact your doctor or dialysis technician to ensure that your home equipment is adequate and proper tests are being made every time it is used.
Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population. This includes immuno-compromised persons, such as those with cancer who are undergoing chemotherapy, those who have undergone organ transplants, people with HIV/ AIDS or other immune system disorders, some elderly people and infants. These customers and caregivers should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers. USEPA/CDC guidelines on how to lessen the risk of infection by Cryptosporidium and other microbial contaminants are available by calling the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.