Treating drinking water in Iowa City is a multi-step process that draws untreated water from various sources and pumps out clean, safe, potable water to customers for drinking and general use. The Iowa City Water Division publishes an annual Consumer Confidence Report as required by the Safe Drinking Water Act. Information specifically related to the Lead and Copper Sampling Program is available, as well as links to information provided through the EPA. Along with mandatory sampling and reporting requirements, the Iowa City Water Division participates in other contaminant monitoring and testing programs.


Water treatment

The Iowa City water treatment plant draws water from various raw water sources.  These sources include a deep Jordan well (approximately 1,600 feet deep), deep Silurian wells (approximately 400 feet deep), shallow alluvial wells (approximately 40 feet deep), the Iowa River, and a manmade lake. By blending water from these many sources, Iowa City has the ability to provide an abundant amount of excellent, high quality water.

The water purification facility operates a lime softening coagulation-sedimentation, granular activated carbon filtration process. Starting with source water that is virtually free of sediment, the lime softening process can reduce calcium hardness in water by two-thirds. The process also removes organics that impart undesirable tastes, odors, and colors to water.

The granular activated carbon filters polish the water by removing microscopic contaminants, thereby further reducing offending tastes and odors. Chlorine is added to ensure water in the water distribution system remains potable and safe for consumption. Fluoride is added at an optimized level to enhance the source water’s natural fluoride content, which improves bone and tooth strength in younger children as well as adults.

Watch a video about the water plant's purification process.

We provide customers with a water quality that exceeds all quality standards required by the Environmental Protection Agency. More than 200 tests a day are performed by state licensed water treatment plant operators to ensure water delivered to our customers exceeds State and Federal drinking water standards. In addition to these tests, additional tests are performed by the University of Iowa State Hygienic Laboratory to ensure the water reaching customers’ homes is safe to drink. A safe, dependable water distribution system is maintained by state certified Water Distribution Maintenance Operators and a water main repair/replacement budget.


Consumer Confidence Reports

To meet Safe Drinking Water Act mandates for consumer notification, all community water supplies like Iowa City are required to publish an annual Consumer Confidence Report. These reports include information and about various water quality parameters and testing results. For customers needing information for a specific parameter not covered in the Consumer Confidence Report, additional information may be requested by contacting the Water Division at 319-356-5160.


Lead and copper in drinking water

Lead in Drinking Water 

Lead is a common metal found throughout the human environment in lead-based paint, air, soil, household dust, food, certain types of pottery, porcelain, pewter, plumbing fixtures, and water. Lead builds up in the body over years and can cause damage to the brain, red blood cells, and kidneys.

Lead enters drinking water primarily from corrosion or wearing away of materials containing lead. Materials that may contain lead can be found in a home’s outside service line or internal plumbing system.  These include lead-based solder used to join copper pipe, brass and chrome-plated brass faucets, and lead pipes.

When water sits unused for extended periods in lead pipes or plumbing systems containing lead, lead may dissolve into your drinking water, meaning the first water drawn from the tap could potentially contain unacceptable levels of lead.

For additional information, contact the Iowa City Water Division at 319-356-5160, the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791, or visit the Environmental Protection Agency website at www.epa.gov/safewater/lead.

How to Reduce Exposure to Lead in Drinking Water 

The Iowa City Water Division has compiled a FAQ sheet of actions that can be taken to minimize lead exposure through drinking water, as well as other general facts. Three steps can make a significant difference in reducing exposure to lead:

1. Let the water run from the tap

Anytime water in a faucet has gone unused for more than six hours, run the cold-water faucet until the water becomes noticeably colder, usually about 15 to 30 seconds. Less than one or two gallons of water per day will usually be used to flush the pipes. 

2. Do not cook with, or drink water from, the hot water tap

Hot water can dissolve lead more quickly than cold water. For hot drinking or cooking water, draw water from the cold tap and heat it on the stove, in a kettle, or in a microwave. Boiling water does not remove lead, and prolonged boiling can concentrate levels.

3. Have your drinking water tested

A test will determine if the water contains excessive concentrations of lead. Testing is essential as lead cannot be detected by taste or smell. For more information, call the Iowa City Water Division at 319-356-5160. There is no charge for the test if scheduled through the Division.

How to Determine if a Water Service Contains Lead Products 

The best way to determine if a home’s service line is made of lead is by hiring a licensed plumber to inspect the line, or contacting the plumber who installed the line. A licensed plumber can also check if a home’s plumbing contains lead solder, lead pipes, or pipe fittings that contain lead.

Lead levels in some homes may be higher than others. The type of water pipe used for the water line, or the solder used for the internal plumbing, can potentially affect the concentration of lead that comes out of the faucet. The age of a home is a good indicator of the materials used.

A water service line map has been developed highlighting the general likelihood of a home’s service containing lead pipe or lead solder based on the recorded age of the structure. Repairs, new plumbing, and replaced fixtures for individual homes are not represented on the map. This information is for general informational purposes only, and does not guarantee the type of material used for any specific water service. Call the Iowa City Water Division at 319-356-5160 with any questions.

Lead and Copper Rule of 1991

All community water systems, including the Iowa City drinking water system, must comply with the Lead and Copper Rule of 1991. This rule is part of the Safe Drinking Water Act, and requires water systems to monitor levels of lead and copper in drinking water at customer water taps. 

Every three years, water samples from the faucets of 30 residences in Iowa City are collected and tested for lead and copper concentrations. The rule sets an Action Level of 0.015 mg/L (or 15 parts per billion) for lead concentration in more than 10 percent of the samples taken. For Iowa City, that means no more than three samples can test above the Action Level in any three-year period.  If the Action Level is exceeded in a fourth sample for the testing period, the water system must complete additional steps to control lead levels in the drinking water. The rule also requires every system to publish the results in its annual Consumer Confidence Report. Since 1992, the Iowa City water distribution system has remained in compliance with this rule.

In Iowa City, certified operators at the Water Division measure and calculate water stability factors daily and make process adjustments based on this data to ensure water entering the drinking water system is stable and non-corrosive.

If you have any questions or concerns about lead in your drinking water, or need help testing your drinking water, call the Iowa City Water Division at 319-356-5160.


Current Iowa City Water Division contaminant monitoring and testing programs

Iowa City participates in EPA program to monitor for unregulated drinking water contaminants

Every five years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is required to issue a new list of up to 30 unregulated contaminants that must be monitored in public water systems. This requirement is mandated under 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) provides baseline data that the EPA may combine with toxicological research to make decisions about potential future drinking water regulations. There are no current health standards set for UCMR contaminants. For more detailed information on UCMR, visit https://www.epa.gov/dwucmr.

The benefits to the environment and public health due to the UCMR program are:

EPA and other interested parties will have scientific data on targeted contaminants in drinking water;
EPA can assess the impact of new regulations on public health; and
EPA can provide exposure level estimates.

The EPA, state governments, laboratories, and public water systems participate at various stages and levels of the program. The Iowa City Water Division participated in the third round of contaminant testing between 2013 and 2015 by monitoring for 28 chemicals and two viruses. This data set is one of the primary sources of information the EPA uses to make regulatory decisions regarding exposure to contaminants that may be of concern to public health. 

The Iowa City data summary for unregulated contaminant monitoring was completed in July 2016.  The table is listed by contaminant name, and indicates the minimum reporting level, or MRL, associated with each contaminant. Any sample result that fell below the MRL was reported as “less than the MRL,” or “<MRL,” to the EPA. Of the 28 contaminants listed, only five had reported concentrations greater than the MRL in Iowa City: chromium, chromium-6, molybdenum, strontium, and vanadium. The EPA’s determination on unregulated contaminants for the third round are available at https://www.epa.gov/ccl/regulatory-determination-3.

To learn more about a particular contaminant and its potential regulatory status, visit the EPA’s Contaminant Candidate List and Regulatory Determination webpage at www.epa.gov/ccl/contaminant-candidate-list-3-ccl-3