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Building the Capacity of Drinking Water Systems

Help for Small Systems in Complying with Drinking Water Regulations

This page contains information intended to help states, technical assistance providers, and small water systems identify compliance options.

Compliance Options for Small Systems

Complying with Drinking Water Regulations is essential for protecting public health and ensuring safe drinking water. States and technical assistance providers play a key role in helping small water systems evaluate the many compliance approaches.

A few of the compliance approaches are:

  • Small systems may want to consider non-treatment options before installing new treatment technologies.
  • If there are no practical or cost-effective non-treatment alternatives, small systems will need to consider treatment options.

States and technical assistance providers can work with small water systems to review the options listed above. Additional information can also be found at:

Non-Treatment Options

Source Water Protection

Source water protection is the first barrier against drinking water contamination. The following links will provide more information on how to protect source water:


Evaluate source water quality

Information about source water quality can help systems determine how to protect their drinking water sources. It is important to evaluate:

  • The source water quality assessment.
  • Potential protection measures (For example, installing security around the water supply; posting notices in the watershed area; organizing volunteers to conduct source water monitoring).
  • Associated costs.

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Replace or modify an existing source

Some systems may have access to another higher quality water source. Systems may also be able to make improvements to existing, low-quality sources. It is important to evaluate:

  • The availability and location of alternative sources.
  • The quantity and quality of alternative water sources.
  • Associated costs.

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Blend source water

Systems that have multiple sources may be able to mix, or blend, these waters prior to distribution to their customers. Blending source water can help to lower contaminant concentrations. (Note: this activity may not be permitted in every state.) It is important to evaluate:

  • The availability of other sources.
  • The impact of blending on water quantity, quality and flow rates.
  • Additional measures (For example, replacing pumps) needed to ensure compliance.
  • Associated costs.

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Evaluate Water System Partnership Options

Water system partnerships can provide opportunities for water systems to collaborate on compliance solutions to share costs with other nearby systems. Partnering with another water system may involve changes to the operational, managerial or institutional structure of a water system. This can include informal arrangements (For example, sharing equipment with another water system) to major changes (For example, sharing a new treatment plant or interconnection with another water system).

  • Available partnership options.
  • Which options ensure long-term compliance and financial capacity.
  • Associated costs.

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Treatment Options

Install Point-of-Use (POU) or Point-of-Entry (POE) Treatment

POU or POE devices can be a technically simpler treatment option for small systems. It is important to evaluate:

  • Whether POU or POE devices can be used for compliance with drinking water standard(s) at issue. (Note, not all states allow these devices.)
  • Customer willingness to participate.
  • Potential treatment maintenance and residual disposal problems.
  • Associated installation and maintenance costs.

Install Centralized Treatment

For some small systems, centralized treatment may be the only option to comply with EPA regulations.

It is important to evaluate:

  • Which treatment can best address compliance needs.
  • Implications for, and availability of, treatment residual disposal options.
  • Operator skill level required to run the treatment technology.
  • Associated installation and operation and maintenance costs.
  • Residual handling and disposal costs.

Variances and Exemptions

Some states may extend compliance deadlines for systems that are unable to install treatment by the required deadline or that are unable to meet a drinking water standard.