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Drinking Water Requirements for States and Public Water Systems

Sanitary Surveys

A sanitary survey is a review of a public water system to assess their capability to supply safe drinking water. Primacy agencies are responsible for completing sanitary surveys. EPA delegates primary enforcement responsibility, also called primacy, for public water systems to states and Indian Tribes if they meet certain requirements.

Sanitary surveys provide an opportunity for the primacy agency to visit the water system and educate the operator about proper monitoring and sampling procedures and to provide technical assistance. Sanitary surveys are a proactive public health measure and an important component of the SDWA public water system supervision program.

Sanitary survey requirements are described in the Code of Federal Register (CFR). 

Eight areas of a sanitary survey 

Area Description
Source  Reviews a raw water source’s features for the purposes of preventing potential contamination or water quality degradation.
Treatment Identifies existing or potential sanitary risks by evaluating the design, operation, maintenance and management of water treatment plants.
Distribution System Reviews the design, operation, maintenance and management of distribution systems to prevent contamination of the drinking water as it is delivered to customers.
Finished Water Storage Reviews the design and major components of finished water storage facilities in order to prevent water quality problems from arising during storage.
Pumps Reviews the design and use of water supply pumping facilities in order to determine overall reliability and identify potential sanitary risks.
Monitoring & Reporting Determines water system conformance with regulatory requirements through the review of water quality monitoring plans and system records; verifies data reported to the regulatory agency are consistent with system records.
Management & Operation  Evaluates water system performance in terms of management and operation, including its long-term viability in meeting water quality goals.
Operator Compliance Ensures water systems have qualified professionals that meet all applicable operator certification requirements.

Frequency Requirements 

  • Community Water System (CWS) - Every 3 Years
  • Non-Community Water System (NCWS) - Every 5 Years
  • CWS with outstanding performance based on prior sanitary surveys - Every 5 Years

Reference Materials

Guidance Documents

Additional Resources

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