Drinking Water 101


Established in 1974, the Safe Drinking Water Act is the federal law that protects drinking water and its sources. One way it does this is by authorizing the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) to set standards that protect against naturally occurring and man-made contaminants that may be present in drinking water. These standards govern the amount of a substance that can be present in drinking water without causing a negative impact. There are two types of Standards: Primary and Secondary. The differences between each are outlined below: 


Primary Drinking Water Standards

Secondary Drinking Water Standards

Legally enforceable

Non-enforceable guidelines

Protect public health

Manage nuisance related effects
(taste/color/odor/tooth or skin discoloration)

Water system required to monitor and report

Water systems encouraged to attain


See the EPA's National Primary Drinking Water Regulation Table for a complete list of Drinking Water Standards.

Water systems are regulated by the US EPA and delegated states. In Kentucky, the Department for Environmental Protection’s Division of Water regulates public water systems to protect public health.


Where does the University of Kentucky get its water?

The University of Kentucky purchases its drinking water from Kentucky American Water. Kentucky American Water provides this water by drawing raw water from the Kentucky River, Jacobson Reservoir, or Lake Ellerslie and processing it at one of its treatment facilities. Approximately 42 million gallons per day are supplied to its customers on a daily basis. The University is responsible for the consumption of approximately 1.5 million gallons of that water.


How is the water treated?

All water supplied to the University is thoroughly treated and disinfected by Kentucky American Water. As water travels to reach the river or reservoirs, it picks up contaminants. When water is drawn from these sources, the contaminants must be removed at a treatment facility before the water is safe for use. The treatment facility removes the dirt and other particles in the water, filters it, and then disinfects it to kill any bacteria or microorganisms that may be present. Once the process is completed, the water flows through pipes to the University.

To ensure that proper treatment is being provided, Kentucky American Water must remove contaminants to EPA specified levels at the treatment facility. In order to make sure the water is clean, Kentucky American Water is required to routinely sample for things like fertilizers, sediment, metals, disinfection by-products, and bacteria. American Water provides customers with access to a complete report of the water quality annually.


Additional Drinking Water Information:

Kentucky American Water - Water Learning Center

US EPA - Ground Water and Drinking Water

KY Department for Environmental Protection Division of Water – Drinking Water Information for Consumers

CDC - Drinking Water