Providence Water, although a department of the City of Providence, is regulated by state and federal agencies in addition to city policies and procedures. The quality of our treated drinking water is regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Rhode Island Department of Health. Our revenue and rate structure is regulated by the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Lead is a naturally occurring metal that is harmful if inhaled or swallowed. Lead can be found in air, soil, dust, food, and water.

The most common source of lead exposure is from paint in homes and buildings built before 1978. Lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust are the main sources of exposure for lead in U.S. children. The main sources of lead exposure are ingesting lead paint and inhaling dust created from home renovations (homes constructred before 1978).  Lead can also be found in some household plumbing materials and some water service lines. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 10 to 20 percent of human exposure to lead may come from lead in drinking water. Infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40 to 60 percent of their exposure to lead from drinking water.

Lead leaches into water over time through corrosion—a dissolving or wearing away of metal caused by a chemical reaction between water and your plumbing. Lead can leach into water from pipes, solder, fixtures, faucets (brass) and fittings. The amount of lead in your water depends on how long the water stays in the pipes, the water’s corrosivity, and water temperature.

Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body.  It can damage the brain and kidneys, and can interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of your body.  The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children, and pregnant women.  Scientists have linked the effects of lead on the brain with lowered IQ in children.  Adults with kidney problems and high blood pressure can be affected by low levels of lead more than healthy adults.  Lead is stored in the bones and it can be released later in life.  During pregnancy, the child receives lead from the mother’s bones, which may affect brain development.

If you’re concerned your home plumbing may contain lead pipes (lead is a dull gray metal that is soft enough to be easily scratched with a house key), you may want to have your water tested by a certified laboratory. for a DIY video on how to test your plumbing, click HERE. Testing is the only way to confirm if lead is present or absent. For more information on testing your water, you can call us at (401) 521-6303.

  • Homes constructed before 1945 may have lead service lines.
  • Homes built after 1982 and before 1988 may have lead solder joints on their copper piping.
  • Your home's brass fixtures may also contain lead.
  • In 2014, Federal law mandated the surface of every pipe, fixture, and fitting sold for the use of potable water not contain more than .25% lead by weight.  If your home has brass fittings that have been installed before 2014, they may contain lead.

Lead services lines on a customer’s property are not part of the public water system and are the responsibility of the property owner.  The property owner owns and maintains their service line from the shutoff valve located in the sidewalk or grassed area in the street right-of-way to the water meter.  Providence Water advises that you contact a licensed plumber for work on your service line. Providence Water is currently offering a 0% Interest loan to help home owners replace their private side lead pipe. Go HERE to find out more. To learn more about replacing lead service lines, contact us at (401) 521-6303.

Below is a link to a source that will help you to learn how you can easily reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water.

With our lead notification and other outreach methods, Providence Water is educating consumers about steps to take to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water and the health risks associated with exposure to lead.  Providence Water has also made changes to the water treatment process to make the water less corrosive in an effort to reduce lead levels in some homes.

These measures, combined with the water main rehabilitation program's public lead service replacements and our unidirectional flushing program, are being utilized to reduce lead levels at the tap in homes with lead service connections.

Can I test my water at home as part of a science project?

There are some low cost test kits available from science shops, aquarium/pet stores, and swimming pool vendors, however, these kits are generally designed for quick, approximate answers; and may not be available in ranges applicable to your needs. At Providence Water, we use instruments specifically designed for measuring drinking water contaminants in the part per billion (ppb) and parts per million (ppm) range. Many of our chemical examinations are conducted using electrochemical and/or spectrophotometric methodologies. These procedures rely on equipment which can range in cost from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands dollars each; and provide a level of accuracy not possible outside the laboratory environment. Our microbial enumeration procedures often involve selective media cultivation, making home analysis equally unperformable.

Is it OK to use hot water from the tap for cooking?

Using hot water straight from the tap for cooking is generally not recommended. Hot water is more likely to contain dissolved metals such as iron, copper and lead, picked up from the household plumbing and hot water tank. A better idea is to allow your cold water to run for a few minutes until good and cold, then use this water for cooking and other consumption purposes. Allowing the water to run to its coldest insures adequate flushing of the home's water service line and the interior household plumbing, which have both been identified as sources of copper and lead contamination in drinking water.

I have low water pressure in my kitchen faucet.  What could be the problem?

You may need to clean your kitchen faucet's aerator to clear out any particulates that may have accumulated.  Once the aerator screen has been cleaned out the water pressure at your sink should return to normal.

My water pressure is low in every faucet in my house.  Who should I contact?

For assistance, please call Providence Water at (401) 521-6300.

I'm concerned about lead in my drinking water. How can I get more information?

While the vast majority of lead poisoning occurs due to ingestion of lead contaminated paint chips, dust, and soil; drinking water has also been implicated as a source of lead consumption. Lead enters the drinking water supply predominated by leaching from the home's interior plumbing lines and/or lead service line. The home's interior plumbing pipes are often made of copper, connected with lead/tin solder. In 1987, the use of lead/tin solder for connecting and repairing drinking water plumbing pipes was banned. However, lead solder is still present in the water lines of many homes constructed prior to 1987. In addition, the water line which connects the large water main in the street to the home's water meter is in many cases made of lead. At one time lead was the material of choice for this application due to its durability and flexibility. Copper, connected with lead free solder, is now the accepted industry standard.

Although not all homes have a lead service line, there are approximately 20,000 such lines still in existence in the Providence Water system. Test results have shown that the highest concentration of lead occur in water that has been allowed to stand undisturbed in a home's interior plumbing. This allows the contact time necessary for leaching to occur from the lead solder and/or the lead service line to the drinking water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Providence Water recommend that whenever water has been standing undisturbed in the pipes for long periods, such as overnight, or even during the day, that the cold water be run until it reaches its coldest temperature prior to using it for cooking or drinking purpose. This flushing removes potentially lead contaminated water from the water pipes and allows lead free water from the street to be used for consumption. As a conservation measure, the water that is flushed may be captured and used for plant watering or other non-consumption purpose. In addition to flushing, there are numerous home treatment devices on the market which claim to reduce lead in drinking water. Many do work, however, not all manufactures claims are accurate.

What should I do if I see discolored water?

Providence Water recommends that you flush your water until you get clear water from the main. If it is still discolored after several minutes of flushing, you may need to wait a couple of hours until the sediment settles, and the water in the main clears. Then try flushing again. If it does not clear within a few hours, please call again. Providence Water may need to flush the main.

When the water is discolored, it is recommended to not do laundry or run the hot water (to prevent sediment getting into your hot water tank). If it is necessary to do laundry, use stain remover or a regular detergent with the wash. Use of chlorine bleach is not recommended, as this could make the situation worse.

Filtering or treating the water may remedy chronic or persistent iron-tinted water problems, however Providence Water does not endorse specific filtering devices. If you decide to use a filtration or treatment device in your home we recommend use of a National Science Foundation (NSF) listed device. In addition, we strongly recommend that the device be maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Failure to maintain this type of equipment properly may make treatment ineffective and may create the potential for contamination.

Is discolored water dangerous?

No. Discolored water is not a health threat even though it is not very appealing to drink. Even very low levels of iron can color the water.

Why is my water discolored?

Iron-tinted discolored water may occur because of sediment in the pipes or rust which has built up on the inside walls of older water mains. This sediment can be disturbed and subsequently suspended in the water due to an increase or change in water flow which may be caused by water main breaks, routine maintenance, flow direction changes or the use and flushing of a nearby fire hydrant.

Failing hot water heaters in properties are also a source of discolored water. If the discoloration comes only when you run the hot water in your property, check the condition of your hot water heater. Discolored water from the cold water faucet usually signals an issue with the water mains in the street or the property’s internal plumbing.

Discolored water can be a chronic problem in areas where there are older cast iron mains. Replacement, rehabilitation and cleaning of these older mains will provide relief -- however such solutions are expensive and take time. It is important to call Providence Water when you have a chronic problem, so we can try to provide a temporary solution until the main can be renovated.

Why is my water sometimes "cloudy" or "milky" looking in the winter?

During the winter months, Providence Water's Water Quality Laboratory receives numerous telephone calls from concerned customers regarding cloudy water. Our experience has shown that the cloudiness is simply the result of excess air in the water. Under certain conditions, water is capable of becoming supersaturated with dissolved air. This is a common occurrence during the winter months of the year and is due to the ability of cold water to retain large quantities of dissolved air, which is kept in solution mainly by temperature and pressure. As the water temperature is increased and the pressure released (as in opening the faucet) the dissolved air rapidly comes out of solution, imparting a temporary, cloudy appearance to the water. The "cloudy" appearance is due to the sudden formation of tiny air bubbles which slowly rise to the top. This condition usually lasts a minute or two, after which time the water will clear. Although it is not a health hazard, entrapped air can impart an aesthetically unpleasant appearance to the water. If the consumer finds this appearance too unappetizing, a simple remedy is to fill a container with cold water and place it on the counter or in the refrigerator. Under normal pressure conditions, the air will quickly dissipate in a few minutes and the water may then be used for drinking and cooking purposes.

How is my drinking water treated to make it safe?

Providence Water utilizes a water treatment technology known as "Conventional Treatment" in its water purification plant. In conventional treatment, multiple treatment techniques are strung together in series to create an efficient and cost effective method of water purification. Providence Water employs all of the following technologies in an effort to produce the most consistent and safest water available:

  1. Coagulation - Chemical addition of Ferric Sulfate Fe2(SO4)3·xH2O as a coagulant to attract and bind impurities for removal.
  2. Aeration - Physical process whereby oxidation of water is achieved to aid in the removal of iron/manganese impurities and foul odors/tastes.
  3. Corrosion Control - Chemical addition of Quicklime (CaO3) to adjust the pH/alkalinity levels of the water to minimize the corrosion of plumbing lines.
  4. Sedimentation - Physical process which allows the coagulated impurities and leftover excess ferric (iron) from the coagulation step to settle out of the water column.
  5. Filtration - Physical process designed to remove tiny impurities still present in the water after the coagulation - sedimentation step.
  6. Disinfection - Chemical addition of chlorine (Cl2) which is added to inactivate potential disease causing microbial contaminants.
  7. Fluoridation - Chemical addition of Fluorosilicic Acid (H2SiF6) to elevate the natural fluoride level in the water to the optimum value of 0.7 mg/l for dental cavity prevention in children.

All these processes are combined in an effort to provide water quality that is reliable and safe for consumption.

What is my water's hardness?

Total hardness is defined as the sum of calcium and magnesium ion concentrations, expressed as mg/l calcium carbonate. It is the measure of the capacity of water to precipitate soap. Water that is hard will make lathering difficult or 'hard' to achieve, hence the term. Some new appliances, such as dishwashers, require set-up based upon the hardness of the water supply. At Providence Water, the hardness of the water is adjusted to a level of 40 parts per million (approx. 2.3 grains per gallon).

How much chlorine is in my water?

Chlorine is used as the primary disinfectant by many water suppliers, including Providence Water. Federal legislation known as the Surface Water Treatment Rule, promulgated in 1989, necessitated changes in the way disinfectants such as chlorine are applied. Since that time, Providence Water has endeavored to maintain as low a residual chlorine level as possible and still continue to meet the requirements of the regulation. Providence Water's residual free chlorine level for water leaving the treatment plant varies from 0.30 to 1.00 parts per million, considerably lower than many neighboring water supplies in RI, and the in United States as a whole, which often have residual chlorine levels at the consumer tap in excess of 1.00 mg/l.

Is there fluoride in my water?

Fluoride is a natural trace element found in varying amounts in almost all soils and water supplies. At optimum concentrations, fluoride has been shown to reduce dental cavities in children. In 1962, Providence Water began adding fluoride to the drinking water. The fluoride concentration in the Providence Water system is maintained at 0.7 parts per million.

What are some of the larger wildlife species that may be found on the Providence Water property?
 

Coyotes, foxes, bobcats, fishers, rabbits, deer, otters, beavers, turkeys, great blue herons, and owls.

How many 8 oz. glasses of water can you get for $0.01?

 Customers can get (48) 8 oz. glasses of water for $0.01.

How much water is used to take a shower?

A five-minute shower uses only 10 to 25 gallons of water.

How many gallons of water can you get for the cost of a cup of coffee?

 Customers can get 675 gallons of water for the cost of a cup of coffee.

What the average daily usage of all Providence Water's customers is?

The average daily use of all Providence Water customers is 60.85 million gallons per day.

Who Providence Water's largest consumer is?

The State of Rhode Island is our largest consumer.

How many gallons are needed to fill a standard swimming pool?

The average swimming pool takes 22,000 gallons of water to fill.  If you don't cover it, you could lose hundreds of gallons of water per month due to evaporation.

How much does a gallon of water weighs?

A gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds.

On average, how much water a typical family uses over one year?

 In one year, the average residence uses over 100,000 gallons (indoors and outdoors).

Who oversees the daily operation of Providence Water?

The General Manager, the Deputy General Manager of Administration, and the Deputy General Manager of Operations oversee the daily operations at Providence Water.

How many service connections Providence Water has?

Providence Water has approximately 74,000 service connections.

How many employees work at Providence Water?

On average, Providence Water has 250 employees.

What retail areas Providence Water serves?

Providence Water serves Providence, North Providence, Cranston, Johnston, and East Smithfield.

How many wholesalers Providence Water supplies?

Providence Water provides water to (8) wholesalers - Greenville Water, the City of East Providence, Town of Smithfield, Lincoln Water, Kent County Water, Bristol Water, City of Warwick, and Town of Johnston.

What size water meters Providence Water installs?

Providence Water installs 5/8", 3/4", 1", 1.5", 2", 3", 4", 6", 8", 10", and 12" meters.

How many miles of water mains are in our system?

Providence Water has approximately 1,040 miles of water mains in our distribution system - enough to stretch from Providence to Florida!

What purpose the aerators (located in front of the water treatment plant) serve?

The aerators located in front of our Purification Plant are used to improve the taste of the water, as well as to remove any unpleasant odors.

What chemicals are added to our drinking water?

Chlorine, ferric sulfate, fluoride, and lime.
 

How far below ground the water mains are?

Water mains are generally located 4 feet below ground.  This distance help to protect the mains from frost in colder climates.

How many fire hydrants are in the distribution system?

There are approximately 5,783 fire hydrants in our distribution system.
 

What the term "gravity-fed" means?

 

 

Flow from the source of water supply is entirely by gravity.  At present, the mode of delivery within the distribution system is 75% by gravity and 25% by pumping.

What water mains are made out of?

We have several types of main in our distribution system:  cast iron, ductile iron, concrete, steel, and asbestos cement.

How large the water mains are in the distribution system?

Water mains are various in size, ranging from the smallest (6") to largest (102") in diameter.

How old the water mains are?

Many of the water mains in our distribution system were installed over 100 years ago.

What the water mains were made out of in the late 1800s?

The first water pipes in the US were made from wood (bored logs that were charred with fire).

What the dimensions are for the Scituate Reservoir dam?

The Scituate reservoir dam is 3,200 feet long and 100 feet high.

How much water is in the Scituate Reservoir?

The storage capacity of the Scituate Reservoir is approximately 39.7 billion gallons.

 How deep the Scituate Reservoir is?

 The average depth is 32 feet, the maximum depth is 90 feet.

How often the water "turns" in the Scituate Reservoir and why it turns?

Turns occur right around April and October.  During the change of season, water temperatures differ from top to bottom. The different temperature waters have different density. The heavier water sinks while the lighter water rises thus causing a seasonal turn.

What the average yearly rainfall at the Scituate Reservoir is?

 The average yearly rainfall at the Scituate Reservoir is 49.66 inches.

If fishing is allowed in the Scituate Reservoir?

Fishing is not allowed in the Scituate Reservoir.

How hot/cold the water gets in the Scituate Reservoir?

Excluding the ice cover, the water temperature goes down to approximately 35 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and climbs to approximately 59 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer (based on the depths that we draw from, not the surface).

What color the water is in the Scituate Reservoir?

The water in the Scituate Reservoir has a tint depending on the biological species present but overall it has a blue appearance.

If the water in the Scituate Reservoir is treated before you can drink it?

Yes, the water needs to be treated to reduce chemical and bacteriological contaminants.

How many Olympic-sized swimming pools it would take to fill the Scituate Reservoir?

It takes six and a half years for the average American residence to use the amount of water required to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool (660,000 gallons).  The calculation is as follows:  (Scituate Reservoir) 39,746,000,000 divided by (Olympic-sized pool) 660,000 = 60,221 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

What the surface area of the Scituate Reservoir is?

The surface area of the Scituate Reservoir is 5.3 sq. miles, or 3,390 acres.

How many square miles comprise our watershed?

The watershed is 92.8 square miles.

How much land in owned by Providence Water in the Scituate Reservoir watershed?

Providence Water owns 5,000 acres of water and 13,000 acres of forest.