Water Quality FAQ

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.

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.

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 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 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.

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.

How much does a gallon of water weigh?

A gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds.

How much water is used to take a shower?

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

I am 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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).

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

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

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.

Who is Providence Water's largest consumer?

The State of Rhode Island is our largest consumer.

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.