Water is essential to every form of life. Since less than one percent of fresh water is potable, or readily available for human consumption, it must be treated or purified before it can be consumed. To accomplish this, utility systems have been established to provide safe, clean water to consumers. In many parts of the state, these systems are governed by local governments and as such, are not regulated by the PUCO. However, in other instances, for-profit entities own and operate the water utility and consequently, are closely regulated by the PUCO.
There are primarily three main components to a water utility: source, treatment and distribution.
Some utilities obtain their water supply from surface sources, such as lakes or rivers, while others acquire water from groundwater sources or aquifers (underground rock, clay and sand formations that store water). Without proper caution, these water sources can become polluted.
In its natural state, water is odorless, tasteless and colorless and can be unsafe for human consumption. Untreated water may contain naturally occurring inorganic material, as well as man-made contaminants such as pesticides, bacteria and other pollutants that may be harmful to people’s health. Water utilities must clean and disinfect the water they use to remove these impurities. Federal and state government agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, enforce requirements regarding the production of drinking water. For safety reasons, water utilities are required to perform numerous tests on the water they use and meet stringent treatment requirements before they can distribute it to customers.
Water utilities deliver water from the treatment plant to homes through large pipes called mains. Water mains, which may extend for miles, feed the smaller pipes that carry water into homes. Valves control the flow and direction of water, and meters measure the volume of water consumed.