Drinking Water Quality
- Natural water quality
- Natural contaminants (e.g., high metals, radon, high mineral content, excessive fluoride, or biological contaminants such as from wildlife or microorganisms)
- Environmental contaminants created by man (e.g., industrial pollution, mine tailings, agricultural activities, soil erosion, etc.)
- Various environmental or natural contaminants are removed at water treatment facilities prior to distribution for consumption.
- During treatment and distribution, chemicals may be added to the water (e.g., added fluoride for beneficial uses, chlorine or other chemicals used to treat or maintain biological contaminant levels, etc.)
Affects resulting during transport through water distribution systems and plumbing
- Cross connections (with sewer systems lines) or infiltration into damaged plumbing lines that contaminate water (biological contaminants, environmental pollutants)
- Metals (i.e., leaching out from old plumbing or distribution systems)
- Disinfection during construction or renovation of plumbing.
Due to the age of some of our buildings, drinking water quality has been a concern among the AMC community. Facility Operations works in conjunction with the City of Aurora and EHS to address these concerns and to replace old lines. Read more under Water Quality at the Anschutz Medical Campus.
How You Affect Water Quality
Your actions can affect the quality of water in Colorado. Waste water from sanitary sewers is sent to Wastewater Treatment Facilities for treatment before it is discharged to surface waters of the state (some of which are part of our "source water" used for drinking water). Though wastewater is treated and extensively sampled, there are limits to what is treated and tested. Additionally, contaminants such as flammable materials and toxic chemicals discharged to the sanitary sewer create hazards within the sewer systems (possible explosions or hazardous conditions for sanitary workers). Therefore, there are regulations regarding what can and cannot be discharged into the sanitary sewer.
Sink disposal guidelines provide some guidelines on materials that may be disposed via the sanitary sewer in your labs and work areas. The rule of thumb is to avoid disposal of any chemicals down the sanitary sewer. If you have questions about disposal practices, contact EHS.
At home, avoid the disposal of household chemicals, cosmetics, fuels or pharmaceuticals (medicines, vitamins, hormones, etc.) in the sanitary sewer (or regular trash). Look for a Household Hazardous Waste facility in your city for disposal of hazardous materials or wait until your waste facility sponsors a hazardous materials pick up day.
While sanitary sewers convey normal building and household waste to a treatment facility, pollutants that find their way to storm sewers are conveyed directly to our lakes, streams and rivers without any treatment. The University of Colorado Denver's (UCD)storm water management plan provides guidelines for storm sewer protection.
Water Quality at the Anschutz Medical Campus
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) laboratory confirmed that the water supplied to campus buildings meets Federal and State drinking water standards as defined by the Environmental Protecti on Agency (EPA). A complete overview of the City of Aurora water quality can be obtained through their consumer confidence report produced by the Aurora Water Department.
Some buildings, including the 400 series buildings, have plumbing that can leach lead and copper into the water. Disturbance of water lines, such as during construction activities, can exacerbate this problem. For these buildings, bottled water will be supplied until plumbing upgrades are completed. The sampling program implemented by the UCD involves regular sampling of suspect buildings and includes the sampling of new buildings. New plumbing also has the potential to leach metals into the water. The water impact typically experienced as a result of newer plumbing is the contribution of small amounts of copper. This is not unique to our campus and is experienced by any newer construction involving the use of standard construction materials such as copper piping, brass fittings and related solder. As buildings are occupied and with time and continued use, a reduction in these levels is usually experienced given certain water conditions.
As part of the building commissioning process, and before any new building is occupied, water lines are super-chlorinated and then flushed. Samples are collected after flushing to ensure lines are adequately sanitized as assessed through analysis for total coliforms. Following this activity, UCD Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) tests water from selected taps in new buildings for lead and copper, following guidelines established within the EPA Lead and Copper Rule (samples are analyzed by the CDPHE laboratory). Test results are available upon request. For additional information you may contact EHS directly at (303) 724-0242.
Lead and Copper Rule
UCD personnel use protocol established for the Lead and Copper Rule while sampling, and follow regulations developed by the EPA for public water utilities (water suppliers/water treatment plants). The emphasis for the public water utility is to assess residential taps because that is where the majority of the water is consumed – in the home, rather than at work. Many drinking water standards are based on the smallest amounts that may present a chronic health risk through repeated or lifetime consumption (such as in the home). UCD has no regulatory requirement to sample building water or employ this rule. However, since concerns were expressed by the UCD community about water quality and because the City of Aurora is required (based on conditions established by the Rule) to sample residents and not campus buildings, UCD sampled building water independently. The City of Aurora and CDPHE assisted and guided the process to help achieve sampling representative of actual water conditions within buildings. Though not directly applicable, the limits established within the Lead and Copper rule as an action level were used. If concentrations of lead exceeded the limit established by the rule, it was determined that bottled water would be provided.
Basic Requirements of Lead and Copper Rule for Water Suppliers:
- Require water suppliers to optimize their treatment system to control corrosion in customer's plumbing;*
- Determine tap water levels of lead and copper for customers who have lead service lines or lead-based solder in their plumbing system;
- Rule out the source water as a source of significant lead levels; and,
- If lead action levels are exceeded, require the suppliers to educate their customers about lead and suggest actions they can take to reduce their exposure to lead through public notices and public education programs.
*Corrosion of lines and plumbing contributes to lead and copper levels in water.
The rule states that the public water utility (water supplier) sample an established number of consumers based on certain criteria. If more than 10% of the sample sites exceed the action levels (1.3 parts per million [ppm] of copper or 15 parts per billion [ppb] of lead), then the public water utility must employ certain actions (including public education when the lead action level is exceeded).
Read more at:
Water Quality Health Concerns
With few exceptions, lead enters tap water from plumbing sources (pipes, fittings, faucets, solder and flux). Requirements for new construction specify use of only "lead free" fittings, solder and flux for use in the construction of UCD buildings. However, "lead free" fittings can still contain up to eight percent lead and meet the legal requirements to be called "lead free".
Too much lead in the human body can cause damage to the brain, kidneys, nervous system and red blood cells. At highest risk are young children and pregnant women.
Health effects are most severe for infants and children because exposure to high levels can cause delays in physical and/or mental development. In adults, high exposure can result in kidney problems or high blood pressure. The EPA estimates that 10 to 20 percent of human exposure to lead may be the result of drinking water.
For buildings at the Anschutz Medical Campus where lead was suspected, or found to be a problem, bottled water is provided.
Like lead, copper is found in tap water generally as a result of corrosion of plumbing. Originally, limits on copper in drinking water were the result of taste complaints. The taste threshold for copper is 1 to 5 milligrams per liter (mg/L).  Concerns over the potential health effects of excess copper are now considered in EPA established limits for copper in drinking water. Both too much and too little copper can create health problems. According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine , the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for copper is generally 700 micrograms per day (ug/day).  Most of the copper that the body needs is obtained through food intake. Studies indicate that dietary intake is not typically associated with toxicity, while ingestion of water with high levels of copper can result in toxicity and the margin appears to be fairly narrow.
Not all copper taken in is absorbed by the body and the amount absorbed depends on various physiological factors. Acute toxicity related to copper is rare and occurs when intake is very high. Acute effects result in gastrointestinal irritation (vomiting, nausea and diarrhea). Less studied is toxicity to chronic doses.
Evidence of chronic risks is derived principally from patients with Wilson's disease (a genetic defect in copper excretion) or liver damage.  Children can absorb metals at higher rates than the average adult, particularly children younger than six. Exposure to higher levels of copper can cause stomach and intestinal distress, liver or kidney damage and complications of Wilson's disease for genetically predisposed individuals. 
Total Coliforms / Microbes
Coliform bacteria are common in the environment and are generally not harmful. However, the presence of these bacteria in drinking water is usually a result of a problem with the treatment system or the pipes which distribute water. Fecal coliforms are bacteria that are associated with human or animal wastes. They usually live in human or animal intestinal tracts.
Fecal Coliform and E coli are bacteria whose presence in drinking water indicates possible contamination with human or animal wastes. Microbes in these wastes can cause short-term effects, such as diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms.
Sources and Additional Information
 DJ Fitzgerald, 1998, Safety guidelines for copper in water, Am J Clin Nutr 67: 1098S-1102S
 US Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Center , obtained 10/8/07 at: http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/nal_display/index.php?info_center=4&tax_level=1&tax_subject=274
 Am J Clin Nutr 1998;67(suppl):951S. Printed in USA . © 1998 American Society for Clinical Nutrition
 US EPA, Lead and Copper Quick Reference Guide for Schools and Child Care Facilities that are Regulated Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, obtained 10/8/07 at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/schools/pdfs/lead/qrg_lcr_schools.pdf