Potable Water

By Tabitha Mishra
Last updated: June 27, 2023

What Does Potable Water Mean?

Potable water, commonly known as drinking water, is any water that is suitable for human consumption.

Potable water is derived from surface and ground sources, then treated to state and federal standards before being deemed fit for consumption. Water that is not potable should not be used for drinking or cooking, as it could pose a health hazard.

Safeopedia Explains Potable Water

Untreated water contains contaminants like microorganisms, toxic chemicals, viruses, and fecal matter. As such, direct consumption of this water can lead to gastrointestinal problems and waterborne diseases.

Water contamination is caused by various factors, including careless disposal of waste products from industries and pharmaceuticals. Fertilizers and pesticides from farms also infiltrate groundwater or enter into streams from surface water runoff. This can result in untreated water containing a number of harmful contaminants, including heavy metals, pesticides, and plastics.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provide a set of maximum contaminant levels (MCL) in their National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWR). The State Water Resources Control Board sets standards for contaminants not specified by the EPA and works to ensure that actual contaminant levels are close to public health goals.

Converting Wastewater to Potable Water

Wastewater is converted into potable water using one of two methods:

  • Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR) – Treated wastewater is released into a strategic environmental source (e.g. a reservoir or aquifer) for a specified time before being withdrawn for potable use
  • Direct Potable Reuse (DPR) – Purified wastewater is directly introduced into the raw water supply that feeds a water treatment plant, without the use of an environmental buffer

Non-potable and De Facto Water Reuse

Non-potable water sources include rainwater, gray water, recycled water, and reclaimed water. Since this water is not intended for human consumption, it does not require the same level of treatment given to potable water. To ensure that this water is not accidentally used for consumption, purple pipe infrastructure is mandatory for all non-potable reuse pipelines (blue pipes are used to transport potable water).

De facto reuse refers to the unofficial reuse of treated wastewater, such as when a drinking water supply intake is located downstream from a wastewater treatment plant discharge point. Although these locations may yield potable water that meets regulations, such sources receive less monitoring and treatment before entering the water supply.

According to a forecast by Bluefield, wastewater reuse is predicted to increase by 61% by 2025



Drinking Water

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