Current Drinking Water Standards
National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWRs or primary
standards) are legally enforceable standards that apply to public water
systems. Primary standards protect public health by limiting the levels of
contaminants in drinking water. The table below divides these contaminants
Inorganic Chemicals ~ Organic Chemicals ~ Radionuclides
For more information, see Setting Standards for Safe Drinking Water to learn about EPA's standard-setting process or look at a timeline that shows the order in which EPA regulated these contaminants. For copies of the complete regulations regarding these contaminants, follow these links to the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations and National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations.
National Primary Drinking Water Regulations
2 Units are in milligrams per liter (mg/L) unless otherwise noted. Milligrams per liter are equivalent to parts per million.
3 EPA's surface water treatment rules require systems using surface water or ground water under the direct influence of surface water to (1) disinfect their water, and (2) filter their water or meet criteria for avoiding filtration so that the following contaminants are controlled at the following levels:
4 No more than 5.0% samples total coliform-positive in a month. (For water systems that collect fewer than 40 routine samples per month, no more than one sample can be total coliform-positive). Every sample that has total coliforms must be analyzed for fecal coliforms. There may not be any fecal coliforms or E. coli.
5 Fecal coliform and E. coli are bacteria whose presence indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. Disease-causing microbes (pathogens) in these wastes can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms. These pathogens may pose a special health risk for infants, young children, and people with severely compromised immune systems.
6 Although there is no collective MCLG for this contaminant group, there are individual MCLGs for some of the individual contaminants:
7 MCLGs were not established before the 1986 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act. Therefore, there is no MCLG for this contaminant.
8 Lead and copper are regulated by a Treatment Technique that requires systems to control the corrosiveness of their water. If more than 10% of tap water samples exceed the action level, water systems must take additional steps. For copper, the action level is 1.3 mg/L, and for lead is 0.015 mg/L.
9 Each water system must certify, in writing, to the state (using third-party or manufacturer's certification) that when acrylamide and epichlorohydrin are used in drinking water systems, the combination (or product) of dose and monomer level does not exceed the levels specified, as follows:
National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations (NSDWRs or secondary standards) are non-enforceable guidelines regulating contaminants that may cause cosmetic effects (such as skin or tooth discoloration) or aesthetic effects (such as taste, odor, or color) in drinking water. EPA recommends secondary standards to water systems but does not require systems to comply. However, states may choose to adopt them as enforceable standards. For more information, read Secondary Drinking Water Regulations: Guidance for Nuisance Chemicals.