Public Utility Treatment and Distribution

The primary goal of drinking water treatment is to provide water that is safe to drink and pleasant in appearance, taste and smell. The goal of the distribution system is to get it from the source to your tap safely.


Untreated water can contain concentrations of inert particles, microbes, naturally-occurring and synthetic chemicals that make the water unacceptable for human consumption. The role of the water treatment plant is to reduce the number of contaminants to a safe and acceptable level by implementing a series of physical and chemical treatment mechanisms (often called the “treatment train”).

Once treated, public drinking water must meet National Primary Drinking Water Standards (NPDWS), which are legally enforceable contaminant limits and treatment techniques.

Even treated water has a small risk of becoming recontaminated by bacterial or chemical contaminants while it is distributed to consumers.


If you would like to find learn more about your water utility’s treatment process and how well the utility meets compliance, obtain a copy of your consumer confidence report, which should be sent to you once per year or made available online.


Drinking water distribution systems are comprised of an interconnected series of storage tanks, pipes, valves, and pumps.This infrastructure is generally fabricated through a branch configuration, loop configuration, or a combination of the two.

Branch configurations expand across service areas through a series of large pipes with smaller pipes branching off of them. This configuration only allows for the water in one direction from the source to the utility customer. As a result of its linear distribution, branch configurations are generally only found in rural areas.

Loop configurations provide a looped pathway for the water to continuously flow through the distribution grid. Loop configurations provide a high degree of reliability if a line break were to occur.

The continuous flow of water in loop configurations protects against contamination associated with water stagnation, such as Legionella pneumophila.


Branch Configurations are generally only found in rural areas. Loop Configurations are popular in urban areas