Drinking Water Requirements for States and Public Water Systems

Information about Public Water Systems

Providing safe drinking water is a partnership that involves EPA, the states, tribes, water systems, and water system operators. The public drinking water systems regulated by EPA and delegated states and tribes provide drinking water to 90 percent of Americans.

A public water system provides water for human consumption through pipes or other constructed conveyances to at least 15 service connections or serves an average of at least 25 people for at least 60 days a year.  A public water system may be publicly or privately owned.

There are approximately 155,000 public water systems in the United States.  EPA classifies these water systems according to the number of people they serve, the source of their water, and whether they serve the same customers year-round or on an occasional basis. 


EPA has defined three types of public water systems:

  • Community Water System (CWS): A public water system that supplies water to the same population year-round.
  • Non-Transient Non-Community Water System (NTNCWS): A public water system that regularly supplies water to at least 25 of the same people at least six months per year, but not year-round. Some examples are schools, factories, office buildings, and hospitals which have their own water systems.
  • Transient Non-Community Water System (TNCWS): A public water system that provides water in a place such as a gas station or campground where people do not remain for long periods of time.