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Benchmark Reports

The Oregon Safe Drinking Water Benchmark

Measuring Progress Toward Safe Drinking Water
The Oregon Safe Drinking Water Benchmark

by Dave Leland

The Oregon Safe Drinking Water Benchmark is intended to measure progress of both the drinking water program and public water suppliers as we implement safe drinking water standards in Oregon.  As you might guess, it is extremely difficult to characterize the status of Oregon's public drinking water systems within the confines of a single measure of progress.  Nevertheless, we have taken a close look at our program focus and priorities and, with the help of the Drinking Water Advisory Committee, constructed the following Benchmark:

"The percentage of Oregonians served by public drinking
water systems that meet all health-based standards
continuously during the year"

Meeting all health-based standards at all times during the year is an important indicator of drinking water safety.  The benchmark includes the following health-based standards, listed from highest to lowest health risk:

  • E. coli (or fecal coliform) bacteria maximum contaminant level
  • Surface water treatment performance levels:
    • Failure to meet minimum filtration treatment (95% turbidity levels)
    • Failure to meet disinfection treatment levels (CxT)
  • Nitrate/nitrite maximum contaminant levels
  • Chemical/radiological maximum contaminant levels
  • Lead action level (confirmed)
  • Total coliform bacteria maximum contaminant level
  • Copper action level (confirmed)
Included in the benchmark are about 1,300 public water systems, including all community systems, all nontransient noncommunity systems, and the larger transient noncommunity systems (serving over 500 people per day).  The list of those water systems that meet all the above health-based standards during the year will be published for each calendar year, along with the percentage of the combined population of these systems compared to the total population served by all benchmark systems.  We will also construct an annual listing of water systems that failed to meet health-based standards, listing the specific standards not met.  The safe drinking water benchmark is also proposed by EPA for use at the national level as an environmental indicator of water quality, and therefore state-to-state comparisons and comparison to a national average should be possible.

The Oregon goal is to reach 95% by 2005.  Results so far:
1994 - 49%, 1995 - 50%, 1996 - 56%, 1997 - 88%, 1998 - 90%, 1999 - 90% , 2000 - 93%, 2001 - 93% 2002 - 92%, 2003 - 95%, 2004 - 95%.

Needless to say, it is very important that water suppliers make a concerted effort to meet safe drinking water standards all the time, to protect public health and to demonstrate positive progress over time toward meeting the goal!

Dave Leland, P.E., Manager of the Drinking Water Program, retired.

Benchmark Successes Report--yearly list of systems who met benchmark:

Benchmark Failures Report--yearly list of systems who failed to meet a benchmark