Table of Contents

Table of Contents


How to get  help

Government sites

Government Hotlines

Today's Federal Register



Contact Info for:
State agencies

Search Government regs and sites  

Data: Search EPA databases


Related Sites


What's new

Site home

Primary and Secondary Drinking Water Regulations

National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations

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. See the Table below 

ContaminantSecondary Standard
Aluminum0.05 to 0.2 mg/L
Chloride250 mg/L
Color15 (color units)
Copper1.0 mg/L
Fluoride2.0 mg/L
Foaming Agents0.5 mg/L
Iron0.3 mg/L
Manganese0.05 mg/L
Odor3 threshold odor number
Silver0.10 mg/L
Sulfate250 mg/L
Total Dissolved Solids500 mg/L
Zinc5 mg/L
Table 2


1 Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) - The maximum level of a contaminant in drinking water at which no known or anticipated adverse effect on the health effect of persons would occur, and which allows for an adequate margin of safety. MCLGs are non-enforceable public health goals.

2 Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) - The maximum permissible level of a contaminant in water which is delivered to any user of a public water system. MCLs are enforceable standards. The margins of safety in MCLGs ensure that exceeding the MCL slightly does not pose significant risk to public health.

3 Treatment Technique - An enforceable procedure or level of technical performance which public water systems must follow to ensure control of a contaminant.

4 Units are in milligrams per Liter (mg/L) unless otherwise noted.

5 MCLGs were not established before the 1986 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act. Therefore, there is no MCLG for this contaminant.

6 Lead and copper are regulated in a Treatment Technique which requires systems to take tap water samples at sites with lead pipes or copper pipes that have lead solder and/or are served by lead service lines. The action level, which triggers water systems into taking treatment steps if exceeded in more than 10% of tap water samples, for copper is 1.3 mg/L, and for lead is 0.015mg/L.

7 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:


8 The Surface Water Treatment Rule requires systems using surface water or ground water under the direct influence of surface water to (1) disinfect their water, and (2) filter their water to meet criteria for avoiding filtration so that the following contaminants are controlled at the following levels:


9 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 cannot be any fecal coliforms.

10 Fecal coliform and E. coli are bacteria whose presence indicates that the water may be contaminated witih human animal wastes. Microbes in these wastes can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms.


Back to Top

This page was updated on 23-Mar-2017