Find Rhode Island water departments, districts, authorities, boards, and services. Water departments provide information on drinking water, treatment plants, sewage treatment, water conservation, and testing.
A Water Department is a government agency or private company that operates a public water system, which provides potable tap water directly to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers through a distribution system.
Water Departments, or Water Companies, typically own the sources of drinking water they provide and must manage and maintain those sources and their surrounding areas. Surface sources include reservoirs, lakes, and rivers. Groundwater sources can be found in pockets beneath the ground, which can be accessed by drilling wells. Maintenance of drinking water source sites and limitations on permitted activity around water sources helps minimize contamination. However, drinking water requires treatment prior to distribution to customers.
Water treatment facilities are used to remove contaminants and make drinking water safe for consumption. Treatment of water begins with the removal of the larger particles in the water through processes known as coagulation, flocculation, and sedimentation. After the large particles are removed, water is filtered through materials such as sand, gravel, and charcoal to remove dissolved particles. The final stage of treatment involves disinfection using chemicals or ultraviolet irradiation. Many Water Departments add fluoride to water at this stage as part of a community health effort to support oral health in the general population. Water Departments are responsible for the day-to-day operations and maintenance of treatment facilities. Equipment must also be periodically replaced and treatment processes may also be periodically upgraded.
From the treatment plant, water reaches its customers through a distribution system consisting of pipes, referred to as water mains, storage tanks, and pumping stations. Individual customers connect to water mains to bring water directly to their properties.
Water Departments typically have a laboratory or testing division responsible for monitoring the quality of water throughout the process, from source to distribution. Regulations require most Water Departments to prepare and issue water quality reports to the general public several times per year.
Most Water Departments operate as a utility and are self-sustaining operations funded through user fees. Water rates may be subject to approval from a state regulatory authority such as a Public Service Commission or Utility Control Authority.