The 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act contained requirements to ensure consumers are informed about their drinking water. The law requires utilities to mail a Consumer Confidence Report (also known as a water quality report) to their customers every year. Both the SDWA and the enabling Consumer Confidence Report Rule of 1998 list specific information that must be included in the the report.
AWWA develops eCCR Best Practices Guide
Based on a review of the CCR Rule, the US Environmental Protection Agency recently issued an “interpretative memo” providing for the electronic delivery of CCRs. There are many important aspects of eCCR delivery that all utilities should be aware of.
In support of electronic delivery of CCRs and to help utilities research delivery options that meet EPA requirements, AWWA has developed a complimentary Electronic CCR Best Practices Guide (PDF, 3.5MB) as a resource to utilities interested in developing eCCR programs.
This new option should lead to new ways to reach customers, along with reduced environmental impact (from paper use) and cost savings for utilities.
Details of EPA memo on electronic delivery of CCRs
EPA began reviewing the CCR Rule in early 2012, with a focus on investigating electronic delivery options. Triggered by an executive order regarding regulatory reviews, EPA developed an "interpretive memo" titled Consumer Confidence Report Electronic Delivery Options and Considerations.
The memo describes CCR delivery methods, including several electronic delivery methods, that EPA has determined meet existing regulatory requirements to “mail or otherwise directly deliver” the CCR to bill-paying customers.
- Mail delivery (as most utilities not subject to a waiver have done for report prior to the memo)
- Notification by mail of CCR availability (such as on a bill, insert, postcard or newsletter), with a direct website link to the CCR
- Email with the CCR attached, included as an image or containing a direct website link
- Other methods that "otherwise directly deliver" the CCR to all bill-paying customers
AWWA supports EPA's interpretation to allow electronic delivery, which provides a "win-win" scenario where both customers and utilities will benefit greatly from the change, with the goal of greater access to water system information that is always available while simultaneously reducing environmental impacts and using utility funds as efficiently as possible.
AWWA has conducted three CCR surveys, one each in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
- The 2010 survey focused on the use of email by utilities and found that electronic delivery options using a hybrid between electronic reporting and traditional notification (such as including the CCR website link on a bill or bill insert) were the preferred methods of delivery for most utilities.
- The 2011 survey focused on consumers and their perspectives on the effectiveness of the current CCRs. It showed that many consumers were open to forms of CCR delivery other than by mail.
- The 2012 survey focused on potential cost savings at utilities and other benefits of electronic delivery. It found that electronic delivery could lead to tens of millions of dollars in savings plus tens of thousands of trees saved per year through reduced use of paper copies.
Publication of the results of these surveys appeared in the March 2013 issue of Journal AWWA