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Notes on Operating a Private Water System

ECE programs that operate their own water system and have fewer than 25 staff members and children are categorized as having a “private water system.” Many of these ECE programs use private wells as their water source, and others might use a spring, surface water, or another water source. A private water system owner must maintain water quality, but they are not subject to federal regulations. Water quality testing might be required by state or local regulations, including ECE program licensing regulations. ECE programs using a private water system can work closely with the local or state health department or environmental department to regularly test water quality, treat water as needed to ensure it meets appropriate standards or guidelines, and maintain their water source. Routine water testing and treatment tasks are in addition to the best management practices for schools and ECE programs.

Water testing requirements for ECE program licensing often are not as comprehensive as those recommended for private residential wells. ECE programs should not assume that satisfying the water testing requirements specified in ECE program licensing regulations is enough to ensure that the water supply is safe for children in their care and staff. Consult with the state and local health departments to learn about additional testing recommendations applicable to the ECE program.

Finally, routine water quality testing might not include local or regional contaminants that could be present at a site. Consult with state and local health departments or environmental departments to learn what additional contaminants might need to be added to routine water testing if an ECE program is located

  • On a site that formerly used or stored chemicals.
  • Near a former or current contamination site.
  • In an area with known naturally occurring contamination.
Partners and Stakeholders

ECE stakeholders have many opportunities to modify water systems and user practices to safeguard health. For example, they can improve the monitoring and testing of private water systems and implement water use practices to minimize lead exposure in buildings with older pipes. See Table 4.7 for some suggestions.

Table 4.7. Partners and stakeholders who can support access to safe drinking water in ECE programs
Partner or stakeholder Support can provide
Custodians, maintenance persons
  • Proper maintenance, monitoring, and cleaning of the ECE program’s water pipes, hot water tanks, and drinking fountains
Departments of environmental protection
  • Evaluate possible sources of contamination on the site or a nearby site that might affect the water quality of private water sources
  • Give guidance on national, regional, and local contaminants that might be in the water
  • Provide recommendations on water quality testing parameters
ECE program licensing agencies
  • Might be able to provide guidance on state or local drinking water quality regulations that affect ECE programs
Kitchen and food service professionals
  • Use of proper procedures to minimize lead contamination of drinking water used for food preparation when an ECE program is known to have lead-based plumbing
Local water districts
  • Might be able to help provide information on national, regional, and local drinking water contaminants
State, territorial, local and tribal departments of public health
  • Help interpret water quality reports
  • Give guidance on water testing parameters, private well testing, data interpretation, and water treatment options. Provide best management practices to reduce contamination from pipes. Train staff on proper cleaning practices for water fountains and hot water tanks
University agricultural extension offices
  • Give guidance on installation and maintenance of private water systems, drinking water quality, and water treatment options