Southern Regional Water Program

Research, Extension & Education Water Quality Programs through the Land Grant University System

Drinking Water & Human Health in Tennessee

Tennesseans rely on public water systems for our drinking water. These systems are subject to strict testing and treatment requirements and have an excellent record of supplying clean water. The rest of us, roughly 500,000 people or 10 percent of the population, get our drinking water from private wells and springs. Since these are private wells and springs, it is the responsibility of the user to ensure the quality of their water.

About 4.8 million The region where you live will, by and large, dictate your drinking boydrinking.jpgwater source. Most West Tennesseans rely on groundwater for their drinking water. In fact, Memphis has the largest groundwater withdrawal (147 million gallons a day) of any city in the Southeast. Surface water, however, is the major drinking water source in Middle and East Tennessee.

Both the quality and the quantity of our drinking water are critical influences on our health. Tennessee is rich in good quality water resources. But, it is important for all of us to take steps to protect and to wisely use our water resources to ensure adequate supplies of safe water in the future.

Conditions in Your Area

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) provides online information on source water quality and annual reports of drinking water standards violations. Also, the US Environmental Protection Agency maintains online information on public water systems. Water quality reports are also available for public systems; contact your drinking water supplier for a copy.

If your drinking water comes from a private well or spring, you are responsible for its safety. Annual testing is recommended; test more often if you suspect a problem. Some county health departments can arrange analysis for bacteria; contact your local office for information.

Resources and Programs

University of Tennessee (UT) programs are available to the public to address drinking water concerns. These programs may also provide water quality information to specific audiences such as youth, farmers, other rural citizens, small businesses and other groups.

Extension Outreach

UT is home to the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service, which develops and delivers programs designed to provide educational outreach into all counties of the state in concert with Tennessee State University. Extension education enables research conducted at colleges, universities and other places throughout the world to be interpreted and delivered to the end user (e.g., families, business owners and agricultural producers). Some of the major Extension education programs addressing drinking water and human health are:

The Tennessee Farmstead Assessment System or Farm-A-Syst guides a farmer in evaluating practices, structures and conditions around the farmstead that can affect water quality.

The Tennessee Home Assessment System or Home-A-Syst is designed to help families assess factors in and around their home that can affect water quality and their health.

Home Hazards Hunt© is a self-paced, interactive CD program based on Home-A-Syst that teaches youth about protecting water quality and the environment through a computer game.

Safe Drinking Water in an Emergency outlines ways to store and to get drinking water during bad weather or other emergencies.

Contact your county Extension office for information on other educational programs such as the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program that works with limited resource families on a number of issues including food/water safety issues and ways to address them.

College and University Education

Degree programs and continuing education are critical to develop and enhance our skills and abilities to address water quality issues.

Educational curricula related to drinking water and human health are available within several departments at the UT Institute of Agriculture including:

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