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Water Division | Iowa City, IA – ICGov.org

Water Division
80 Stephen Atkins Drive
Iowa City, IA
Water Emergencies
Staff Directory
Monday – Friday
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Government » Departments and Divisions » Public Works
Iowa City has been producing and distributing potable water since 1882 and serves customers in Iowa City, University Heights, and the surrounding area. The municipal water treatment facility is located at 80 Stephen Atkins Drive.

The Iowa City Water Treatment plant uses several unit processes to produce Iowa City’s drinking water. The unit processes together are known as our “treatment train.” These processes consist of the following steps:
Deep wells in the Silurian or Jordan aquifer are used for nitrate dilution and the Iowa River is used directly when alluvial aquifer production is poor. The water softening process is lime-softening and removes most water hardness. Some customers choose to use in-home water softeners for zero hardness water.

Water quality reports are provided annually to the public via the Consumer Confidence Report. For customers needing information for a specific parameter not covered in the Consumer Confidence Report, contact us at 319-356-5160.
Past Consumer Confidence Reports can be viewed here.
A water service line is the pipe connecting a customer to the public water main. The entirety of the water service line is owned by and the responsibility of the customer.
View the water service line diagram to see common parts that make up a water service line and what they are called.
When a problem occurs on a service line, the Water Division, if requested, may provide the property owner with guidance in determining the cause of the problem and an appropriate course of action to remedy the situation. The customer will need to contract with a plumber or excavator to make the repairs.
Water service line leaks are expected to be repaired within 72 hours of notification.

Water and sanitary service pipes are owned by the property owner.  These service pipes connect the home to public utilities.  Think of them like a driveway; a driveway connects the home to a road and is owned by the property owner.    
Service pipes will degrade over time and may require repair or replacement.  Older homes may also have service pipes made of materials known to pose a health hazard or be prone to failure.  For instance, many homes built before the lead ban in 1988 may have copper water pipes with leaded solder.  Even older homes many have water service pipes made of lead or sanitary service pipes made of Orangeburg (a pipe material known to fail). 
The City mitigates resident exposure to lead and other heavy metal by managing the chemistry of the public drinking water.  This means we adjust the pH and chemical ratios to make the water non-corrosive and able to deposit a thin calcium layer on the inside of pipes to keep the water from touching the metal. 
Once the water enters a home many devices or mechanisms can change the chemistry of the drinking water.  The most common items of concern are:
Stagnant water
Running the faucet or tap for a time prior to use is an important habit to develop.  The length of time depends on the size and length of the line and how long it has been since the line was last used.  For most people running a faucet for 15-30 seconds is all that is needed.
Softeners remove positive ions from the water and change the chemistry.  This can lead to the water becoming corrosion because the water will look to replace these positive ions with what is available.  The most available source for positive ions is the metal used in home plumbing and fixtures. 
Iowa City water is softened from about 300 mg/L as calcium carbonate (17.5 grains per gallon) to 50 mg/L as calcium carbonate (3 grains per gallon).  A home softener unit is for residents who would like their drinking water to have less than 1 grain per gallon hardness.
Plumbing work
When plumbing work is done there is the potential to lose the protective calcium layer on the inside of the pipe or material shavings to enter the water supply and be caught by the screens (aerators) on the end of a faucet.
Cleaning faucet aerators and asking a plumber to evaluate the home plumbing materials prior to work can mitigate some of the risk.
Dissimilar metals
Metals tend to corrode at different rates relative to each other.  This is known as the galvanic scale and is the basis for some battery technologies.  What it means for plumbing is if there are two metals in electrical contact with sufficient galvanic dissimilarity then one will corrode and release into the water.
Being in electrical contact does not necessarily mean touching each other.  Many home electrical power systems run their Earth ground from the fuse panel to the water pipe meaning the entire pipe has the potential to be electrically connected.
Please use the information below as general guidance to assess your home’s service lines and associated health risks or financial liabilities for repair.
Reference the Water Division FAQ Sheet and the EPA’s Basic Information about Lead in Drinking Water for more information about lead.
Home built before 1950
Elevated risk for:
The water service to be or have been lead in total or in part,
Copper pipes to have leaded solder at joints, and
Faucets or other fixtures to be made with lead-containing materials. 
Iron pipes exposed to lead at any time in their service life are also considered to be lead-contaminated. 
Recommend calling 319-356-5160 to schedule a lead sample or register for a sample with Get The Lead Out Iowa.
 Home built between 1950 and 1988
Elevated risk for:
Copper pipes to have leaded solder at joints, and
Faucets or other fixtures to be made with lead-containing materials. 
Less risk for
The water service to be or have been lead in total or in part.
Recommend calling 319-356-5160 to schedule a lead sample or register for a sample with Get The Lead Out Iowa
Home built between 1988 and 2014
Elevated risk for:
Faucets or other fixtures to be made with lead-containing materials. 
Less risk for:
Copper pipes to have leaded solder at joints, and
The water service to be or have been lead in total or in part.
Recommend review information associated with low lead fixtures in accordance with the Federal Reduction in Lead in Drinking Water Act of 2011
Home built after 2014
Low potential for lead or lead-containing materials in the home plumbing system.
Home built between 1940 to 1979:
Elevated risk for Orangeburg or bituminous fiber pipe to be used for the sanitary sewer service pipe.
Recommend having the sanitary sewer service pipe televised by a plumber.
Home built before 1940, or after 1979, or known to not be Orangeburg:
Recommend sanitary sewer service pipe is televised at least once every five years or when there is a blockage suspected.
Orangeburg is a tradename for a particular type of pipe made of compressed fibrous materials and held together by pitch.  Because the fibers tend to be wood pulp and the pitch doesn’t maintain water resistance forever, the pipes tend to collapse.  The pipes are also easily blocked by tree roots or other intrusions over time.
Please reference the City of Tempe, AZ Orangeburg FAQ for additional information and the City of Santa Barbara, CA Sewer Lateral Defects – Visual Glossary to see the type of information you can learn about your sanitary sewer service pipe from a plumbing contractor televising the line.
The water meter is owned by the City. It is usually located in the basement or utility room. Property owners are responsible for protecting their meter from freezing temperatures and providing access to the meter and meter reading system.
If you have a high-water bill and do not know why, call the Water Division at 319-356-5160 for assistance. In many cases, high water usage is caused by a leaking faucet, malfunctioning water softener, furnace humidifier, ice maker, or leaking toilet. If the property owner cannot find the cause, a representative can come to your home and assist you.
Metered water is used to calculate water and sanitary sewer fees. Some customers with swimming pools or large lawns/gardens traditionally use a higher volume of water in the summer. Water used for some seasonal activities does not enter the sewer system. Therefore, a customer may be interested in an additional meter for water only, known as a single-purpose meter or irrigation meter, to avoid sewerage charges.

If large amounts of water are used to water lawns or gardens on an annual basis, the installation of a permanent single purpose meter may be requested. Customers who wish to install a permanent single-purpose water meter are responsible for all expenses associated with its installation.
Customers who need extra water for a short period of time may prefer a portable water meter kit. The kit records the amount of water used and the sewer charges are then deducted from the next month’s utility bill.
To rent a portable kit, stop by the Iowa City Water Treatment Facility at 80 Stephen Atkins Drive between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Kits may be rented April 1 through October 1, weather and availability permitting. Payment may be made by check or exact cash amount and is due at the time of application. Units not returned by the rental deadline, or damaged, will result in charges for the cost of replacing or repairing the meter.
Drinking water is regulated by Federal, State, and Local laws and policies.
Emerging contaminants without regulation and known health hazards do occur and health advisories are provided. Currently there are health advisories for cyanotoxins, manganese, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
A non-profit known as the Environmental Working Group also provides good resources for public education on water quality and emerging contaminants.

Lead is a common metal found throughout the lived environment in lead-based paint, air, soil, household dust, food, certain types of pottery, porcelain, pewter, plumbing fixtures, and water. Lead builds up in the body over years and can cause damage to the brain, red blood cells, and kidneys.
Lead enters drinking water primarily from corrosion of materials containing lead. Materials containing lead may be found in a customer’s service line or plumbing. These include lead-based solder used to join copper pipe, brass and chrome-plated brass faucets, and lead pipes.
Water Operations staff measure and calculate water stability factors daily. These factors are maintained to ensure the system has stable, non-corrosive water to reduce the risk of lead exposure from household plumbing and leaded service line materials
The Iowa City Water Division has compiled an FAQ sheet of actions that can be taken to minimize lead exposure through drinking water, as well as other general facts.

In November 2021, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (Iowa DNR) sampled Iowa City’s drinking water as part of the State’s PFAS action plan. PFAS refers to the family of chemicals known as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances.
The Environmental Protection Agency has released a health advisory level associated with two PFAS – Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) – at a combined concentration of 70 ppt (parts per trillion). The results of Iowa City’s PFAS samples found no detectable PFOA or PFOS.
The analysis tested for 25 other PFAS chemicals. One, Perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA), was detectable in Iowa City drinking water at 3 ppt. To imagine one part-per-trillion, picture enough salt to stick to the tip of your pinky finger dissolved in an Olympic swimming pool.
“Our results are very low and not unexpected,” said Jonathan Durst, Water Superintendent. “The City will continue to work with the Iowa DNR to monitor PFAS and conduct additional on-site testing. We are committed to providing the highest quality drinking water to our community.”

The U.S. EPA life-time exposure health advisory level for Manganese in drinking water is 0.3 milligrams per liter (mg/L). The City self-monitors for Manganese in drinking water. Routine sampling results are less than or equal to 0.02 mg/L, well under the health advisory level.

Work completed on any part of the Iowa City water distribution system must meet minimum standards as set out in the most current versions of City of Iowa City Code, Interim Iowa City Municipal Design Standards, city approved specifications, and Water Division policy and procedures. Only materials approved by the Iowa City Water Division may be used in the Iowa City water distribution system, including all attached private water services.

The Water Division is working towards providing all external Water Division related forms and applications online for easy access by its customers. If there are any questions about what form is needed or how to fill out a form, contact the Water Division at 319-356-5160.
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