Drink Tap Water

Is Arlington’s Water Safe?

Arlington’s drinking water is safe and meets all federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Virginia Department of Health (VDH) safety standards. As always, if customers have special health concerns, they may want to consider extra precautions.

What is being done to ensure the safety of our drinking water?

We work with the Washington Aqueduct and our partners at DC Water and the City of Falls Church to ensure that our treatment plants are producing water in compliance with all existing regulations and that we’re positioned to address forthcoming regulations. Starting in 2000, there has been significant improvement in water quality due to replacing the disinfectant-free chlorine with chloramine. This change resulted in significant reductions in disinfection byproduct formation.

I’ve heard about the disinfectant switch. What is that?

Every year for approximately six weeks, we switch disinfectants from chloramine back to chlorine to flush out the water distribution system and improve water quality. This is standard practice for many U.S. water systems that use chloramine for most of the year. Learn more about the disinfectant switch.

My Water Is Cloudy and/or Milky-Colored. What Should I Do?

This is typically air in the line and is harmless. If you run your water for a short time, it should clear. If not, call 703-228-6555.

My Water Has a Reddish and/or Rusty Tint. What Should I Do?

The reddish tint is iron oxide from the water distribution piping. Sudden changes in the system, such as when a fire hydrant is opened, can stir up the iron oxide sediments and cause temporary discoloration. If you run your water for a short time, it should clear. If not, call 703-228-6555. Even though the water is discolored and has sediments, disinfectants are still present and the water is safe once it clears up.

The reddish water caused a load of laundry to be discolored. What should I do?

Call 703-228-6555 and an operator will have a special laundry detergent delivered to your home. Use this product according to the directions and this will remove the discoloration from the clothes. Keep the clothes wet until the product is delivered.

How Do I Get My Drinking Water Tested?

Contact a private laboratory for individual analysis of your water. We recommend using a lab certified by the state. We continually perform water quality testing in accordance with state and federal regulations. We’re unable to provide testing on an individual basis.

Naegleria fowleri

Residents may be concerned about the news coming out of Louisiana, where Naegleria fowleri, commonly referred to as a brain-eating amoeba, was found in treated water supply. We have many protective measures in place to prevent contamination from Naegleria fowleri in our distribution system. It’s important to remember you cannot get infected from drinking water contaminated with Naegleria fowleri. It infects people when the water containing the amoeba enters the body through the nose. If you’re concerned about Naegleria fowleri, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.


Perchlorate is a naturally occurring as well as man-made compound. Its presence in drinking water is currently unregulated and we’re not required to monitor for it. The EPA has established a reference dose of 24.5 parts per billion for perchlorate in water. A reference dose is a scientific estimate of a daily exposure level that’s not expected to cause adverse health effects in humans. In 2007, the Washington Aqueduct began voluntarily participating in a non-regulatory perchlorate sampling project for the Potomac River funded by the EPA. Samples collected show trace amounts of perchlorate at levels of 3.1 parts per billion or less, far below the EPA reference dose level. We consider the occurrence of perchlorate to be insignificant and not a health concern. If you have special health concerns, you can get additional information from the EPA or call the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

Lead and Orthophosphate

What is orthophosphate?

Orthophosphate is a commonly used corrosion inhibitor that is added to finished drinking water. It’s an odorless, colorless, tasteless substance approved by the EPA for use in drinking water treatment and by the Food and Drug Administration for use in consumer food products. Phosphoric acid is commonly found in soft drinks, acidified skim milk and some cheeses.

Why is orthophosphate being added to our drinking water?

Some homes in the District of Columbia have exhibited elevated levels of lead in their drinking water since 2001. It’s believed that the source of the lead levels in these homes is from lead plumbing components leaching into the drinking water. Orthophosphate acts as a corrosion inhibitor by forming a protective film on the interior of pipes. This film protects the pipe material from the corrosive effects of water, which reduces or eliminates the potential for lead leaching into the water.

Is orthophosphate safe?

Yes. Not only is orthophosphate approved for use by the EPA, it’s also certified by the National Sanitation Foundation, an independent international testing organization that certifies and writes standards for products, food, air, water and consumer goods in use. In addition to the Washington Aqueduct, which supplies Arlington’s water, the public water systems of Fairfax County, Alexandria, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County all use some form of phosphate in their water treatment.

Will orthophosphate have any effect on my drinking water?

Orthophosphate should not affect the taste, color or smell of your drinking water.

Does Arlington have a problem with lead in the drinking water?

No. Extensive testing has demonstrated that Arlington doesn’t have homes registering lead levels similar to those found in the District. In fact, Arlington has remained in compliance with the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule since its implementation in 1992. Extensive research in Arlington has failed to turn up any lead service lines or lead pipes inside homes.

If there’s not a problem with lead in Arlington’s water, why is orthophosphate being added to our water?

First, while lead testing results show that Arlington is in compliance with federal regulations, lowering concentrations is still possible, and the addition of orthophosphate should help in that regard by coating the metallic surfaces that contain some lead such as older solders and brass or bronze fixtures or piping. Second, there’s no practical way to treat the drinking water differently for the three jurisdictions that receive water from the Dalecarlia Water Treatment Plant in the District. This facility (along with the McMillan Water Treatment Plant) is run by the Washington Aqueduct. The Washington Aqueduct provides drinking water to the District, the City of Falls Church and Arlington County.

How will Arlington be monitoring the effects of orthophosphate?

Arlington regularly conducts testing of water quality parameters to ensure that the desired concentration of orthophosphate is being achieved throughout our distribution system, and to ensure that no unanticipated side effects result from the additional treatment.

Are any monitoring results available?

Because of consistent compliance and results below the action level, the VDH has given Arlington approval to sample lead and copper on an ultimate reduced monitoring schedule, or every three years. Samples were taken in 2010 and will be collected in 2013.