Drinking Water

Drinking Water at GSFC 

NOTE: As of June 1, 2011, the Medical and Environmental Management Division no longer conducts routine sampling or addresses complaints for drinking water. For all drinking water issues, please contact the Facilities Management Division at x6-5555.

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) supplies drinking water to GSFC via underground piping. The WSSC is a public water supply system regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). WSSC monitors the water it supplies to ensure that it meets drinking water standards. You can view their annual reports or see below under “Additional Information” for a link to the most recent report. 

After the Center receives the drinking water from WSSC, it is distributed via a utility network to Center buildings. Since GSFC is not a public water supplier, the Center is not required to conduct water quality monitoring.

water faucet


Frequently Asked Questions about Drinking Water

Whom do I contact if I have a complaint or concern about the water in my building? 

All issues should be directed to the Facilities Management Division at x6-5555.

Are there filters on the drinking fountains and how often are they changed? 

Filters consisting of activated charcoal are installed on GSFC drinking water fountains to filter organic impurities, metals, and water treatment additives, such as chlorine, to improve taste, odor, and color. The GSFC Facilities Management Division (FMD) changes the filters on a schedule in accordance with the filter manufacturer’s recommendations. If you suspect a filter on your drinking water fountain is not functioning properly and needs maintenance (i.e., water pressure has dropped or you see black particulate in the water), please contact the FMD service desk at 6-5555 to request service.

Is it safer to drink bottled water?

There is no guarantee that bottled water is safer than tap water to drink. Public water suppliers are required to meet the EPA's rigorous water quality standards. These standards set limits for the levels of contaminants in drinking water that are protective of human health. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets the standards for bottled water based on EPA standards for tap water and regulates it as a packaged food under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. According to the EPA, both bottled and tap drinking water "can reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that the water poses a health risk." For a comprehensive guide to bottled water, visit the EPA’s publication “Bottled Water Basics.”

For more information about drinking water basics, see the EPA's consumer's guide Water on Tap.


Common Drinking Water Concerns and Complaints - Aesthetic or Taste Concerns

The EPA's National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations provide guidelines in managing aesthetic concerns, including taste, color, and odor. The regulations set non-mandatory secondary maximum contaminant levels (SMCL) for 15 contaminants. The contaminants that meet the SMCL do not pose a risk to human health. For more information regarding SMCLs, please see the EPA's Secondary Drinking Water Regulations: Guidance for Nuisance Chemicals.

The water in my building tastes funny.

Taste can be difficult to evaluate because it is often subjective. The water may taste differently than what you are used to at home, because of the source or treatment used by the supplier.

The water is cloudy or brown in appearance.

Cloudy: Air in the line can cause the water to appear cloudy. To determine whether air bubbles are altering the appearance of drinking water, fill a clear glass with water and wait several minutes. If air is the culprit, the water will appear clear after the air bubbles have dissipated. There is no need for further action. If any dark particulate settles out, it may be from the carbon filter installed on the drinking water fountain.

Brown: Disturbances in the water supply lines can stir up particles, such as iron deposits, which can cause the water to appear brown. When this occurs you may need to flush the line for longer than one minute until the problem clears. See the EPA's Webpage Signs of Common Water Quality Problems for a general guide explaining causes of common problems.

The water in our kitchenette smells funny.

Often the smell is originating from the drain, rather than the water coming out of the tap. If the smell is at a kitchenette sink, it may be caused by food material present in the drain. When water comes into contact with it, it can cause the smell to become airborne. You can test whether the water is causing the smell by collecting it in a cup and smelling it. If you do not detect an odor, then it is most likely the drain that is causing the odor. Try cleaning the drain. If the smell persists, call 6-5555 to request service on the drain.

Additional Information