Water safety

A public water supply is a system that has at least 15 connections and/or serves 25 people for at least 60 days a year. All water systems that fit into the designation of a public water supply are tested for contaminants on a regular basis and community systems are required to send yearly Consumer Confidence Reports (CCR) to their customers.

Private water supplies are water sources that serve single family homes or small groups of homes and are typically monitored and maintained by their owners. Although a large number of rental properties use water provided by public water systems, there are still many that are on private wells or springs.

Although private water supplies are not regulated, the Vermont Department of Health recommends:

  • Yearly testing for coliform bacteria
  • Testing for inorganic chemicals every five years
  • Testing for naturally-occurring alpha radiation every five years

Role of the town health officer

The town health officer's role in drinking water in rental housing is primarily focused on assuring that tenants using private drinking water sources are provided with safe water.

Under the Residential Rental Housing Code, Vermont tenants are entitled to a potable water source. Town health officers may become involved with private water supplies if contacted about the contamination of a private drinking water source or simply to assist homeowners by giving them educational information or referral sources.

Town health officers will typically not become involved with situations concerning public water supplies as they are regulated by the Department of Environmental Conservation's Water Supply Division.

Procedures for investigation of private source drinking water issue

Once a town health officer has received a complaint about a possible water safety issue in a rental property, the town health officer should:

  1. Determine if water source is public or private.
    • Tenants are entitled to an adequate supply of safe drinking water. If a rental property uses water from a public water supply, the safety of the water is already being verified and it is not necessary for the town health officer to become involved.
    • If contacted by a customer of a public water supply, the town health officer should direct the caller to contact their water supplies or the Water Supply Division at (800) 823-6500.
    • When the drinking water for a rental property comes from a private water supply, the quality of drinking water is not guaranteed and town health officers may be called upon to assure the safety of the water supply.
  2. Once a complaint has been received about a private water source, a town health officer may seek voluntary cooperation of the property owner to get water tested. The Vermont Department of Health offers laboratory analyses, guidance, and technical advice on treatment options: Water and Radon Test Order Form.
  3. If a property owner refuses to cooperate with recommended water testing, a town health officer may seek a health order. For more information on health orders, see the General Process and Procedure section of this website.

For more information on how to proceed with an investigation of a private water source, see the Vermont Department of Health's Environmental Health section. Additional materials on water safety are available from the Vermont Department of Health website:

Read more about water safety in the Vermont Town Health Officer Manual