Last Updated: 2019-05-09

Richmond's Drinking Water: A History

Richmond's Water Treatment Plant was built on the banks of the James River in 1924. Before then, more than 300 years ago, Richmond's drinking water came from numerous springs and an open stream flowing from the Capitol across Main Street. Over the years the plant has been upgraded and enlarged to meet growing demand.

Today, Richmond's Department of Public Utilities' (DPU) water plant can produce up to 132 million gallons per day (MGD). DPU also provides water to Henrico, Chesterfield, Hanover, Goochland and Powhatan counties through wholesale contracts.

DPU has invested millions of dollars to ensure it always meets or exceeds federal regulations as well as the increasing regional demands for reliable, high-quality drinking water. Water utility employees perform numerous water tests every day and maintain more than 1,200 miles of water lines so that when you turn on the tap, your family will receive water that is clean and safe.

Water Cycle

Dedicated to Drinking Water Quality

The City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities is a member of the American Water Works Association, the American Water Works Association Research Foundation, and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies. These organizations are dedicated to furthering knowledge and research on safe drinking water.

Drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some substances. The presence of substances does not necessarily indicate that the water poses a health risk.

More information about substances and potential health effects may be obtained by calling the Environmental Protection Agency ’s (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

Substances Expected to be in Drinking Water

Drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some substances. The presence of substances does not necessarily indicate that the water poses a health risk. More information about substances and potential health effects may be obtained by calling the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

As water travels over land or through the ground, it dissolves naturally occurring minerals and, in some cases, radioactive material. Water can pick up substances resulting from the presence of animals or human activity. Substances that may be present in source water include:

  • Microbial substances such as viruses and bacteria, which may come from domestic animals, wildlife, septic systems, livestock and sewage treatment plants.
  • Inorganic substances such as salts and metals, which can be naturally occurring or result from urban stormwater runoff, industrial or domestic wastewater discharges, oil and gas production, mining or farming.
  • Pesticides and herbicides, which may come from a variety of sources such as agriculture, urban stormwater runoff and residential uses.
  • Organic chemicals, including synthetic and volatile organic chemicals, which are byproducts of industrial processes and petroleum production, and can come from gas stations, urban stormwater runoff and septic systems.
  • Radioactive substances, which can be naturally occurring or be the result of oil and gas production and mining activities.

Water treatment significantly reduces the level of these substances in drinking water. In order to ensure that tap water is safe to drink, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations limit the amount of certain substances in water provided by public water systems. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations establish limits for substances in bottled water, which must provide the same protection for public health.

Lead

If present, elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. Lead in drinking water is primarily from materials and components associated with service lines and home plumbing. The City of Richmond is responsible for providing high quality drinking water, but cannot control the variety of materials used in plumbing components. When your water has been sitting for several hours, you can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing your tap for 15-30 seconds or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature before using water for cooking or drinking.

If you are concerned about lead in your water, you may wish to have your water tested. Information on lead in drinking water, testing materials, and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from the Drinking Water Hotline.

For more information about lead in your water, visit Lead In Water.

Cryptosporidium

Crytosporidium is a microbial parasite found in surface water throughout the United States. Sampling was not required in 2018 as our last sampling found an average of 5.4 Oocysts/100L. This is less than the Action Level of 7.5 Oocysts/100L.

Health Information

Some people may be more vulnerable to certain substances in drinking water than the general population. Immuno-compromised people - such as those with cancer who are undergoing chemotherapy, those who have undergone organ transplants, those with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders, and some elderly people and infants - can be particularly at risk from infections. These people should seek advice from their health care providers about drinking water. EPA/CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines on appropriate means to lessen the risk of infection by Cryptosporidium and other microbial substances are available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

Why We Report on Water Quality

The 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act requires water utilities to provide consumers with a yearly report on the source and quality of the water they drink. You may also find our Water Quality Reports on this page.

The state allows us to monitor for some substances less than once per year because the concentrations of these substances do not change frequently.

The Virginia Department of Health conducted a source water assessment of our system during 2002. The Richmond Water Treatment Plant was determined to be of high susceptibility to contamination, using criteria developed by the state in its EPA-approved Source Water Assessment Program. The assessment report consists of maps showing the source water assessment area, an inventory of known land use activities of concern, and documentation of any known contamination within the last five years from the date of assessment. This report is available by contacting the Department of Public Utilities at 646-5777.

Inside the Water Quality Report

These brochures are snapshots of the city’s drinking water quality over the past few years. Included is information about your water, what it contains and how it compares with standards mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Virginia Department of Health. This report is being provided to comply with the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act. Landlords, businesses and other property owners are encouraged to share this drinking water quality report with tenants.

For free additional copies or more information about your water and this report, call the City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities at 646-5224.

For information about public participation opportunities, visit the DPU website and the Department of Public Utilities Blog. Additionally, you may also visit the city of Richmond blog for meeting announcements.

Yearly Reports - PDF Format

For More Information

Contact the City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities at (804)646-5224 for additional copies of this report. For more information about Richmond’s water quality, call (804)646-8701.

For general information about drinking water, visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's website or call the EPA at (800)426-4791. You may also refer to the Virginia Department of Health.

RVA Impact Map displays projects (i.e. gas, water, paving, etc.), events (i.e. parades, races, block parties, etc.) and right of way impacts (i.e. detours, partial and full lane closures, barricades, parking restrictions, etc.) as an interactive map for informational and navigational purposes. Data displayed is refreshed as changes are made.

Contact Information:

Public Utilities
City of Richmond
900 E. Broad St.,
Room 115
Richmond, VA
23219 USA
Map It
Phone: (804)646-4646
Interested in learning about how our award winning water is treated and transported to your home or how the water that leaves your home is treated and placed back into the James River? Request a tour of our Water Treatment Plant or Wastewater Treatment Plant. Click here to fill out the form.

DPU can automatically deduct the amount of your monthly bill from your checking or savings account on the date the bill is due. Call (804) 646-4646 to request an application, then return the completed application with a voided check. DPU will set up the service with your bank at no charge to you. The form may also be downloaded online - Automatic Utility Payment Plan Agreement Authorization for Direct Deposits/Payments (ACH Debits/Credits)

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