Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Where does the Long Beach water supply come from?

Almost 60 percent of the City's drinking water supply comes from local groundwater in Long Beach. The local groundwater originates from the San Gabriel mountains to the north, travelling down the San Gabriel River watershed and slowly making its way underground to our City. High-powered pumps extract groundwater from Department-owned wells, most of which exceed 1,000 feet in depth. The Department currently has 28 active groundwater wells.

The remainder of the City's drinking water supply is imported water purchased from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD). MWD water comes from the Colorado River through the District's aqueduct system and from the Sacramento River/San Joaquin Delta via the State Water Project. It is then treated in five regional MWD treatment plants.

To further reduce the need for imported wtaer, the Department also utilzes tertiary treated reclaimed water from the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County Long Beach Reclamation Plant. Reclaimed water is supplied to many of the city's parks, golf courses and other industrial uses.

Water conservation is also very important, as it allows the Department to purchase less imported water, improving reliability and keeping water rates low.

Question: How does the Water Department treat water?

The City's groundwater treatment plant runs water through a multi-stage "conventional" process to remove undesirable color, taste, odor and potential contaminants from local groundwater. A controlled dosage of chlorine is added to disinfect the water. Chloramine--a combination of chlorine and ammonia--is then added as a secondary disinfectant to protect the water distribution system.

Local groundwater is treated at the Department's 62.5 million gallons per day Groundwater Treatment Plant. The state-of-the-art facility is designed to treat the entire water flow, including both low- and high-color water. To accomplish this, the treatment plant runs water through a multi-stage process which includes removing offensive sulfur gases through aeration, adding chemicals to allow solids to settle or be filtered out, and finally, adding chlorine and chloramines to disinfect the water before distribution--all of which help to ensure the Department continues to provide only the highest quality and best tasting drinking water that betters both current and anticipated new Federal and State water quality standards.

Question: What does the Water Department do to monitor the quality of our drinking water?

In 2005 alone, the Department conducted over 55,000 water quality tests on more than 140 drinking water contaminants in its state-certified water quality laboratory. Professional experts check for chemical, physical, radioactive, and bacteriological parameters to ensure that our customers receive a safe, high quality product. Stringent controls and laboratory test procedures ensure that high water quality standards are constantly maintained.

The Water Department uses the latest available technology to provide safe drinking water at a reasonable cost. Our water quality laboratory is equipped with state-of-the-art instruments and the latest techniques that make it possible to measure minute quantities of contaminants in water that were impossible to detect just a few short years ago.

Question: Should I buy bottled water or a home water treatment device?

There is no reason to buy bottled drinking water or install a home water treatment device for safety purposes; however, some people do so as a matter of personal taste.

For those customers who are sensitive enough to smell or taste chlorine in their drinking water, the Water Department suggests storing drinking water in a container in the refrigerator. Cold water always tastes better than water straight from the tap. Besides, water supplied by the Water Department costs less than a quarter of a cent per gallon compared to $1 or more per gallon for bottled water. Finally, you should know that the standards for public water supplies are much stricter than for bottled water; bottled water companies are not required to screen for the long list of toxic chemicals in this report.

Similarly, while home water treatment devices vary widely in cost and effectiveness, it is important to recognize that these devices may pose a health hazard to you and your family. If the treatment system is not maintained properly, bacteria can grow in the unit and contaminate the water. Extreme care should be taken in the purchase, installation and maintenance of any home water treatment system.

Question: Is Long Beach water considered "hard" or "soft"?

The "hardness" of water refers to the level of specific dissolved minerals it contains, like calcium and magnesium. These harmless minerals mix with the soap to prevent suds, thereby making washing with water more difficult. Hard water also tends to leave a scale of deposits--such as a ring in the bathtub or spotting on glassware.

Water provided by the Department ranges from "moderately hard" to "hard" depending on the time of year and the blend of local groundwater and imported MWD water. MWD water is harder than Long Beach groundwater, but the MWD supply also varies substantially based on the blend of water from the Colorado River and State Water Project.

The installation and use of a home water softener is a matter of personal preference. But take note, salt softeners replace the calcium and magnesium in the water with sodium. From a health standpoint, the contribution of sodium to the water can be a concern for dialysis patients or people with high blood pressure, heart disease or kidney failure. As an alternative, residents may opt to install a water softener solely for their hot water supply, leaving their cold water supply alone.

Question: What is the Water Department doing to correct Cryptosporidium levels in the City's water supply? Is there a concern for the general public or people with compromised immune systems?

Cryptosporidium--a potentially infectious microscopic organism which has triggered headlines across the country and shut down systems elsewhere--can be spread through contaminated food or water or by direct contact with the stool of an infected person or animal can cause a gastrointestinal illness called Cryptospocidiosis--which may cause diarrhea, headache, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomit and low-grade fever.

The chance of the organism being present in the City's water supply is extremely small because groundwater--which makes up about 38 percent of the City's water supply is free of this organism, due to natural soil filtration. As for imported surface water supplies, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) which accounts for 42 percent of the City's water--found Cryptosporidium levels in their surface supplies to be 100 to 1,000 times lower than those reported in other parts of the country. In addition, MWD has initiated an extensive effort to prevent Cryptosporidium and other microscopic organisms from reaching its treated water. While the general public is not at risk, Cryptosporidium can prove life-threatening to people with compromised immune systems--such as chemotherapy, organ and bone marrow recipients or people infected with HIV or AIDS. As a precaution, people with such conditions should consult their doctor or health care provider about preventing infection from all potential sources and may choose to boil their water for one minute before consumption.