UI Water Quality Update, effective March 27, 2017


What is the latest information on the UI water testing and results?
UI employees have taken additional water samples on campus since the water system flushing program began on Feb 7. Preliminary results show a significant decrease in TTHM with levels currently within acceptable range.

What is being done now?
In addition to system flushing, Facilities Management has rented a carbon filtration unit that will filter all water coming into the plant to reduce the organic material that causes the formation of TTHM.  This unit is expected to be on-line approximately April 1, 2017, and should further decrease TTHM levels. Steps are also being taken to rent a reverse osmosis system until the permanent reverse osmosis system is installed and on-line within the next 18 months.

Pictured below, Carbon Filtration Unit installed March 27, 2017

Carbon Filtration Unit Carbon Filtration

Does this mean the UI water system is now back in compliance?
Compliance is determined by a rolling average of samples taken over a year-long period. The level of organic material in the Iowa River during winter 2016-17 is the highest we have ever experienced during a winter period.  Trihalomethanes (TTHM) are a byproduct of the water treatment process that form when chlorine, added to the water during the treatment process for disinfection, reacts with naturally occurring organic matter in the water. Due to averaging of samples, it is possible another notice regarding high TTHM levels would need to be issued later this spring even though current water quality meets the standard.

Is the water safe to drink or should people consider drinking bottled water or using a bottle filling station?
There is no need to take additional individual measures, such as drinking bottled water or using a bottle filling station. However, if you have specific health concerns, please contact your health care professional. Many people have asked about the bottle filling stations on campus – a typical carbon filtration units such as bottle filling stations, are around 90% efficient at removal of TTHM.

Are the hospital, Oakdale campus, IRL, also supplied by the UI water system?
University of Iowa Health Care is supplied by the UI water system. The Oakdale/UI Research Park Campus and IRL are not served by the UI water system.

What agency sets the guidelines for safe drinking water standards and how often is testing conducted?
The EPA establishes the Safe Drinking Water Standards and the Iowa DNR administers the Public Drinking Water Program in Iowa under delegation of authority from the EPA. Testing is conducted by UI Water Plant staff several times a year in various locations.  An average of those results is used to determine compliance. Testing is done at the State Hygienic Lab.

Is the City of Iowa City water supply affected?
The City of Iowa City Water Plant is a separate system from the University of Iowa Water Plant.

What happened?
The UI received notice on Feb. 7 that its water system exceeded the standard, or maximum contaminant level for TTHM.  The TTHM standard for drinking water and bottled water is 0.080 mg/L.  The range of annual averages for TTHM over the past year in the UI system was 0.033 to 0.095 mg/L.


For more information, please contact:

Ben Fish, Associate Dir, Utility Operations

Wendy Moorehead, FM Communications


email sent to all ui faculty, staff and students on Feb 07, 2017


UNIVERSITY WATER SYSTEM Has Levels of Total Trihalomethanes (TTHM)
Above Drinking Water Standards

The University of Iowa recently received notice that its water system violated a drinking water standard. Although this is not an emergency, as our customers, you have a right to know what happened, what you should do, and what we are doing to correct this situation.
We routinely monitor for the presence of drinking water contaminants. Testing results we received on February 1, 2017, show that our system exceeds the standard, or maximum, contaminant level (MCL), for total trihalomethanes. The standard for total trihalomethanes is 0.080 mg/L. The average level of total trihalomethanes over the last year in our system was 0.081 to 0.110 mg/L.

What should I do?

  • You do not need to use an alternative (e.g., bottled) water supply. Disease prevention specialists with University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics say special precautions are not necessary. However, if you have specific health concerns, consult your doctor.

What does this mean?
This is not an immediate risk. If it had been, you would have been notified immediately. However, some people who drink water-containing trihalomethanes in excess of the MCL over many years may experience problems with their liver, kidneys, or central nervous system, and may have an increased risk of getting cancer.

What happened? What is being done?
Trihalomethanes are a byproduct of the water treatment process that form when chlorine, added to the water during the treatment process for disinfection, reacts with naturally occurring organic matter in the water. Above normal winter temperatures have increased the amount of naturally occurring organic material in the Iowa River, resulting in the need for additional chlorination. The additional chlorine used to make the water safe to drink leads to higher TTHM levels.

In October of 2015, the UI requested permission from the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, to proceed with project planning for a reverse osmosis filtration system to address high nitrate levels in the Iowa River. This system, which will also reduce the organic matter that causes the formation of TTHM's, is in the design phase for installation and is expected to be on-line in the next 18 months.

In the short term, flushing of fire hydrants will be performed to lower the residence time of water in the distribution system, reducing the amount of time available for TTHM's to form.
Please be aware, however, that the level of TTHM's in the water is calculated based on quarterly samples over the previous 12 months. There is a possibility that even with reduced TTHM levels, the 12-month average may remain at or above the MCL until enough quarterly samples have been taken to lower the average.

For more information, please contact:

Wendy Moorehead, UI Facilities Management

This notice is being sent to you by UNIVERSITY WATER SYSTEM, PWSID #5225101
Date distributed:2/9/2017