Frequently Asked Questions

Where does Harwich drinking water come from?

Most residents in Harwich (almost 90 percent) receive their water from the Harwich Water Department, which has eleven wells located in various parts of town. These eleven wells draw water from the ground, or groundwater, and pump it to treatment plants, and then on to homes, businesses, and even your schools.

What is groundwater?

Groundwater comes from rain and snow that soaks into the ground, passing between particles of soil, sand, gravel or rock until it reaches a depth where the ground is filled, or saturated, with water. The area that is filled with water is called the saturated zone and the top of this zone is called the water table. The water table may be very near the ground surface or it may be hundreds of feet deep. Groundwater is stored in the ground in materials like gravel or sand. You can think of the earth as a big sponge holding lots of water. An area that holds a lot of water, which can be pumped up with a well, is called an aquifer.

How does the water get to my house?

Water is pumped from the wells into large underground pipes that run all over town, bringing water to where it is needed. Special smaller pipes branch off the larger pipes and run up to your house, providing you with water at just the turn of a spigot.

Is my drinking water clean?

When drinking water is pumped from each well it has small amounts of impurities in it from coming in contact with rock, dirt, vegetation and the effects of human activity. The water from all of the Harwich wells is treated before it is delivered to your homes. This treatment helps to ensure that the water delivered to you is good tasting and healthy.

What are the signs up all over town about outdoor watering?

During the warmer months of the year, Harwich Water Department use increases by about fifty percent. This places a strain on the wells to pump enough water to meet everyone's needs. The Harwich Water Department has a By-Law that limits outdoor water usage. The purpose of this is to make the best use of limited water and ensure that everyone has an opportunity to use outdoor water when really needed. Without limits on outdoor water use, the demand would likely deplete water supplies to a dangerously low level, and the Department would be faced with banning all outdoor water usage.

Is my drinking water safe?

The Harwich Water Department fully complies with the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Department treats all of its water in order to meet state and federal requirements for public drinking water. Water is treated for corrosion control, disinfection, removal of volatile organic chemicals and to sequester iron and manganese. In addition, the Harwich Water Department regularly tests its water for over one hundred different contaminants. If the level of a contaminant is above a town, state, or federal health standard, then the Department will notify the public and take corrective action immediately.

What is in my drinking water?

All drinking water, including bottled water, usually contains small amounts of some impurities. Ground water can dissolve naturally occurring minerals, such as nitrate, from the earth's crust. Ground water can also pick up substances that are a result of human and animal activity, such as Coliform. However, the presence of an impurity in your drinking water does not necessarily indicate that the water poses a health risk. The Harwich Water Department fully complies with all monitoring and reporting requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act, and your drinking water meets all Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) health standards. For more details on the quality of your drinking water, see the Harwich Water Department's most recent Annual Water Quality Report.

A brown stain has developed on the inside of my dishwasher, as well as on my china. Why?

Iron and manganese are very common minerals found in New England ground water. While posing no health threat, they can be an aesthetic problem, such as causing stains on your dishwasher. The Department adds polyphosphates to its water to sequester iron and manganese. The chemical bond that is formed between the two is broken quickly by high temperature. The higher the temperature, the more likely that iron and manganese will precipitate out and deposit on the surface of dishwashers or china. To avoid this problem, don't use "hot air dry cycle" and use lower temperature water. You may also find that "Tang" or "Glisten" will remove existing stains.

My water is discolored. Why?

There are many possible answers to this question, depending on the coloration:

There are blue or green stains on my fixtures. Why?

Copper causes these stains. Copper can be naturally present in the ground water, and copper can leach into the water from copper pipes. Initially, copper pipes may leach a small amount of copper in the first year of use, after which concentrations will decrease. However, if the water is corrosive, the pipes may continue to release copper into the drinking water. The Water Department adds potassium hydroxide to its water to reduce its corrosively and keep the levels of copper at a minimum. In addition, the Department is looking to use a polyphosphate in their water treatment; this additive can also help reduce the level of copper in the water.