General Water Quality Information

Protection of public health is the core of our mission. From the wellfield to your home, having high quality water matters. Learn more below about what Lincoln Water System does and what you can do to get the best quality water on tap.

Water Quality Matters... the Wellfield

Lincoln’s water source is groundwater that comes from wells along the Platte River. The wells are located 20 miles northeast of Lincoln near the city of Ashland, Nebraska.

Groundwater is part of the natural water cycle and Nebraska is fortunate to have significant groundwater supplies. Groundwater is formed when precipitation from rain or snow seeps into the ground. Many of the streams and rivers in the state are a result of groundwater that flows to the surface. Rivers also carry water from runoff and depending on the time of the year this water can help recharge Lincoln’s wellfields.

Lincoln Water System well along the Platte River Our city’s water source is groundwater which comes from wells along the Platte River near the city of Ashland

Lincoln Water System has several large horizontal collector wells located close to the Platte River that pump groundwater under the direct influence of surface water. About half of our water supply is ground water under the direct influence of surface water. The other half of our water supply is groundwater that comes from many smaller vertical wells.

Graphical representation of vertical wells, horizontal well, groundwater and the Platte River.

Groundwater Quality

Thanks to the natural filtration of groundwater, nature has already done much of the work in enhancing the quality of Lincoln’s water. As rain, melted snow, and river water move through the ground, many contaminants are removed from the water.

As groundwater moves through soil and rock, it dissolves small amounts of minerals. This is how dissolved calcium and magnesium get in the water and cause Lincoln’s hard water. Dissolved manganese and iron are also in the groundwater. These two substances must be removed at the treatment plant to prevent them from staining clothing and plumbing fixtures. Fluoride, too, is naturally in the groundwater in small amounts and Lincoln Water System must add additional fluoride to meet the concentration required by State of Nebraska Statute for proper dental health.

Protecting Lincoln’s Source Water

Groundwater that is pumped by the wells but not yet treated is called source water. Even though the ground acts as an excellent filter for many substances, the source water still requires treatment to make it safe to drink. Lincoln’s water source can be affected by animal and human activities that occur upstream from our wells which makes the treatment system an important component in providing safe water to customers. Protecting groundwater and surface water supplies is very important for all Nebraska residents.

More Info: Stormwater Runoff Pollution Prevention

YouTube video How Stormwater is Managed in Lincoln (5:05) Source: North Carolina Agency for Public Telecommunications (NCAPT)

Monitoring Lincoln’s Source Water

Lincoln Water System staff monitor and analyze source water quality both from the Platte River and from the wellfields. This information is used to manage the wellfield and optimize treatment.

A Lincoln Water System employee samples river water to analyze source water quality A Lincoln Water System employee samples river water to analyze source water quality

See Lincoln’s Annual Drinking Water Quality Report for more information about Lincoln’s source water.

Next Treatment Plants the Treatment Plants

Verifying Safety and Quality During the Treatment Process

Source water from Lincoln’s wellfields is pumped to two treatment plants where it is processed to provide clean, safe drinking water for the city of Lincoln.

Lincoln Water System staff carefully perform their work throughout the treatment process:

Trained Operators who are licensed by the State of Nebraska direct the entire treatment process. They make sure the water is effectively filtered, disinfected, and the proper amount of fluoride is added.

Lincoln Water System operator overseeing treatment operations.

Electrical and control staff make sure the hardware and software used to run the treatment plant, water distribution, security systems, and process control analyzers are working properly. Process control analyzers are machines that provide continuous testing of the water.

Maintenance staff make sure that all equipment, wells, pipes, and reservoirs are in proper condition.

Laboratory and operator staff analyze samples at different steps of the treatment process to make sure the treatment process is optimized. They perform more than 100,000 tests per year to verify the safety and quality of the water being served. Most tests are conducted at the treatment plant’s laboratories. The test results help us make informed decisions about how to treat the water and operate the water system.

Lincoln Water System laboratory specialist testing water

Treated water is tested for regulatory compliance with Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) under the Safe Drinking Water Act by third-party laboratories for analysis. These tests confirm Lincoln’s water meets or exceeds all federal and state drinking water requirements.

Please see Lincoln's Annual Drinking Water Quality Report for test results.

Finished Water

After the source water has finished the treatment process, it is called “finished” water which is then pumped to Lincoln for customers to use. Water in the city can be from either treatment plant or a mix from both treatment plants.

More Info: Water Treatment

Previous Wellfield Next Distribution System the Distribution System

Delivering a Safe and Reliable Product

After the water is treated, it is pumped through the network of pipes, storage reservoirs, and pumping stations in Lincoln. This network is called the distribution system.

Lincoln Water System reservoir Lincoln Water System reservoir

Lincoln Water System staff carefully monitor, maintain, and operate the city’s water distribution system:

Operators make sure water is delivered where and when it is needed. Construction staff maintain and repair the water mains (pipes), valves, and fire hydrants.

Maintenance staff take care of the pumping stations and make sure the storage reservoirs are in excellent condition.

Service staff make sure everyone is properly connected to the water system.

Office staff help resolve any issues customers may be experiencing.

Laboratory staff test the water from more than 120 sample sites around the city. Each year, more than 20,000 tests are performed on water in the distribution system to confirm Lincoln’s water meets or exceeds all federal and state drinking water requirements. Please see our Annual Drinking Water Quality Report for test results.

Lincoln Water System employee connecting water service to a new home Lincoln Water System employee connecting water service to a new home

Previous Treatment Plants Next Private Plumbing Private Plumbing

When water leaves the city’s water main pipe to enter a building or home, it enters plumbing owned by the property owner.

Kitchen faucet

Customers receive their water through a pipe that is connected to the public water mains. These pipes from the public water main to inside the home or business are privately owned by the customer. The customer’s privately owned plumbing system includes:

  • service lines – the pipe connecting a home or building to the city’s water main pipe
  • interior pipes – pipes inside a home or building
  • fittings and fixtures – such as valves, faucets, showers, bathtubs, and toilets
  • appliances – such as water heaters, icemakers, and washing machines
  • treatment devices – such as softeners, refrigerator filters, and reverse osmosis units

Private plumbing can change water quality. Residents and building managers have an important role in maintaining water quality after it leaves Lincoln’s water distribution system. Stagnant water can be the cause of many water quality concerns. This is why keeping the water fresh inside a home or building can be a simple but important step. It is also important to properly care for your home water treatment device if you have one. See our Taking Care of Your Water page for more information.

What is Private Plumbing?

Private plumbing is plumbing that is owned by the property owner and includes the service line and building plumbing.

Water distribution mains and water meters are owned by the city.

Figure showing building plumbing, including the service line pipe, as well as city-owned water main and meter.

Related Info: Taking Care of Your Water Water Quality Troubleshooting Guide Lead Awareness

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