The Fire Service’s Role in Protecting Public Water Systems
Clean, safe, drinking water is something we take for granted, and every fire department needs to follow industry standard best practices to protect the water system and be aware of practices that threaten our public drinking water. Ensuring our water is safe is everyone's responsibility, including the fire department.
The public water system that supplies our drinking water is the same system firefighters use to supply water for firefighting efforts. Fire departments routinely connect apparatus to fire hydrants and thereby use public drinking water for firefighting. Fire departments serving areas with a public water supply usually refill the water tank on the fire apparatus using a fire hydrant or an outlet at a fire station that is connected to the public water system.
Significant efforts by the Federal government, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), and others have improved water quality in public water systems. Most of this work has been a result of federal and state laws that have been enacted insuring the public water is safe to drink. Congress passed the first legislation regulating drinking water at the national level in 1974. The Safe Drinking Water Act provided the basis for national requirements on water quality standards and water supply operation. Tennessee uses this model to set state regulations concerning public water systems. The two biggest areas of concern for protecting the water system are been cross connections and backpressure contamination.