2015 Water Quality Report


The City of Rochester Water Bureau is pleased to present our 2015 Water Quality Report. This report provides news on your water system and describes the source of your drinking water, its treatment and test results.

Read the 2015 Water Quality Report below, or download the report (pdf format) 

For additional data, download the Supplemental Information (pdf format) 

Get information on drinking water safety and lead 

For 2015, the City has again met and/or exceeded all of the drinking water standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New York State Department of Health (NYDOH).

The City continues its commitment to quality by providing safe drinking water through its involvement with the Partnership for Safe Water. The goal of this voluntary American Water Works Association (AWWA) and EPA program is to help water utilities optimize strategies to provide consumers with quality water that exceeds what current regulations require. In 2015, The Hemlock Filtration Plant earned the Partnership’s “Director’s Award for Filtration Plants” for its 14th year.


Since 1876, Rochester residents have relied upon Hemlock and Canadice Lakes for their drinking water supply. The City also purchases water from the Monroe County Water Authority (MCWA) Shoremont treatment plant on Lake Ontario. (For MCWA information, please see MCWA.com.) The Hemlock Water Filtration Plant is a direct filtration plant with a capacity of 48 Million Gallons per Day (MGD) and employs processes involving coagulation, filtration and disinfection. During coagulation, chemicals are added to untreated water, causing the natural particulates to clump together into larger particles called floc. The floc is removed by filtration and the water is then disinfected through the addition of chlorine. Like many other cities in the U.S., your water is fluoridated. According
to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, (CDC) fluoride is very effective at preventing cavities when present in drinking water at a properly controlled level. Our fluoride addition system is designed to operate and provide this benefit. Water treated at the Hemlock Filtration Plant flows to the city by gravity through three large pipelines. Along the way, water is sold wholesale to water districts in the Town and Village of Lima, Livingston County Water and Sewer Authority, and MCWA. The treated water is stored in the City’s three reservoirs—Rush Reservoir, Cobbs Hill Reservoir and Highland Park Reservoir. It is re-disinfected as it exits each reservoir and enters a complex grid (over 550 miles) of water mains that distribute the water to city customers. Lake Ontario water is pumped into the City distribution system at the Mt. Read Boulevard pump station, near West Ridge Road. Some areas of the city may receive either Hemlock Lake or Lake Ontario water—or a mixture of both—depending on the season.


To raise awareness about the importance of preventing water pollution, the NYDOH has evaluated the susceptibility of water supplies statewide for potential contamination under the Source Water Assessment Program (SWAP). Through its assessment of the Hemlock/Canadice Lake watershed SWAP identified several potential sources of contamination, none particularly noteworthy. The City’s extensive testing of these pristine lakes confirms that contamination from human activity is negligible. For more information on SWAP, please call (585) 428-6680, or the Monroe County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) at (585) 753-5057.


The City is diligent in reinvesting in its water system through its robust annual capital improvement program. In 2015, the Water Bureau spent more than $8 million on system improvements to the Hemlock Filtration Plant, transmission system, distribution system, reservoirs and dams. Some of the program highlights are as follows: installation of 4.1 miles of new water main, including valves, hydrants and service lines, cleaning and lining 7.1 miles of existing water main in the City’s distribution system. Improvements to the filtration plant automation and controls and security systems were also made. The ongoing programs of installing new water meters, (more than 4,500 in 2015) inspecting all fire hydrants and operating main line valves, conducting water main flushing, sampling and testing the water were also performed.


  • Drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that water poses a health risk. More information about contaminants and potential health effects can be obtained by calling the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline 1-800-426-4791.
  • The sources of drinking water (both tap water and bottled water) include rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, reservoirs, springs and wells. As water travels over the surface of the land or through the ground, it dissolves naturally occurring minerals and radioactive material, and can pick up substances resulting from the presence of animals or from human activities. Contaminants that may be present in source water include: microbial contaminants, inorganic contaminants, pesticides and herbicides, organic chemical contaminants and radioactive contaminants.
  • To ensure that tap water is safe to drink, EPA prescribes regulations which limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by public water systems. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations establish limits for contaminants in bottled water which must provide the same protection for public health.
  • Some people may be more vulnerable to disease causing microorganisms or pathogens in drinking water than the general population. Immunocompromised individuals, such as people with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, organ transplant recipients, people with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders, some elderly, and infants may be particularly at risk from infections. These people should seek advice from their health care providers about their drinking water. EPA/ CDC guidelines on appropriate means to lessen the risk of infection by Cryptosporidium, Giardia and other microbial pathogens are available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline (1-800-426-4791).


 little-boy-wglass As the State regulations require, we routinely test your drinking water for numerous contaminants and we have found no contaminants in our water at levels that raise concern. Some substances such as chlorine and fluoride are added to the water supply for health reasons.


Lead is not found in the Lake waters that supply Rochester’s drinking water. Nonetheless, low levels of lead may sometimes be found in the water at a customer’s tap. Test results in Rochester for lead have consistently been below the safety limits set by the EPA. To minimize your lead intake from water, use only cold water for drinking and cooking and simply allow the tap to run for one or two minutes before using. Pregnant women, infants and young children are typically more vulnerable to the effects of lead than the general population. For assistance and more information call our Hemlock Water Filtration Plant at (585) 428-6680; the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791; or visit: www.epa.gov/safewater/lead. Additional information is available from the Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning: www.letsmakeleadhistory.org.

Table of Detected Contaminates

Substance  units  MCLG  MCL  Hemlock Average (Range)  Lake Ontario Average (Range)  Likely source  Meets EPA Standards 
Barium mg/L 2 2 0.020 0.018-0.021 Erosion of natural deposits YES
Chloride mg/L 250 250 34 (32-35) 24-38 Natural deposits, road salt, water treatment chemicals YES
Fluoride mg/L NA 2.2 0.69 (0.5-0.97) 0.80 (0.1-1.3) Water treatment additive to promote dental health YES
Nitrate mg/L 10 10 0.10 (0.01-0.17) (0.26-0.36) Fertilizers; erosion of natural deposits; septic tank leachate YES
Sodium mg/L NA NA 20 15-17 Natural deposits, road salt, water treatment chemicals NA
Sulfate mg/L NA 250     12 (11-13) 26 (25-27) Naturally occurring YES
Dacthal ug/L NA 50 ND ND-0.13 Herbicide YES
Treatment Requirements (TT)- 95% of samples each month must be less than 0.3 NTU. Annual Range and lowest monthly percentage are listed below for entry point. For the distribution system the highest monthly average and range are reported. Turbidity is a measure of water clarity and is used to gauge filtration process
Turbidity Entry Point NTU NA 1 NTU 100% (0.04-0.16) 100% (0.03-0.13) Soil Runoff YES
Turbidity Distribution NTU NA 5 NTU 0.23 (July) (0.16-7.88) ND Soil Runoff YES
Bacteria – The distribution system monthly maximum and annual average % positive are listed below. Total Coliform is a group of bacteria used to indicate the general sanitary conditions in a water system. Most species of this group do not present a health concern, but one species, E. coli can be pathogenic. In 1993, the State Health Department granted the City a “biofilm variance,” or exception to the Total Coliform MCL. Biofilm is a layer of bacteria that can be found on almost all surfaces, including the inside wall of water pipes. The variance does not apply to E. coli.
Total coliform % Positive 0 5%   4.5% (May) 0.8% (Annual) ND Naturally occurring YES
Disinfectant and Disinfectant By-products (DBPs) – Average (Highest LRAA for Total THMs and Haloacetic Acids) and Range from distribution locations are listed below. *Chlorine has a MRDL (Maximum Residual Disinfectant Level) and MRDLG (MRDL Goal) rather than an MCL and MCLG. LRAA=Locational Running Annual Average
Chlorine (entry point) mg/L 4* 4* 0.96 (0.60-2.16) 1.10 (0.60-2.20) Required treatment chemical YES
Total THMs ug/L NA 80 50 (12-80)   By-product of chlorination YES
Haloacetic Acids ug/L NA 60 34 (6-44)   By-product of chlorination YES
Lead and Copper –Test results for 90% of distribution system samples must be less than an Action Level (AL). The 90th percentile and the range of results are listed below. Three out of 58 samples tested exceeded the lead AL. Zero out of 58 samples exceeded the copper AL.
Lead ug/L 0 15 9.7 (ND-19 )   Corrosion of plumbing YES
Copper ug/L 1300 1300 206 (3-860)   Corrosion of plumbing YES
Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 3 – Once every 5 years the EPA requires public water systems to participate in unregulated contaminant monitoring. In 2012 the EPA established a list of no more than 30 unregulated contaminants referred to as UCMR3. Public water systems were required to participate in UCMR3 monitoring between 2013 and 2015. The monitoring results provide the basis for future regulatory actions to protect public health. Detected Contaminants for the Hemlock and Lake Ontario Treatment Plants and the Distribution System are reported.
Substance  Units  MCLG  MCL  Hemlock WTP 2015 Range  Ontario WTP 2014 Range  End of Distribution System 2015 Range  Meets EPA Standards 
Chromium Total ug/L 100 100 ND ND-0.23 ND YES
Chromium-6 ug/L NA NA ND-0.04 0.07-0.09 ND-0.10 NA
Molybdenum ug/L NA NA ND 1.2-1.3 ND NA
Chromium-6 ug/L NA NA 50-57 160-190 56-140 NA
Chromium Total ug/L NA NA ND ND-0.2 ND NA
Chromium-6 ug/L NA NA ND-43 ND-130 20-120 NA

How can I save money on water?

 girls-washing-car2 Simple changes in your daily routine can save you money on your water bill and also reduce stress on the environment. Always repair dripping and leaking faucets, toilets and garden hoses. Log on to www.dec.ny.gov/lands/5009.html for more conservation tips.


The City of Rochester has a population of 210,000, which represents approximately 58,000 metered accounts. The base charge for water was $3.44 per 1,000 gallons. The average daily production at the Hemlock Water Filtration Plant was 37 MGD. Water consumed by city customers, upland customers and MCWA averaged 30 MGD. The balance, an average of 7.0 MGD is non-revenue water which is used for firefighting purposes, water main flushing, distribution system leaks, and water illegally obtained.


For more information about Water Bureau activities, fees and other water-related issues, visit: www.cityofrochester.gov/waterbureau or call (585) 428-7500. You may contact a customer service representative by dialing 311. Call (585) 428-5990 if outside of the city limits. Our offices are at 10 Felix Street, Rochester, NY, 14608.