Q: Is my tap water safe to drink?
A: Yes! To ensure the wholesomeness of our water, we test the water continuously. At the Water Works & Lighting Commission, we use only the necessary chemicals to treat the water, including chlorine, to kill any viruses or bacteria that could be present in groundwater. A tiny (and harmless) amount of chlorine is left in the water to ensure its continued safety as it travels to you.
In addition to our own testing, we also consult with the state Department of Natural Resources, and the state Laboratory of Hygiene.
Q: What is the best choice of drinking water: bottled or tap water?
A: The answer is clear: tap water! That’s because our water is of excellent quality,
strictly monitored, and affordable.
When we look at issues such as quality, monitoring and affordability, we see that bottled water doesn’t always make the grade. For instance, some brands may be of excellent quality, but others can have inferior quality or they may be simply taken from municipal water supplies. And all bottled waters are expensive. For the price of one small bottle of water, you would be able to buy about 520 gallons of Water Works & Lighting Commission’s tap water.
Another important fact: there are fewer government regulations to guide the bottled water industry. Monitoring requirements aren’t as stringent as are those for tap water. For quality, consistency and affordability, tap water wins every time.
Q: Where does the City of Wisconsin Rapids water come from?
A: Rapids drinking water comes from an area south east of Wisconsin Rapids called the Buena Vista Marsh. Groundwater originates as rain or snow, soaks into the ground, and is naturally filtered through layers of soil before replenishing the aquifer. The WW&LC water system consists of 4 Ranney Collectors, 1 standard 16-inch well, 3 water towers and 160 miles of distribution main.
Q: Why is the water discolored sometimes?
A: Groundwater by its nature will contain dissolved minerals, including naturally occurring iron and/or manganese. These minerals settle out of the water and accumulate as sediment in the water mains running under Rapids’ streets. Water Utility staff regularly flush the mains through fire hydrants to remove this accumulated sediment, and that action—or any other disturbance such as fire suppression, a main break, contractor work, or a flow test—can stir up sediment that results in discolored water. If your water becomes discolored or contains small air bubbles, run a cold water tap in the basement at full force for 20 minutes or so, or until the water clears. Usually it clears in just a few minutes. If it doesn’t, call the utility Service Department at 715-423-6310.
Q: What is Rapids “water hardness” and how does it affect me?
A: The Water Works & Lighting Commission’s tap water is considered to be “moderately hard,” because of minerals such as calcium and magnesium in the soil from which we draw water. This water contains 6 to 6.5 grains of hardness per gallon. There are no harmful health effects associated with these minerals (in fact, some believe they are beneficial), but measuring them does provide a guideline as to how water use may be affected. For example, hard water does result in more scale buildup and you need to use more soap and detergents. If you choose a water softener, it’s recommended that a separate, unsoftened supply of water be kept for cooking and drinking. Ion exchange water softeners remove hardness by replacing the calcium and magnesium with sodium salt.
Also, when you buy a new appliance, such as a dishwasher, the manufacturer often makes reference to water hardness. This is because hard water can cause automatic dishwashers to leave film on dishes and build-up of minerals on mechanical parts. It may also cause washing machines to leave residue on articles of clothing and scales that clog water pipes or foul appliances such as water heaters.
Q: Why do we use chlorine and fluoride in our water?
A: The high quality aquifer supplying our drinking water requires little treatment. However, chlorine is used to kill bacteria and viruses that could be found in the water. It’s considered one of the most important tools for disinfecting drinking water. It’s actually been in use for more than 100 years and is responsible for ending disease epidemics that were widespread prior to its use.
Fluoride has been added to treated water since 1950 to reduce the risk of dental cavities. Chlorine and fluoride are key ingredients to water quality and public health and safety.
Q: Why does drinking water often look cloudy when first taken from a faucet and then clear up?
A: The cloudy water is caused by tiny air bubbles in the water similar to the gas bubbles in carbonated soft drinks. After a while, the bubbles rise to the top and are gone. This type of cloudiness occurs more often in the winter, when the drinking water is cold.
Q: What is wrong if I smell a rotten egg odor when I run water in the house?
A: The smell of rotten eggs indicates the presence of hydrogen sulfide. The odor originates as sewer gas being displaced from the drain when the tap is run. A simple test is to fill a glass of water, take it to a room that has no water, and then sniff the water. If the water no longer has an odor, the drain is the source. A remedy for cleaning the drain is to pour one-quarter cup baking soda down the drain and follow it with a cup of vinegar. When the fizzing stops, flush the drain with boiling water.
If your tap water has an unusual taste or odor, call the Water Utility at 423-6310.
Q: What is the white residue on pots and pans after I boil water?
A: The Water Works & Lighting Commission’s tap water is “moderately hard.” Groundwater sources contain significant amounts of calcium and magnesium hardness, and WW&LC is no exception. The minerals in the water leave a conspicuous white residue or spots when water is boiled or evaporates. This residue is primarily calcium from the lime softening process and is not harmful to human health.
Q: Why is some drinking water stored in large tanks high above the ground?
A: This type of water storage ensures that water pressure and water volume are stabilized. This ensures a sufficient water supply to fight fires, even if the electricity that normally pumps water is turned off. The standard water pressure in the city of Wisconsin Rapids is 60-65 PSI.
Q: I had a high bill because of a toilet leak; can I get an adjustment?
A: No, the Water Works & Lighting Commission is not responsible for high water bills due to private plumbing malfunctions. The sewer charge can be addressed on a case by case basis by contacting the City of Wisconsin Rapids. The Water Works and Lighting Commission only bills the sewer based on the water use and has no say in the instance of a leak.
Q: How does the Water Works & Lighting Commission set its rates?
A: Water rates are set by the state Public Service Commission through rate cases in which the utility requests pricing to cover its costs of providing the service.
Q: Wisconsin Rapids has an ample and reliable supply of water, so why should I conserve?
A: If the utility has to meet rising customer demand every year, it must continually increase its pumping and delivery capacity, and it could eventually need to find additional sources of water. Each increase in capacity and supply means increased costs to develop and operate; these, in turn, eventually lead to an increase in customer rates. Therefore, it is less expensive for everyone to invest in water conservation than in increased supply.
Additional benefits of water conservation include improved water quality, a reduced burden on surface water quality since less wastewater is generated, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions due to reduced energy spent on water pumping. Plus, the customer sees a smaller water bill.