The City of Sierra Madre is committed to keeping its residents informed about the quality of drinking water. Below are frequently asked questions regarding the maintenance and distribution of the City’s water supply.

What is the water flushing program?

The flushing program is designed to clean the inside of water mains removing scale and iron deposits.  This is achieved by closing and or opening specific water valves and releasing water though a fire hydrant. The increased water flow provides a scouring affect to remove settled out debris. In order to conserve as much water as possible most hydrants are flushed into the department's water tender then released into the City’s groundwater recharge basins. However, there are a few sites in the City where this practice is not practical.

While there are many long term benefits to a flushing program, there may be some short term inconveniences associated with the maintenance program. Properties in the immediate area may experience temporary water pressure fluctuations and possible water discoloration. The discoloration is caused by minerals, rust and other particles being disturbed by the high velocity water flow. If you experience discolored water, we ask that you flush the cold water lines in your home or property by opening a hose bib or bath tub faucet for a few minutes until the water clears. Keep in mind most kitchen and bathroom faucets have screens or filters built into them and may require cleaning if debris is present.

As we continue, each subsequent flushing event will present fewer and fewer concerns and begin to establish a tremendous value as a preventative maintenance program. Feel free to contact the Utilities Department if you have any questions or concerns at (626) 355-1536. 

Where does my drinking water come from?

Under the current drought condition, the ground water aquifer that has been the City's historical supply has fallen to levels where the wells can no longer meet the needs of the community. In order to meet demand, in October 2013, the City began importing treated surface water from MWD through an agreement with the San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District. As the city has transitioned from one water source to another, there was a transitional stage where the water clarity did not meet the high expectations of the customers. The Public Works Department implemented a distribution system flushing program to remove naturally occurring minerals from the distribution system that have been softened during the transition period. The department also consulted with outside experts from MWD and from the private sector; implementing a treatment program to eliminate the water discoloration. Although improvements have been seen, the department is continuing to work towards the eradication of the water discoloration.

During calendar year 2014, the water supply for the City of Sierra Madre came from three sources: (1) groundwater from wells in the East Raymond Basin, (2) natural spring tunnel located in the foothills, and (3) treated surface water from Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD). All water is treated with chlorine disinfection before it is delivered to the residents’ home.

What are water quality standards?

In order to ensure that tap water is safe to drink, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and State Water Resources Control Board, Division of Drinking Water (DDW) prescribed regulations that limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by public water systems. DDW regulations also establish limits for contaminants in bottled water that provide the same protection for public health.

Drinking water standards established by USEPA and DDW are limits for substances that may affect consumer health or aesthetic qualities of drinking water. The chart in this report shows the following types of water quality standards:

  • Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL): The highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. Primary MCLs are set as close to the PHGs (or MCLGs) as is economically and technologically feasible.

  • Maximum Residual Disinfectant Level (MRDL): The highest level of a disinfectant allowed in drinking water. There is convincing evidence that addition of a disinfectant is necessary for control of microbial contaminants.

  • Secondary MCLs are set to protect the odor, taste, and appearance of drinking water.

  • Primary Drinking Water Standard: MCLs and MRDLs for contaminants that affect health along with their monitoring and reporting requirements, and water treatment requirements.

What is a water quality goal?

In addition to mandatory water quality standards, USEPA and DDW have set voluntary water quality goals for some contaminants. Water quality goals are often set at such low levels that they are not achievable in practice and are not directly measurable. Nevertheless, these goals provide useful guideposts and direction for water management practices. The chart in this report includes three types of water quality goals:

  • Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG): The level of a contaminant in drinking water, which there is no known or expected risk to health. MCLGs are set by the USEPA.

  • Maximum Residual Disinfectant Level Goal (MRDLG): The level of a drinking water disinfectant, which there is no known or expected risk to health. MRDLGs do not reflect the benefits of the use of disinfectants to control microbial contaminants.

  • Public Health Goal (PHG): The level of a contaminant in drinking water, which there is no known or expected risk to health. PHGs are set by the California Environmental Protection Agency.

What contaminants may be present in sources of drinking water?

The sources of drinking water generally 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, in some cases, radioactive material, and can pick up substances resulting from the presence of animals or from human activity.

Contaminants that may be present in source water include:

  • Microbial contaminants, such as viruses and bacteria, may come from sewage treatment plants, septic systems, agricultural livestock operations and wildlife.

  • Inorganic contaminants, such as salts and metals, which can be naturally-occurring or result from urban storm water runoff, industrial or domestic wastewater discharges, oil and gas production, mining or farming.

  • Pesticides and herbicides may come from a variety of sources such as agriculture, urban storm water runoff and residential uses.

  • Radioactive contaminants that are naturally occurring, or can be the result of oil and gas production and mining activities.

  • Organic chemical contaminants, including synthetic and volatile organic chemicals that are byproducts of industrial processes and petroleum production, and can also come from gasoline stations, urban storm water runoff, agriculture application and septic systems.

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 USEPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline (1-800-426-4791).

The drinking water is regularly tested using DDW approved methods to ensure its safety. The table in this report lists all the constituents detected in your drinking water that have Federal and State drinking water standards. Detected unregulated constituents and other constituents of interest are also included.

Are there any precautions the public should consider?

Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population. Immuno-compromised persons such as persons with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, persons who have undergone organ transplants, people with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders, some elderly, and infants can be particularly at risk from infections. These people should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers. USEPA/Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines on appropriate means to lessen the risk of infection by Cryptosporidium and other microbial contaminants are available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline (1-800-426-4791).

Is there lead in the tap water?

If present, elevated levels of lead can cause serious problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. Lead in drinking water is primarily from materials and components associated with service lines and home plumbing. The City of Sierra Madre is responsible for providing high quality drinking water, but cannot control the variety of materials used in plumbing components. When water has been sitting for several hours, residents can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing the tap (for 30 seconds to 2 minutes) before using water for drinking or cooking. Those that are concerned about lead in the water; may wish to have their water tested. Information on lead in drinking water, testing methods, and steps to minimize exposure are available from the U.S, Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline or at http://water.epa.gov/drink/info/lead/index.cfm.

In 2018, the City's Utility Department tested Sierra Madre's public schools for lead and none was detected.

What is fluoride variance?

The City of Sierra Madre has been granted a Fluoride Variance from DDW. The City first requested the variance in 1994. On June 6, 1995, DDW conducted a public hearing in the City of Sierra Madre to determine if there was substantial public opposition to the City receiving a variance from the California drinking water standard for fluoride. DDW found that there was no substantial community opposition to the City receiving the variance from the California drinking water standard for fluoride.

In the meantime, DDW has raised the MCL for fluoride to 2 ppm with a PHG of 1 ppm. In 2014, the City (on an average) did not exceed the PHG of 1 ppm and the MCL of 2 ppm in water delivered to customers. It should be noted that due to the fluoride concentration of the water, additional fluoride products are not added to the water.

What was the outcome of the drinking water source assessment?

In accordance with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, an assessment of the drinking water sources for the City of Sierra Madre was completed in November 2002. The purpose of the drinking water source assessment is to promote source water protection by identifying types of activities in the proximity of the drinking water sources; which could pose a threat to the water quality. The assessment concluded that City of Sierra Madre’s groundwater wells generally are not vulnerable to contamination. However, wells are located within the proximity of gasoline stations, chemical and petroleum storage facilities, automobile repair shops, and areas of fertilizer/pesticide applications, which are possible sources of contamination. Anyone can request a summary of the assessment by contacting Mr. Jose Reynoso at 626-355-7135 ext 813.

Every five years, MWD is required by DDW to examine possible sources of drinking water contamination in its State Water Project and Colorado River source waters. In 2012, MWD submitted to DDW its updated Watershed Sanitary Surveys for the Colorado River and State Water Project, which include suggestions for how to better protect these source waters. Both source waters are exposed to storm water runoff, recreational activities, wastewater discharges, wildlife, fires, and other watershed-related factors that could affect water quality. Water from the Colorado River is considered to be most vulnerable to contamination from recreation, urban/storm water runoff, increasing urbanization in the watershed, and wastewater. Water supplies from Northern California’s State Water Project are most vulnerable to contamination from urban/storm water runoff, wildlife, agriculture, recreation, and wastewater. USEPA also requires MWD to complete one Source Water Assessment (SWA) that utilizes information collected in the watershed sanitary surveys. MWD completed its SWA in December 2002. The SWA is used to evaluate the vulnerability of water sources to contamination and helps determine whether more protective measures are needed. A copy of the most recent summary of either Watershed Sanitary Survey or the SWA can be obtained by calling MWD at (213) 217-6850.