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In an effort to improve public communication, the Louisiana Department of Health published its inaugural water system report cards last week, becoming the first state in the country to use annual letter grades to highlight the failures and successes of drinking water utilities.
Water systems are already required by federal law to send an annual Consumer Confidence Report to customers with details about drinking water contaminants. The Louisiana Department of Health grading system, which was mandated by a 2021 state law, goes several steps further, combining a range of measurements into a single letter grade for each of the state’s 951 community water systems.
On top of water quality, the grade incorporates data on utility finances, operations, and customer complaints. Utilities must include the grade on annual reports sent to customers.
Forty-one percent of water systems earned an A grade. Six percent received a D, and nine percent failed. Many of the failing systems serve small, rural communities, which often have fewer financial and technical resources.