When you want a drink of water, what do you do? If you're like most children, you grab a cup and head to the sink. One turn of the faucet yields a nice cool cup of water.

Likewise, when it's time to get clean, you jump in the shower. When you turn the faucet on, warm, cleansing water rains down on you from above, washing away the dirt and grime. But have you ever given much thought to where that water comes from?

Have you ever looked under your kitchen sink? Is there a big pot of water under there? Nope! If you've ever taken a peek under the sink, you probably noticed a series of pipes leading up to the faucet. So where does that cool drinking water originate?

Depending upon where you live, there are two basic ways that water gets to your house. If you live in the country on a farm, your water probably comes from a deep well located on your property. If you live in a small town or larger city, however, you most likely get your water from a public water supply.

If your water comes from a public water supply, then you will pay fees to a public water utility based upon how much water you use. Your water use is measured by a water meter located in your home or on your property.

Public water utilities provide water to large numbers of customers by one of two means: surface water or ground water. Ground water is located deep underground in veins of water known as aquifers. It must be accessed by drilling a deep well and then pumping it to the surface. If you have a private well on your property, you are using ground water from an aquifer.

Surface water, on the other hand, is found at the surface of Earth in lakes, rivers, and streams. A public water utility accesses surface water by building an intake to draw water to a location where it can be analyzed, treated, and then pumped out to customers.

Most public water utilities tend to rely upon surface water sources. Millions of people around the world use ground water wells, though. Overall, both sources provide about half of the world's drinking water.

Regardless of its source, water must be analyzed to ensure it's safe to drink. Public water utilities filter and treat water with certain chemicals to remove impurities and make sure your drinking water is safe to use.

Filtered and treated water that's safe to drink (called potable water) is then stored in a reservoir from which it gets pumped through underground pipes (called water mains) to your house. A water pipe known as a service lateral line connects that water main to your house plumbing and brings the water right to your faucet when you turn it on.

Public water utilities also keep plenty of water in storage in case of emergencies. You may have noticed big water tanks located on the high hills in your town and surrounding communities. These water tanks hold thousands upon thousands of gallons of water that can be used in case of fires and water main leaks.

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