Happy Birthday to the Safe Drinking Water Act

This week, as part of Drinking Water Week, the American Water Works Assn. (AWWA) is commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

Passed in 1974, the law sets water quality standards, oversees water suppliers and regulates the protection of drinking water sources.

“It’s important to applaud the accomplishments of the Safe Drinking Water Act, which ensures that when the tap is turned on, safe and reliable water flows out,” said AWWA CEO David LaFrance in a press release. “Thanks to the Safe Drinking Water Act, many enjoy pure and superb drinking water.”

LaFrance is certainly correct that it is important to commemorate this legislation – here in the U.S., it is all to easy to take it for granted that the water coming from our taps is safe to drink. But there is all too much truth in his statement that “many” – not all – people “enjoy pure and superb water.”

Even if water leaves a treatment plant meeting all SDWA requirements, there is no guarantee that it will reach the tap in the same state – the advanced age of U.S. water infrastructure means that distribution systems are vulnerable to contamination. Furthermore, SDWA does not cover many emerging contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products, meaning these can still potentially make it to the tap. The legislation also does not cover private wells serving fewer than 25 people, putting the responsibility on the well users themselves to ensure that their water is safe to drink. All of these are reasons that final barrier treatment may be the best option to ensuring that drinking water is as safe and healthy as possible.

What are your thoughts on the 40th anniversary of SDWA? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail us at [email protected].

Kate Cline is editor-in-chief of WQP. Cline can be reached at [email protected] or 847.391.1007.

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