Feb 14, 2018

Rural Communities Struggle to Meet Drinking Water Standards

A new study shows the Safe Drinking Water Act violations may be linked to EPA limits of disinfectants in the early 2000s

drinking water systems in rural communities struggle

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that 3% to 10% of U.S. water systems have been in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act health standards each year since 1982. Statistics from 2015, notably, revealed as many as 21 million Americans exposed to drinking water that violated federal standards.

The researchers examined more than 17,900 water systems between 1982 and 2015 searching for trends that explain why some water systems are more susceptible to health risks than others. One interesting finding was that health violations in rural areas increased in the 2000s after the U.S. EPA enacted regulations focused on disinfectants, according to The New York Times. The researchers hypothesis based off of their findings that while water treatment with less chlorine and other chemicals is better for the environment, it is less cost effective for struggling rural communities.

Rural areas in states such as Oklahoma, West Texas, Idaho and Nebraska were found to be more susceptible to health risks associated with drinking water systems.

“These are often smaller communities flying under the radar,” said Maura Allaire, assistant professor of urban planning at the University of California and lead author. “They’re struggling to maintain their aging infrastructure, and they’re struggling to keep up with the latest water treatment techniques.”