EPA celebrates 40th anniversary of Safe Drinking Water Act

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act, which Congress passed on December 16, 1974, and directed EPA to implement a series of regulations and standards to protect public drinking water from source to tap.

LENEXA, KS, Dec. 16, 2014 -- Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), which Congress passed on December 16, 1974, and directed EPA to implement a series of regulations and standards to protect public drinking water from source to tap (see: "Safe Drinking Water Act celebrates 40th anniversary").

The law was amended in 1986 and again in 1996 to include additional actions to protect drinking water, including those that recognize the needs for source water protection, training for water system operators, funding for water system improvements, and public information about the quality of treated water to inform water consumers and hold water delivery systems accountable.

In 1974, more than half of the water treatment facilities surveyed by the federal government had major deficiencies involving disinfection, clarification or pressure in their distribution systems -- all dangerous conditions that posed potentially serious public health hazards. Today, the U.S. is recognized as a world leader in providing safe drinking water. Under the authority of the SDWA, EPA has drinking water regulations in place for more than 90 contaminants, including microorganisms, disinfectants, disinfection byproducts, inorganic and organic chemicals, and radionuclides.

EPA estimates that the U.S. currently has $384 billion in drinking water infrastructure needs -- the unmet costs of maintaining, repairing and replacing systems that treat and deliver water to the public. Fully 97 percent of all public water systems in the country are categorized as small -- serving less than 10,000 people -- and many of those systems face acute problems related to funding, operations and maintenance.

Since its inception in 1997, the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which EPA administers, has provided $25.8 billion in funds for more than 10,000 local drinking water infrastructure projects, including treatment systems, pipes for transmission and distribution, and storage. In EPA Region 7 (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and nine tribal nations), the Agency has provided more than $947 million for such projects over that time.

EPA works with states, local government and public-private partnerships to protect vital water resources, promoting compliance and, when appropriate, taking enforcement actions. Through its 'Waters of the U.S.' initiative, EPA has proposed new regulatory authority to ensure that those protections are adequate (see: "'Waters of the U.S.' rule to help communities, municipalities receive safe drinking water").

Advances in science and technology are also helping EPA and its partners, including local water systems, to discover and better understand previously unknown contaminants in water, including chemicals, toxins and pharmaceuticals. EPA evaluates these unregulated contaminants to determine whether new national drinking water standards are needed for public water systems.

In addition, climate change poses challenges to the protection of water sources and water infrastructure alike, as systems adapt to warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, stronger storms, more droughts, and changes in water chemistry. EPA is meeting those challenges by working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Rural Development to increase the sustainability of rural drinking water and wastewater systems, and by promoting use of the Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool, which helps water utilities evaluate climate change impacts to their facilities and build greater resilience into their systems (see "EPA to assist water utilities in improving resilience to climate change").

In celebration of the SDWA anniversary, EPA hosted a live Twitter chat event today that began at 12 noon CST. Participants tweeted @EPAwater and used the hashtag #safetodrink.

See also:

"American Water to participate in SDWA's 40th-Anniversary Experts Forum"

"Local orgs praise EPA for advancing affordability framework for municipal CWA requirements"

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