What is The Safe Drinking Water Act?

What is The Safe Drinking Water Act?

Chris Tracey ·

Safe Drinking Water Act

Many people have heard of The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) but may not be entirely sure what it is and how it works to protect them. Before the Act being created, drinking water from just about any source was a gamble. You would have no idea what was in the water, or if it was safe to drink. In the old days, before the Industrial Revolution and the onset of widespread use of pesticides, most waters was actually fairly clean. This was especially true for water that came from underground sources such as wells and aquifers.

Then, of course, humans got their hands on industrial chemicals, insecticides, synthetic fertilizers, and as the population grew, raw sewage also began to contaminant much of our water source. Waterborne diseases, such as cholera, began to break out, and it became apparent that something had to be done.

In the US, the SDWA was created to help protect consumers from a variety of waterborne contaminants. It is, today, the foundation of our drinking water standards. While it is not perfect, it has created one of the safest drinking water programs in the world.

The Act authorizes the EPA to set enforceable health standards

For certain contaminants found in drinking water. In addition, it also requires that the public is notified of any water system violations within a set amount of time. The Act also requires that the public have access to annual reports, called Consumer Confidence Reports, which allow customers to review the systems overall performance levels. For more information on Consumer Confidence Reports, you can visit: www.epa.gov/safewater/ccr

One of the major advances that the Act took up and passed was the establishment between Federal and State regulations. The importance of this provision is that it mandates contaminant levels that are the same across the country. States can no longer set their own standard limits if those limits are above what the EPA has set forth. This may not seem like a big deal unless you live in a highly industrialized region where discharging industrial waste into the water was once considered "good business practice". Prior to the Act, some businesses in these areas would try to increase the levels of permissible discharge (for contaminants such as lead, mercury, and arsenic) in order to circumvent having to find new methods of handling their waste materials.

In addition to regulating surface water practices, the Act also includes specific provisions designed to help protect underground water sources. This became an important issue for those living in highly agricultural areas where farming chemicals were being used, en masse, on the ground and leeching down into aquifers.

These are just a very few of the provisions contained within the Act. But even with all these protections, our tap water still contains contaminants. The use of in-home water filters is an excellent option for those who wish to further protect their tap water.

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