Safe Drinking Water Act

Safe Drinking Water Act

Safe Drinking Water Act



What is the Safe Drinking Water Act?

The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 is the primary federal law that ensures the quality of drinking water in the United States. Through the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency has set standards regarding the quality of drinking water. These regulations are to be followed by all states, localities and water suppliers who provide drinking water in the United States. 

The Safe Drinking Water Act authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency of the Federal Government to establish national health standards for drinking water. These guidelines are observed to protect against man-made and naturally-occurring contaminants that may make their way into drinking water. 

The Safe Drinking Water Act attempts to combat the several threats to drinking water, including pesticides, animal wastes, wastes injected underground, human wastes, and naturally-occurring substances that contaminate drinking water. In addition to these impurities, drinking water can be tainted if it travels through an improperly maintained pipeline or distribution system. 

Originally, the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 focused on the treatment of safe drinking water as opposed to the means of providing safe water from the tap. The 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act enhanced the existing regulations by recognizing source water protection procedures, as well as operator training and funding for water system improvements. Furthermore, the Safe Drinking Act Amendments of 1996 promulgated these provisions and thus made the public more aware as to the dangers of contaminants and the mistreatment of distribution systems. 

The Safe Drinking Water Act was initially passed by the United States Congress in 1974 to protect public health by imposing regulations on the country’s public drinking water supply. The EPA Safe Drinking Water Act was then amended in 1986 and 1996 to further extend regulations to the nation’s rivers, reservoirs, springs, ground water wells and lakes. (The Safe Drinking Water Act does not regulate private wells that serve fewer than 25 people.) 

History of the Safe Drinking Water Act:

Prior to the passing of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the federal government instituted very few enforceable provisions or requirements for drinking water. As a result of testing improvements during the 60’s and 70’s, the government was able to detect small concentrations of contaminants in drinking water. This ability prompted the government to take action against such impurities in the form of the Safe Drinking Act. Although a number of states implemented their own safe drinking water requirements at this time, the federal government needed to institute broad guidelines to ensure that every state was promoting safe drinking water procedures. 

When originally enacted, the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 was one of several pieces of environmental legislation passed during the 70’s. The discovery of contaminants in the public drinking water and the lack of enforceable national standards persuaded the government to take action and develop the Safe Drinking Water Act. 

The 1986 Safe Drinking Water Amendments:

The 1986 Safe Drinking Water Amendments required the Environmental Protection Agency to apply future regulations to non-transient, community and non-community water systems. These regulations ultimately added more contaminants to government’s restricted list; these added contaminants were to be evaluated and removed or diminished from all drinking sources in the country. In addition to adding more contaminants, the 1986 Safe Drinking Water Act also provided the following provisions:

• Regulations on Well Head Protectors

• New monitoring requirements for certain substances

• Increased enforcement power

• Restriction on lead in plumbing

• Disinfection for groundwater systems

• Requirements for filtration for surface water systems

1996 Safe Drinking Water Amendments:

Congress amended the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1996 to emphasize risk-based standards, technical assistance, small water supply system flexibility, water system infrastructure assistance and community-empowered source water assessment. 

The following are the most noteworthy provisions enacted by the 1996 EPA Safe Drinking Water Act:

• Community water systems are required to prepare and distribute annual consumer confidence reports concerning the water they provide, including information on all detected contaminants and possible health effects

• The Environmental Protection agency must conduct a cost-benefit analysis for the new standards to evaluate whether the benefits of a drinking water source justify the costs.

• Individual states may use finances from a Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to help water systems improve management or infrastructure or to help assess and protect their source

• All water system operators must acquire certification.

• The EPA is required to embolden protection efforts for microbial contaminants.

• The EPA Safe Drinking Water Act emphasizes that consumers of drinking water have the right to know what they are purchasing and subsequently drinking. The consumer has the right to know where the water came from, how it is treated and what efforts are made to protect its safety. As a result, the EPA distributes information materials and holds public meetings to encourage consumer involvement and promulgate their safety protocol.

Current Drinking Water Regulations According to the Safe Drinking Water Act:

The Safe Drinking Water Act and the Environmental Protection Agency establish legal limits on the level of dangerous contaminants in drinking water. These legal limits reflect levels that protect human health and levels that enforce a standard on water systems. In addition to prescribing these limits, the Environmental Protection Agency institutes water-testing methods and schedules that all systems must follow. These rules will list acceptable techniques for treating contaminated water sources.

The Safe Drinking Water Act awards individual states the right to set and enforce their own drinking water regulations and standards. That being said, the implemented standards must at least meet (most exceed) the Environmental Protection Agency’s national levels. 

The National Drinking Water Regulations:

The Safe Drinking Water Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to establish National Drinking Water Regulations for all contaminants that may impose adverse public health effects. 

The National primary Drinking Water Regulations include maximum contaminant levels (mandatory provisions) and non-enforceable health goals for each listed contaminant. The Maximum Contaminant Levels have greater priority because of the inherent risks they inflict. 

The 1986 Safe Drinking Water Act and Plumbing Requirements:

The 1986 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act established various plumbing and lead requirements that must be adhered to by all residential and commercial properties in the United States. The 1986 Safe Drinking Water Act required the Environmental Protection Agency to establish standards that limited the concentration of lead in public water systems. The 1986 Safe Drinking Water Act defines “lead free” public water systems and pipes as the following:

• The Safe Drinking Water Act requires solders and fluxes containing no more than 0.2 percent lead

• The Safe Drinking Water Act requires pipes and all pipe fittings to contain no more than 8 percent lead

• The Safe Drinking Water Act requires plumbing fixtures and fittings (as defined by industry-developed standards) issued no later than August of 1997. If the fixtures are not attached with industry-developed rating system, the products must meet the standards of the EPA. 





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