Water. It accounts for more than 60 percent of our body mass. Every single cell, tissue, organ and life-sustaining process in our body needs it to function properly. You'll find it in our muscles, fat cells, blood and even bones. It carries precious nutrients and oxygen to cells, flushes waste products from our system, moistens tissues in the skin, mouth, eyes and nose and helps to regulate a constant body temperature. Clearly, our very survival and health is closely linked to a regular and daily intake of clean, fresh drinking water. The question is, just how safe is our nation's drinking water? Is there any cause for concern?
Safe Drinking Water Act
Concern over the quality of drinking water intensified in the early 1970s as media accounts told of trace elements slipping through filters in municipal water treatment plants. Other reports indicated toxic wastes had seeped into underground water supplies. Out of concern for public safety, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in 1974. Under this act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets standards for drinking water quality and oversees the states, localities, and water suppliers who implement those standards. In 1986 and 1996 the SDWA was amended, requiring many actions to protect drinking water and it sources, which include rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs and ground water wells. The SDWA does not regulate private wells serving fewer than 25 people.
There are over 170,000 public water systems serving the public's water needs in America. Overseeing the quality of drinking water by using sound scientific practices and managed risk assessment. This is no simple task and it requires the cooperative efforts of the EPA, states, tribes, water systems and the public all working together to protect our most treasured liquid asset. Despite the deligient efforts of the EPA to bring all public water systems into compliance with national standards, there have been some violations. In 1996, of the more than 55,000 community water systems in the Unites States, 4,769 or 8.6 percent reported a violation of one or more drinking water health standards.
How Safe is your local Drinking Water?
Water is the universal solvent. As a result, all water found in nature contains some dissolved minerals and other impurities. Trace amounts of these impurities pose no serious health risk to the general public. To ensure that these impurities do not exceed acceptable levels, the SDWA that all community water systems prepare an annual "Consumer Confidence Report" which details the levels of contaminants found in the drinking water. The report is to be sent to all customers by mail. The contents of this report must include: (1) information on the source of drinking water, (2) brief definitions of terms, (3) (if regulated contaminants are found) the MCLG (maximum contaminant level goal), MCL (maximum contaminant level), and the level found, (4) (if MCL is violated) information on health effects, and (5) information on levels of unregulated contaminants (if required by EPA regulations). [1414(c)] Sec. 114(a). The information provided in this report enables consumers to make an informed decision, using EPA guidelines, regarding the safety of their drinking water. Public disclosure is a valuable tool used by the EPA to help monitor compliance by public water systems.
To learn more about the quality of the drinking water in your area, request a Consumer Confidence Report from your local water provider. You can also find out who your local water provider is by visiting the EPA website or by calling your regional EPA office.