The Safe Drinking Water Act

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What government does to protect your drinking water? Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in 1974 to protect public health by regulating the nation’s public drinking water supply and protecting sources of drinking water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its state partners administer SDWA. The law was amended in 1986 and 1996 and requires many actions to protect drinking water and its sources: rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs, and ground water wells.

Quote Left Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in 1974 to protect public health... Quote Right

Originally, SDWA focused primarily on treatment as the means of providing safe drinking water at the tap. The 1996 amendments greatly enhanced the existing law by recognizing source water protection, operator training, funding for water system improvements, and public information as important components of safe drinking water. This approach ensures the quality of drinking water by protecting it from source to tap.

Highlights of the Safe Drinking Water Act:

  • Authorizes EPA to set enforceable health standards for contaminants in drinking water
  • Requires public notification of water systems violations and annual consumer confidence reports to customers on contaminants found in their drinking water
  • Establishes a federal-state partnership for regulation enforcement
  • Includes provisions specifically designed to protect underground sources of drinking water
  • Requires disinfection of surface water supplies,except those with pristine, protected sources
  • Establishes a multi-billion-dollar state revolving loan fund for water system upgrades
  • Requires an assessment of the vulnerability of all drinking water sources to contamination

SDWA applies to every public water system in the United States. There are currently more than 160,000 public water systems providing water to almost all Americans at some time in their lives. Over the years, many other laws have changed parts of the Clean Water Act. To learn more and the recent amendments about the SDWA, search the Thomas website of the Library of Congress or Environment Protection Agency website.

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