United States
                  Environments I Protection
Office of Water
&EPA       25 Years of
                                  Protecting QyfSp
                                      I Health
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""-.---               !      |   '-'^OfV:^, '-• '  l -  i   „ —
'I think a fundamental promise i|p''^^jV^Ke

       to our people is thai the^io^^lii^yea
•-•-:"-..          *     -      -  . •:;'ffc^y^;Hvf.i=;'':-:*:'-:"';:''-:
    and the water they drink -afe^safei1^'^".'"
          President Bill Clinton at the signing of the\   ;
           Safe Drinking Water ActlAmendments-of 1996

                         THE SAFE DRINKING WATER ACT: 25 YEARS OF
"Safe, dean water is the first line of
 defense in protecting public health,
 protecting our children and our
 families, and protecting the basic
 values that are fundamental to the
 American  quality of life."
       very day, we turn our faucets to get clean, safe water. We use this water to
       brush our teeth, to cook our food, and, most importantly, to drink.
       Enjoying some of the safest drinking water in the world, most of us take
                     the quality of our water for granted. But behind every
                     drop is a strong network of consumers, scientists, regu-
                     lators, water plant operators, engineers, and public ad-
                     vocacy groups, all working together to ensure the safest
                     possible drinking water. Guiding their efforts is the Safe
                     Drinking Water Act.
    Vice President Al Gore
                      Signed on December 16,1974, the Safe Drinking Water
                      Act created the first-ever mandatory national program
                      to protect public health through drinking water safety.
Twenty-five years later, the Act has matured  into a comprehensive, integrated,
and flexible law that is the Safe Drinking Water Act of today — and tomorrow.
                         THE SAFE DRINKING WATER ACT:

                                 Over die last-25 years, the Safe Drinking Water Act has protected public
                                 health by ensuring the delivery of safe water to millions of Americans
                                 every day. Safe drinking water is critical to our health, especially children,
                         the elderly, and others who may be more susceptible to the impacts of drinking
                                              water contamination. We demand the safest drinking
                                              water possible. As new challenges to drinking water
                                              safety emerge, we must respond.

                                              In this 25-year journey of providing safe drinking water,
                                              strong partnerships have been the key to success.
                                              Providing safe, high-quality  drinking water is not an
                                              easy task, nor is it a job that any single government
                                              agency or professional organization can do alone. Public
                                              and private partners across the nation work together to
                                              identify and implement creative ways to improve the
                                              safety of our Nation's drinking water.

                                              Building on 25 years of experience, we have successfully
                                              transformed the Safe Drinking Water Act and the
                         national drinking water program into a comprehensive environmental and public
                         health protection effort — an effort that protects our health from source to tap.

Setting Standards to Protect Public Health

Public health is the primary goal of the Safe Drinking Water Act, achieved by
ensuring that public water supplies meet strong, enforceable national standards.
The number and pace of contaminant regulation was
increased in 1986, including landmark disinfection and
filtration requirements for drinking water.
Signed by President Clinton, the 1996 Amendments
to the Safe Drinking Water Act created a completely
new approach to regulating contaminants in drinking
water. Rather than setting standards for a  set list or
number of contaminants, the Environmental Protection
Agency takes a common-sense, cost-effective approach
to research and standard setting, focusing on contami-
nants that pose  the greatest risks to human  health. In
addition, the 1996 Amendments provide important new protections for consum-
ers that may be at greater risk of experiencing adverse health effects from drinking
water contaminants, including children and the elderly.
                    water standards for  '
                i, other disease-causing
         \, ~an^'p^tentTa1ly^arml^byp7p3udts
        water treatment process 'were the first
     'se new standards will prevent up to
        ) cases pfwaterborne Illness_ a year and
^"rg(|yce exposure to disinfection byproducts by
Protecting Our Sources of Drinking Water

It is easy to forget that our drinking water does not just come from a tap, but from
rivers, lakes, and underground aquifers. Most of our drinking water is treated
before it is drawn from our taps and poured into our glasses to remove unsafe
levels of chemicals and disease-causing microbes. This treatment can be expensive,
and these costs are often passed on to the consumer. A
more comprehensive, common-sense, and cost-effective
solution to controlling contaminants in drinking water
is to prevent them from reaching our drinking water
sources in the first place.

Over the years, the Safe Drinking Water Act has estab-
lished several programs to help protect our water. The
1974 Safe Drinking Water Act protected underground
sources of drinking water by regulating underground
wells used for disposal, oil and gas production, and
mining. The original Act also allowed communities, individuals, and organiza-
tions to petition for the protection of aquifers that are the only source of drinking
water for their local community. The 1986 Amendments to the Safe Drinking
Water Act allowed for states and localities to develop and implement programs to
protect their water supply wells.

Most recendy, the 1996 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act have sparked
new efforts to assess and protect rivers, lakes, and streams. For the first-time,
states are required to conduct comprehensive source water assessments for all
public water systems. Each .assessment will define source waters to be protected,
                        identify sources of contamination, and provide offi-
                        cials and consumers the information they need to pro-
                        tect their water. The 1996 Amendments also provide
                        new sources of funding for these efforts, including loans
                        for land acquisition and conservation easements.

                        Ensuring Our Drinking Water

                        To continue to ensure safe drinking water for 250
                        million Americans, and to expand service to those still
in need of access to safe drinking water, communities need to make significant
investments  in drinking water system installation, upgrades, and replacement.
                       According to EPAs 1997 Drinking Water Needs Survey,
                       drinking water systems need to invest a minimum of
                       $138.4 billion over a 20-year  period to continue pro-
                       viding safe drinking water to their customers. If public
                       water systems cannot obtain affordable financing, these
                       infrastructure needs may well go unmet.

                       A loan fund was established under the 1996 Amend-
                       ments for just this purpose — to help fulfill communi-
                       ties' drinking water infrastructure financing needs. This
                       Clinton/Gore Administration program — known as the
                       Drinking Water State Revolving Fund — provides siz-
                       able capitalization grants to the states to set up state
                       revolving loan funds. In turn, these loan funds provide
                       affordable financial assistance to communities in the
                       form of low- and no-interest loans for drinking water
                       projects that help them meet the national safe drinking
                       water standards.
Improving the Public's Access to Information

Americans have the right to know what is in their drinking water and that it is
safe. Providing people •with access to information allows them to make informed
decisions about their health and the health of their families. It also helps to en-
gage the public and make them active participants in drinking water protection

and safety efforts. Today, more than ever before, the public is demanding to have
information about the safety of drinking water before turning on the tap.

Since 1974, the Safe Drinking Water Act
has provided the public with critical
drinking water information. Tradition-
ally,  information about drinking water
was only sent to customers during special
alerts, when drinking water contamina-
tion exceeded legal limits. Based on
Clinton/Gore Administration proposals,
the 1996 Amendments to  the Act are
making more information available to the
public  than ever before. Through
annual water quality reports, Americans
now have access to information  about
local water quality, contaminants, water
sources, and whether their  water poses
a risk to human health. Sent direcdy to
consumers' homes  in their water
utility  bills  in  most  cases,  these
"consumer  confidence reports" are an
important public information tool,
educating the public so that they can
actively participate in decisions  about
their drinking water.
        he Safe Drinking "Water Act
        means safer drinking water for
        millions of Americans. Now,
more than ever before, people can take
comfort in the quality of their drinking
water and the fact that their health and the healdi of dieir families is being protected.
Under  the Safe Drinking Water Act, EPA has set standards for 90 contaminants
and established monitoring, reporting, public notification, and source water
assessment requirements for thousands of public water systems. Despite increas-
ing requirements, more drinking water systems are meeting all health-based
                DRINKING WATER FIRSTS:
        .The 1996 Amendments established a
           more comprehensive approach to
                public health protection.
 ~_For the first time        "          ~  **"  —•-—--—	-••	—
  •  A federal-state partnership provides low and no interest loans to
    water systems to upgradeth&r faalit'iesjind ensure compliance -
ff  with drinking water standards Thesejfate revolving loan funds. .
    a/so provide funding for source water'protection.  7      '    _
  •  Fifty-five thousand water systems must provide customers:.annual
  ~  reports about the source of their water"supply, contaminant
    levels detected ,n their water, and the hgffffh^effects of contaml- '
    nants detected above the established safety limit
  •  States will be examining all drinking water sources to identify
    contaminant threats and. determine susceptibility to contamina-
    tion, allowing water suppliers, local governments, and citizens
    to design source water protection measures.
    :Cost-effective, risk-based standards.combined with increased.
  '" re"searc,r± are^resultmg'm drinking water.regulaf Jons focused on
   •^the greatest threats to human health,,.,,.,,. '„	'.  .",,	 .'. .'. '.

                   standards than ever before. As of 1998, 89 percent of the population was being
                   served by community water systems reporting no health standard violations —
                   over a 17 million person increase since 1993.

                   Even more importantly, we have created a successful and effective safe drinking
                   water network — a proven partnership among federal, state, and local govern-
                   ments; drinking water utilities, system operators, and engineers; scientists and
                                         health care providers; community groups; and the public.
                                         The  professionalism  of water system operators has sig-
                                         nificantly increased,  meeting the challenges and com-
                                         plexities of new contamination threats. And with the
                                         increased availability of information, the public has be-
                                         come a more informed and  active partner in drinking
                                         water issues.
  Percentage of People Served by
Systems Reporting No Violations of
       Health-Based Standards
                      ACTIONS  FOR  THE FUTURE: SAFE
                      DRINKING WATER  IN  THE 21ST

                            * oday, thanks to  the tremendous progress that we
                            have made under the Safe Drinking Water Act,
                            the overwhelming majority of Americans can be
                      confident about the water they drink. As new challenges
                      emerge — including a growing population and increased
development, aging infrastructure, and the discovery of new sources of contami-
nation — we must be ever more vigilant in maintaining and improving the safety
of~our Nations drinking water.

The 1996 Safe Drinking "Water Act amendments addressed  some of the most
glaring public health threats; added important  new tools and capabilities; nar-
rowed the gap on critical funding needs at the local, state,  and federal levels;
recognized and addressed some of the most pressing problems of small systems;
and expanded public information and involvement opportunities. There is still
more to be done.

While technology improves, knowledge increases, and tools and resources con-
tinue to expand,  new threats to public health still continue to arise. Increasing
development, if not properly managed, may threaten sources  of drinking water.
An expanding and  aging population will require added protections to address
special health concerns. The  need for high-quality research on health effects and
treatment technologies persists. Accurate drinking water  information should be
more readily available to the  public.

As we enter the new century, we must continue to identify and respond to hazards
that threaten our water supply and our health through:

•  New Public Health Protections: We must continue to develop common-sense,
   cost-effective drinking water standards and revise regulations to ensure that
   the public's health is protected in  all circumstances.

•  Better Treatment and Delivery Systems: "We must address infrastruc-
   ture needs, including costs of replacement, and ensure that water sys-
   tems have the capacity to meet the challenges of public health protec-
   tion in the 21st century.                                      ;

•  Enhanced Public Access to Information: Building on the required water
   quality and the capabilities of the Internet, we must increase public
   access to accurate, real-time drinking water quality and compliance

•  Improved Source Water Protection: We must better integrate local eco-
   nomic development and land use with  environmental "and drinking
   water protection efforts. Urban sprawl and population growth are put-
   ting increased demands on drinking water supplies in terms of both
   quantity and contamination threats.
•  Increased Research: We must engage in a public-private partnership on
   research that will answer the most pressing public health issues and
   prepare for emerging contaminant threats; develop better, cheaper, and
   faster analytical methods to improve our ability to identify health threats;
   and create more effective and flexible water treatment methods.

The American people set the bar of expectations very high that their drink-
ing water should be among the cleanest and safest in the world. The part-
nerships that have worked so well to bring us safe drinking water this past
quarter century give us reason for great optimism that we can continue to
meet and even exceed these expectations in the next century.
"Clean drinking water
 is a cornerstone of
 public health. Our job
 today and tomorrow
 is to make certain
 every American
 community has safe,
 clean water to drink
 at all times.".
 _— EPA Administrator
   Carol M. Browner

  For more information on the
  Safe Drinking Water Act and
 its implementation, please call
   EPA's Safe Drinking Water
  Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.
You can also visit the EPA Office
 of Ground Water and Drinking
 Water web site at wvnv.epa.gov/
 safewater. For information on
   your local drinking water,
 call your local water system or
  visit www.epa.gov/safewater/
CtowftoS): IMtd States EwltoanmtalPtUealm Agency