Who Enforces The Safe Drinking Water Act

When you turn on your tap and use the water, do you ever wonder if it is clean enough for you to drink? Did you ever wonder how your Public Water Supplier gets that Drinking Water to your tap? Who tests it and who oversees its standards?  Who Enforces The Safe Drinking Water Act?

Unless supplied by Private Well, your Community is responsible for supplying, clean drinking water. Its Standards are regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in 1974-86 & 1996 that gives each State the right to enforce their own drinking water standards based on EPA’s standards & methods.

Drinking water that is clean and safe plays a critical role in society’s success, health, and economy. Before drinking water was treated and researched,  long ago, diseases like cholera and typhoid fever killed large parts of our population. Clean Drinking Water is extremely important to our civilization.

 Where Does My Drinking Water Come From

Today, the US supplies the cleanest water in the world, leading the way with high standards that prevent those diseases that were prevalent in society to disappear. We take it for granted but we open our tap and there it is clean fresh drinking water. How does it get there?

Long before the water gets to your home, water starts out at its source. Some state sources’ of Drinking Water are Surface-water like Lakes Rivers or streams. Some cities or towns take their water from aquifers that are located deep in the earth.

Public water suppliers take this water, treat it, and send it off to the homes in the community. These source waters are also under the watchful eye of the EPA and are examined and tested continuously to prevent pollution long before it gets to the communities Public Water System

How Is Drinking Water Treated

The Water cycle contributes to the source of raw water which is untreated drinking water to the stream and aquifers of the river and supplies us continually with the resource.

Problems do develop when development on the landscape changes and add contaminants to the drinking water supply. This raw water needs to be treated by the Public water supplier before it’s consumed by the public. This happens in stages

  • The Raw Water is pumped at the source of water. This could be a reservoir stream or river wherever that source is nearby to the city or town.
  • Raw Water is treated by adding coagulants that will remove particles and sediments in the water. The coagulants are chemical that helps clump the particles together so they are easier to remove. These particles are called Floc.
  • There are two ways to add the coagulant to the water. One way is to mix it with air. If you do this the floc will stay on top of the water. The other way is to add it without air and the floc will sink to the bottom.
  • Either way, the result is the particle and sediment are separated from the water in the next stage called Clarification. Separating solids from liquids is a big part of treatment.
  • Clarification Tanks separate that floc that sinks to the bottom or float to the top by slowing the flow down and giving it some time to happen. The floc is removed from the system. Either scraped off the top or pumped off the bottom.
  • Filtration In Filtration the water is pulled through filter beds of sand gravel or activated carbon.
  • Disinfection is the last step to the process. It kills micro-organisms that are living in the water. Chlorine that has been used for over 100 years is still used for this process along with newer methods like Ozone that is super-charged oxygen bubbles that scrub the water eliminating and killing leftover viruses, bacteria, and germs that have made it through the process.  Raw Water is now Drinking Water.

  Clarifier Tanks In Water Treatment


Drinking Water Requirements

The United States Environmental Protection Agency EPA authorized under the Safe Drinking Water Act or SAWA regulates all Public Water Systems in the Country.

There are almost 155,000 water suppliers that are under the jurisdiction of the Agency. Almost 90% of all drinking water comes from Public Water Suppliers. The rest of the US Drinking water comes from wells, that are not watched or enforced because they are considered private supplies and not subject to regulation.

The Safe Drinking Water Act establishes parameters and limits on certain contaminant levels.

There are 80 potentially harmful micro-organisms, organic and inorganic chemicals, metals, and radionuclides.

The MCL’s or the Maximum Contaminant Levels are what the EPA regulates and enforces. The list is revised and change to add newly discovered contaminants and changes in the MCLs of the 80 already established ones.

Microorganisms that are sometimes found in Drinking Water are called Pathogens and come from animal or human waste.  They also can be found in recreational water.

Chemical contaminants sometimes found in Drinking Water include medals pesticides and fertilizers.

Radionuclides are contaminants that are released from laboratories and Nuclear Power Plants.

Water Quality Issues

The Community where you live and who supplies the Drinking Water is responsible to test your Drinking Water and report the results publicly to the State where you live. From there the results are added to a database where it is given to the EPA.

Under the SDWA authorizes the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) to set national health-based standards for drinking water to protect against both naturally-occurring and man-made contaminants that may be found in drinking water. The EPA, individual states, and water systems then work together to make sure that these standards are met. 

The Data Base records all information from the state and their communities and every 6 years compiles information gathered by the State for the National Review.

The Federal EPA do a complete review and assessment of each Drinking Water System and make the necessary changes in regulations. So, in the end, they are the sheriff in your town. The information from States,

EPA and Communities where you live changes constantly because of new discoveries with contaminants. New developments that are scientific in nature change every day.

Your community employs certified operators and Professional  Laboratories to ensure that the Drinking Water that’s coming from your faucet meets those requirements and more.

Having come from this line of work myself, I can honestly attest to the hard work and dedication of the people in charge of making sure the public has a safe clean product.

Is Bottled Water Safe To Drink

What people don’t seem to realize is that Bottle Water is not regulated and controlled by the EPA. The US Food and Drug Administration regulates what goes into your Bottle Water.

The FDA generally uses the same standards as the EPA but as would think cannot regulate the same as them.

Here is the problem even though the Bottle Water companies are supposed to be testing the same for microbial or chemical contaminants, they are not forced to report any of their findings to the public or to the Government. Even though the idea of drinking water from a bottle is healthier for you, there’s really no proof that it is.

The quality of the Bottle Water is reported as the source of the water and how it was treated but that is according to the manufacturer. 

It doesn’t mean that your favorite Bottle is not better than your tap water as some people are saying. It just means that Bottle Water may not be as safe as drinking water from your Municipal supplier. This is because of the above-board monitoring testing and regulations of the State and Federal Authorities.

Then again you can’t be 100% sure of anything these days and even though your Public Water Suppliers do a good job, there are always unseen dangers.

The problems with plastics that end up in landfills and oceans are going to be a nightmare for future generations. There are reports that it takes 100’s of years for a plastic bottle to degrade in a garbage dump.

Safe Drinking Water

There are opposite opinions that are negative towards the purity of Drinking Water in the world today. The belief is that the 35-year-old federal laws that were made to improve the standards of Drinking Water are outdated and don’t work anymore. Some Scientist believes that the water Americans drink cause cancer and other serious illnesses.

Only 91 contaminants are tested in the water today yet there are over 60,000 chemicals used in the United States according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Government and independent scientists have scrutinized these chemicals for years. They have identified hundreds of chemicals that could cause cancer and other diseases that are not regulated. Their recent studies have determined that chemicals that are being tested cause harm at lower levels that are being allowed by law.

Many of these Standards have not been updated since the 1980s. Some have not been changed since 1974. Not good.

As many as 62 million Americans have been exposed to various types of chemicals that are now deemed unsafe by the scientist creating the study. Even though operators of  Drinking Water providers on a local level tried to go above and beyond what is required it did not matter.

The officials that run these local Public Water Systems were met with resistance.

In California, A city official found that some chemicals in their water supply were only dangerous when exposed to sunlight. The city official covered the reservoir where their Drinking Water was stored with black balls that floated on top of the reservoir and blocked the sun.

People complained about the cosmetic look of the neighborhoods surrounding the man-made lake. Soon public pressure led to political pressure halting the practice even though it was working. People only understand what they see and not what they can’t. The community was worried that the plastic balls polluted the reservoir.

Thousands of chemicals have not been analyzed properly because of cases like this where some chemicals change when added with elements found in nature that are not involved with the original testing in the controlled setting of the laboratory. Like the Sun.

People today question everything and don’t necessarily believe everything that they are told like they used to especially by the government. New chemical compounds are discovered every day. There really isn’t ant fault to assign, it’s just more industrial products are being used every day and what was economically feasible yesterday for a study is not economically important today.

Is My Drinking Water Safe

  • Check your Water Bill. Every year your water supplier must by the law of EPA provide you with a Consumer Confidence Report that shows the water quality and test results of your Drinking Water. Every Water provider has to provide this to their customers by July 1st every year.
  • You can use a tool from EPA that you can click your State and County and get your provider and information on your Drinking Water source.
  • Link directly to EPA Source page to find out more information on the condition of your source of Drinking Water. The list of known and possible contaminants in you’re Drinking Water.

The Solution for Ensuring Clean Drinking Water? 

Water Filtration-Water Filtration will ensure that whatever water is coming out of your faucet or into your home is purified to the utmost condition that is possible with the newest technology available. 

Reverse Osmosis has the ability to remove almost every contaminant know today. Whether you use a whole house filter or a counter-top unit they provide a layer of protection that you won’t find from anywhere else. 

The proof is documented and questions about the mineral content being removed don’t equate to not using one. There are new exciting products that adjust Mineral and Alkaline content after removing things like Arsenic that is being recognized as more of a danger than once thought.

All these new Water Filtration and Purification units for the home are available the top of the list would be the Gravity Home Filter I use called  Berkey Gravity Water Filters with Fluoride filters or the Countertop

Dispensers recommended called AQUA Water Filtration Purification System with Exclusive 4 – Stage Ultra Reverse Osmosis Technology These 2 use Reverse Osmosis & are highly recommended by MyWaterEarth&Sky 

There is new research that water throughout the whole earth is more connected than we thought. Linked together deep underground. 

Even if Drinking Water providers test and analyze 1000 times a day, once the water leaves the treatment plant the system grid of pipes and pumps along with the pipes on your street right through you’re home can pollute your Drinking Water. The last point of discharge before you consume it is your faucet.

Take control. Take no chances and ensure the quality of the most important resource to human beings on the earth.  Water

AQUA Dispenser


The Hidden Dangers of Drinking Water by Dr. Susanne Bennett

Tap Water could be Unhealthy  by Charles Duhigg New York Times 

EPA website various pages 

Overview of the Safe Drinking Water Act

Related Questions:

Can you test your water at home? yes, you can buy a small test kit at a pool supply store that can give you a good indication or get it done by professionals at a lab if the lab is certified for the best results.

How Can You Get Your Water Tested For Free?  Often county health departments will help you test for bacteria or nitrates. If not, you can have your water tested by a state-certified laboratory. You can find one in your area by calling the Safe Drinking Water.

How Much Does It Cost To Get Your Water Tested?   Having a lab test well water samples can cost a nominal fee at government or university labs, or $50-$500 or more for private labs, depending on the lab and the number and type of compounds tested.



Jim has worked in Water/Wastewater/Tertiary/Advanced & Water Filtration as an Operating/Consultant for over 30 years and has written more than 300 articles on Worldwide Water Situations and Solutions. 

Jim Galloway

Editor/Author, MyWaterEarth&Sky

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