Published: October 17, 2018

    What Is the Safe Water Drinking Act and Is It Enough to Protect Me?

    Many families assume that the water from their faucet is completely safe to drink unless there’s something noticeably wrong with it, whether it’s a reddish-brown color or smells like fish. In 1974 the Safe Water Drinking Act was enacted, creating a uniform set of water quality standards that all local water municipalities in the country are required to follow. How does this law work? And does it actually ensure the water in your home is free from contaminants?

    If you’ve been reading the news or even reading our blog you’re likely familiar with the ongoing lead contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan. The Safe Water Drinking Act (SWDA) still applies to Flint and the water systems there, but toxic levels of lead were distributed to citizens’ homes for over a year before the public was alerted.

    This incident reveals the limitations of the law: even with federal standards in place local municipalities must cooperate and act in good faith to accurately report contaminant levels and keep their water supplies properly treated.

    What Is the Safe Water Drinking Act?

    Passed by Congress in 1976, the SWDA allowed for regulation of the public water supply so every citizen would theoretically be drinking water with the same limitations of certain contaminants. When the law was first introduced 22 contaminants were monitored. The law has been revised twice (in 1986 and 1996) and now includes maximum levels for 91 toxins.

    According to the EPA the SWDA applies to every public water system in the United States, which currently number more than 170,000. The only water systems that are exempt from the SWDA are private wells that service less than 25 individuals. The EPA indicates that the most direct oversight of water systems occurs at the state level, and that state drinking water programs can apply for “primacy,” or the authority to implement the standards of the SWDA in their jurisdictions.

    What Are the Limitations?

    91 contaminants may seem exhaustive, but in reality manufacturing, agriculture, and chemical processes have introduced hundreds of contaminants into local water supplies. Many of the alarming contaminants like pharmaceuticals and pesticides we cover on our blog are not included within the SWDA.

    The onus for reporting high contamination levels falls on the local water municipality. The federal EPA cannot adequately monitor the water quality throughout the country, so if the local authorities responsible for maintaining your water’s cleanliness ever lapse in their duties (or if a contaminant is introduced through manufacturing or other activities that the municipality doesn’t detect) your water can be contaminated with several toxins or nuisance chemicals.

    The SWDA only regulates the quality of the water leaving the local treatment plant. Often contaminants leech into your drinking water in transit to your faucet, either through the pipes or through the fixtures in your own home.

    What Should I Do?

    Don’t wait until the SWDA fails to protect you from any number of harmful contaminants. Exercise caution by outfitting your home with a water filtration system designed to efficiently filter and treat the water in your house to make it cleaner, purer, and safer to drink. Remove impurities, reduce chlorine levels, and enjoy a crisper glass of water by choosing the Pelican Water filtration system that’s right for you.