Safe Drinking Water Act: Environmental Protection Agency
The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was originally passed by Congress in 1974 to protect public health by regulating the nation’s public drinking water supply. The law was amended in 1986 and 1996 and requires many actions to protect drinking water and its sources—rivers, lakes, reservoirs, spring, and ground water wells. (SDWA does not regulate private wells which serve fewer than 25 individuals.). The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets standards and regulations for many different contaminants in public drinking water, including disease-causing germs and chemicals. Under the SDWA, EPA sets the standards for drinking water quality and monitors states, local authorities, and water suppliers who enforce those standards. As part of the SDWA, EPA has set maximum contaminant levels, as well as treatment requirements for over 90 different contaminants in public drinking water.
NATIONAL PRIMARY DRINKING WATER REGULATIONS
National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWR) is standards and treatment techniques that public water systems must follow. These regulations protect public health by limiting contaminant levels in drinking water.
NATIONAL SECONDARY DRINKING WATER REGULATIONS
National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations (NSDWR) are guidelines to help public water systems manage their drinking water for issues not related to health, such as taste, colour, and smell. Water systems are not required to follow these water quality standards for the contaminants listed. Although these contaminants may not be harmful to public health, if they are in water at levels above the standards, they can cause the water to look cloudy or colour, or to taste or smell bad.
The SDWA includes a process that EPA must follow to name unregulated contaminants that may require regulation in the future. EPA must publish this list of contaminants—called the “Contaminant Candidate List,” or CCL—every five years and decide whether to regulate at least five or more of the contaminants on the list (called “Regulatory Determinations”).
Drinking Water Regulations
EPA sets legal limits on over 90 contaminants in drinking water. The legal limit for a contaminant reflects the level that protects human health and those water systems can achieve using the best available technology. EPA rules also set water-testing schedules and methods that water systems must follow. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) gives individual states the opportunity to set and enforce their own drinking water standards if the standards are at a minimum as stringent as EPA's national standards.