Drinking Water

Drinking Water The United States has one of the safest public drinking water supplies in the world. Over 286 million Americans get their tap water from a community water system. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates drinking water quality in public water systems and sets maximum concentration levels for water chemicals and pollutants. Sources of drinking water are subject to contamination and require appropriate treatment to remove disease-causing contaminants. Contamination of drinking water supplies can occur in the source water as well as in the distribution system after water treatment has already occurred. There are many sources of water contamination, including naturally occurring chemicals and minerals (for example, arsenic, radon, uranium), local land use practices (fertilizers, pesticides, concentrated feeding operations), manufacturing processes, and sewer overflows or wastewater releases. The presence of contaminants in water can lead to adverse health effects, including gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders.51 Young children are at particular risk for exposure to contaminants in drinking water because, pound for pound, they drink more water than adults (including water used to prepare formula), and because their immature body systems are less efficient at detoxification. Exposure to lead in drinking water is a serious health concern, especially for young children and infants since elevated lead levels in children may result in delays in physical or mental development, lower IQ, and even brain damage.


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Under the federal regulations of the Safe Drinking Water Act, all water suppliers must notify consumers quickly when there is a serious problem with water quality. Water systems serving the same people year-round must provide annual consumer confidence reports on the source and quality of their tap water. National drinking water standards are legally enforceable, which means that both U.S. EPA and states can take enforcement actions against water systems not meeting safety standards.