An Overview of the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974

Water is the cement of the building blocks of life.  The functions water serves in the development and maintenance of our bodies is indispensible. Here is a short list of these functions protecting fetuses in the womb during pregnancy; lubricating air passageways, maintaining body temperature, and cushioning joints. Even digesting food is impossible without a regular supply of water.  Therefore it is imperative that the water we drink is kept as clean as possible. The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 ensures that this is done at a federal level.

In the 1970’s, with the advancement of water testing technology naturally occurring contaminants in drinking water became noticed for the first time. Even though individual States had laws regulating water cleanliness, the Federal government felt this was inadequate and wanted a national standard. In 1974, The Safe Drinking Water Act became the first law in which a federal standard was set for water quality. The enforcement of this Act is handled by the Environmental Protection Agency also know as the EPA. The Act only applies to public water systems, a private well or bottled water is not covered by this Act because both are owned by private citizens and/or companies, not the Federal Government.

The mandate given to the EPA by The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 is to regulate water contaminants both naturally occurring and unnaturally occurring. An example of a naturally occurring contaminant is bacteria. Many forms of bacteria in drinking water causes illness, like the bacteria Vibrio Choerae which causes the illness cholera. An example of an unnaturally occurring water contaminant is Ammonia. Ammonia from wastes in food processing gets into the water table and from there can get into your drinking water.  The EPA prevents these contaminants from ending up in your drinking water through mandating proper water filtration at water cleaning plants.  

Coupled with the duty of regulating contaminants is the regulation of the types of metals allowed to be used in plumbing. The emphasis of this regulation is to make sure dangerous amounts of lead and copper are not being used in the making of pipes. So as to prevent lead poisoning this eventually results in delirium, hallucinations, and brain damage in small children.  As well as to prevent copper poisoning which results in vomiting blood, yellow pigmented skin, and gastrointestinal hemorrhaging.    

Several Amendments to the Act have taken place since 1974, regulating water on aircraft, restricting more dangerous compounds, and even implementing a cost benefit analysis system for water regulation. This final regulation was to ensure there was no financial waste in the water cleanliness regulations. Thanks to the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974, we can all be assured of the safety of our drinking water.