Drinking Water Safety

July 15, 2016 • Volume 26, Issue 25
Can the nation's aging water infrastructure be fixed?
By Jill U. Adams


Demonstrators march for clean water (Getty Images/Bill Pugliano)
Demonstrators march for clean water in Flint, Mich., on Feb. 19, 2016. After learning the city's water contained dangerous lead levels, local officials waited seven months to tell the public. Lead-contaminated water has been found in thousands of communities throughout the country. (Getty Images/Bill Pugliano)

While water-quality experts deem most of the nation's drinking water safe, the recent crisis over lead-tainted water in Flint, Mich., dramatized the problems that plague communities nationwide: Lead and other toxic substances continue to pose a threat, and government agencies responsible for monitoring water safety sometimes fail to protect the public. Investigations conducted since the Flint crisis came to light last year have found that thousands of water systems nationwide have failed to meet federal safety standards for lead and other harmful substances. Moreover, environmentalists warn that tens of thousands of industrial pollutants and pharmaceutical compounds slip through water-treatment systems without being tested or regulated. The Environmental Protection Agency sets water-safety standards, but the sourcing, treatment and distribution of water is left to local utilities, some dealing with polluted water sources, old pipes or shrinking budgets. Cost estimates to fix the aging U.S. water infrastructure include $30 billion to replace lead pipes and $1 trillion to upgrade water mains.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Water Pollution
Jul. 15, 2016  Drinking Water Safety
Oct. 17, 2014  Protecting the Oceans
Jun. 18, 2010  Water Shortages
Aug. 01, 2003  Water Shortages
Nov. 24, 2000  Water Quality
Dec. 15, 1995  Global Water Shortages
Feb. 11, 1994  Water Quality
Apr. 19, 1991  California: Enough Water for the Future?
Jan. 30, 1987  Western Water
Jul. 12, 1985  Preventing Groundwater Contamination
Jan. 14, 1977  Western Water: Coming Crisis
Feb. 15, 1974  Drinking Water Safety
Aug. 11, 1965  Water Resources and National Water Needs
Dec. 08, 1960  Pollution of Water Supplies
Oct. 02, 1959  Water Needs and Resources
Jul. 01, 1955  Water for the Future
Jul. 24, 1953  Water Pollution
Feb. 15, 1950  Water Supply
Oct. 03, 1947  Unclean Waters
Sep. 17, 1935  Stream Pollution and the Disposal of Waste
Commercial Law
Consumer Behavior
Consumer Protection and Product Liability
Criminal Law Procedure and Due Process
Domestic Issues
Water Pollution
Water Resources