Improving Drinking Water Quality by Ensuring Water Quantity

Americans consume over 29 billion gallons of drinking water per day.  That’s a lot of water. And 80% of all water used in the US comes from surface water sources – mostly our rivers. As our communities grow and as we face the effects of climate change, our drinking water supplies and rivers are becoming more and more stressed. EPA is responsible for administering the Safe Drinking Water Act and in that capacity is seeking public comment on their new Drinking Water Strategy.  The strategy is primarily focused on addressing contaminants like pharmaceuticals in drinking water.  That is a critical issue and needs attention – but there are a host of other issues that should also be taken into consideration with regard to drinking water. 

I was responsible for pulling together American Rivers’ comments on the EPA drinking water strategy. You can read the full version here.  Here are the highlights:

  • Water quantity is critical to any drinking water strategy especially as it relates to contaminants. Reduced flows in rivers, whether caused by drought, dam operations or harmful development, have the effect of concentrating pollutants and presenting increased risks to wildlife, recreation, drinking water, and industrial and agricultural water use. Flow is fundamental to achieving the goals of the Clean Water Act to protect and restore the chemical, physical and biological integrity of our nation’s waters. American Rivers encourages EPA to examine and, where needed, implement new water quantity requirements or criteria as part of EPA’s drinking water strategy.
  • Climate change will have a significant impact on the sustainability of drinking water supplies in the coming decades. In order to ensure sufficient clean drinking water supplies in the context of climate change, utilities must adapt their operations to take into account the impacts of a changing climate. EPA should support climate change planning, education and adaptation at the utility level and incorporate climate change considerations into standard setting, permitting and modeling efforts in order to protect clean and safe drinking water supplies in the face of climate change. 
  • EPA should use source water protection as a robust strategy to protect clean and reliable drinking water supplies while also providing additional benefits to communities, rivers and wildlife. The Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Funds provide important funding streams for source water protection projects, and we ask that the EPA prioritizes source water protection in its guidelines and criteria for the use of these funds.

If you would like more information or to submit comments of your own, you can do so on the EPA blog.