By Dave Sorem, P.E. ECA Government Affairs Chairman email: [email protected]

In government affairs, you learn to take your allies where you can find them, so this month we want to commend the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), for a new report that highlights the urgent need for improvements in our national water infrastructure.

An NRDC study Threats on Tap: Widespread Violations Highlight Need for Investment in Water Infrastructure and Protections, released May 2nd, found that contaminants are in tap water in every state in the nation.

More startling, the NRDC report says that one-in-four Americans, 77 million people in the United States, received drinking water from systems in violation of the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in the year 2015.

The study was authored by one scientist and three lawyers (makes sense—NRDC is a massive law firm with nearly 300 attorneys on board) and makes a convincing case that both real enforcement of the SDWA coupled with investments in water infrastructure are needed to resolve this problem.

NRDC has documented serious problems with our outdated and deteriorating water infrastructure, widespread violations and inadequate enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act for more than 25 years.

The report points the finger at community water systems noting that more than 18,000 of these systems had with violations in 2015. These violations included exceeding health-based standards, failing to test water for contaminants and failing to report contamination to state authorities or the public.

What’s worse, 2015 saw more than 12,000 health-based violations in some 5,000 community water systems serving more than 27 million people, according to the report. Actual enforcement action in these cases varied by locale but ranged from of lows in the eight percent range to highs nearing 30 percent—another shocking finding. The environmental organization lists six recommendations in the report:

  • Fix, upgrade, and maintain our drinking water distribution systems and modernize drinking water treatment.
  • Invest in repairing our national water infrastructure, prioritizing disproportionately affected communities and supplying much-needed jobs.
  • Strengthen existing drinking water regulations and establish new ones.
  • Implement a more robust contaminant detection system.
  • Strengthen all drinking water enforcement.
  • Give citizens the power to meaningfully and swiftly respond to the endangerment of their health.

While we have disagreed with NRDC on issues in the past and probably will in the future, in this case, they’ve got it right. If you want to push on this issue, download and read the report or better yet, forward it to your elected representatives: www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/threats-on-tap-water-infrastructure-protections-report.pdf