EPA Seeking Input from the Public on Drinking Water Strategy

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched an online discussion forum to gather public input on how the agency can improve drinking water protection. The information will be used in implementing EPA’s new drinking water strategy, announced by Administrator Lisa P. Jackson in March of this year.

EPA officials are seeking input from water professionals, advocates and anyone interested in drinking water quality on best solutions for issues facing our nation’s drinking water, including planning, developing scientific tools, controlling water pollution and resource use.

The discussion forum features a series of topics based on the four segments of the drinking water strategy:

  • Addressing contaminants as groups rather than one at a time,
  • Fostering development of new technologies,
  • Using the existing authority of several statues to protect drinking water and
  • Partnering with states to share more complete data.

The EPA is exploring these topics for the following reasons:

  • Provide more robust public health protection in an open and transparent manner,
  • Assist small communities to identify cost and energy efficient treatment technologies and
  • Build consumer confidence by providing more efficient sustainable treatment technologies to deliver safe water at a reasonable cost.

For more information on the new Drinking Water Strategy, visit the EPA site herehere and to join the discussion, visit the EPA blog here.
The key to a successful forum will be the ability to connect to all stakeholders throughout the human-natural coupled water cycle that now exists from the watershed, to use, to return flows and reuse. There has been a long history of discussion regarding disconnect between the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. In particular, emerging contaminants and the sources of waterborne disease are associated with sewage and animal wastes, yet innovative monitoring tools and strategies as well as new technologies to upgrade routine wastewater treatment have not been fully addressed. Chlorination has been the cornerstone of drinking water safety and studies on various types of pathogens have been undertaken to address concentrations of disinfectants and the contact time needed to kill these microorganisms to achieve risk reduction goals. But more research is needed on the study of parasites and viruses as well as other pathogens during routine wastewater treatment including the assessment of disinfection, thus providing more robust public health protection at the watershed level in the future as investments are made in upgrading our infrastructure.

(Joan Rose, PhD, is the Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research at Michigan State University and a member of the Water Quality & Health Council.)