Drinking water can be defined as the water that comes out of the tap or bottled water. People depend on clean drinking water every day for various purposes like washing hands, drinking, cooking, taking a bath, etc. In the earlier times, the US had one of the safest water supplies in the world. More than 90% of Americans get their water from municipal water resources that meet the requirements of clean drinking water (Drinking Water Week, 2021).
Based on the state and management of the source water from which the water is drawn, the drinking water content varies from one location to another. Still, it mostly complies with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. Community water services comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Many states implement their levels of clean water, which are as safe as the national standards of EPA. The SDWA regulations include drinking water safety standards, monitoring plans for water, and procedures for water monitoring.
As the growth of the urban world rises, the drinking water is being contaminated by an increasing array of events. Improper deposition of chemical, animal and human waste, underground wastes, and natural materials can lead to contamination of drinking water. Besides that, drinking water can be contaminated if not cleaned, disinfected correctly, or managed by a poor delivery system, increasing the health risks.
Over the years, even though US water was considered very safe, water contamination has occurred, reducing water quality and creating health issues. The most common sources of water contamination can be:
- Waste (sewage) discharge
- Chemicals and minerals like arsenic, radon, uranium occur naturally
- Usage of local lands like pesticides, fertilizers, livestock, and concentrated feeding operations.
- The process of manufacturing (heavy metals, cyanides)
- Malfunctioning of wastewater devices like septic systems on-site.
- Improper treatment of water
- Water traveling improperly through distribution pipes
(Importance of Water Quality and Testing | Public Water Systems | Drinking Water | Healthy Water | CDC, n.d.)
HOW DRINKING WATER OF AMERICA IS NOT SO SAFE
In accordance with international law and UN declarations, clean water is a birthright and vital for life. However, it’s far from guaranteed from the United States of America. According to the Environmental Protection Agency reports, more than 30 million Americans were living in areas where water sources broke safety standards at the beginning of 2019. Others cannot afford to maintain water hygiene (Worland, 2020).
About 8 million to 45 million Americans in any particular year from 1982 to 2015 received drinking water from a source which, as a recent study shows, was in contravention of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Drinking water issues arise every year in America and some municipalities. Water toxins may cause stomach flu or more chronic diseases, which include and neurological disorders (Millions of Americans Drink Potentially Unsafe Tap Water. How Does, 2018).
ROOT CAUSES OF WATER ISSUES OF AMERICA
- CONTAMINATED WATER
The root cause of water issues in America is the contaminated water through pipes. Besides that, the EPA research reported that there are around 200 unregulated chemicals in more than 45 states of America. Rocket fuel parts, synthetic solvents, and weed killers were also found as additional pollutants, leading to water contamination.
Agricultural waste, heavy materials, and toxic products may be carried into the local water by runoffs. Leaking sewers tint the water in urban areas meantime. Outdated materialism, including old tans, lead-heavy metals into the water, which increases water contamination. Besides that, in low-income neighborhoods, old lead pipes are more likely to be discovered. These obsolete pipes and devices can expose children to lead-contaminated water in aging public buildings. Unfortunately, half of the states of America lack lead monitoring programs. According to a survey conducted in Washington, DC, alone, 44% of schools find a high level of lead in at least one water sample.
- MILITARY-LINKED WATER POLLUTION
The military is also one of the main reasons for national water quality problems of America besides coal mines, heavy industry, farming, and aging infrastructure.
In a pollution analysis, researchers found severe water contamination at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in one base. In contrast, on another base, the issue actually increased to the extent where the base was a cancer group. Over a period of five years, leukemia was detected in 16 children in the small town well above the national average. The military did
not make any efforts to clean up waste, despite this apparent problem (Johansson, 2019).
- CLEANING OF WATER
Industrial dumping, deterioration of water plants and distribution pipes, pollution caused due to farming has taken a toll on the local water systems of America (Chow, 2021). Due to these concerns, it took more than two years to clean the water and fix the issues while some of them recently solving decades-old violations of EPA guidelines and others, according to the information from the agency’s Safe Drinking Water Information System, stop supplying tainted water. Many municipal water treatment plants, especially in rural disadvantaged and minority areas, cannot afford the required equipment to filter out pollutants and chemicals. For this, arsenic naturally occurring in rocks, chemicals from factories and nitrates and fecal matter from farming can be used during such situations (Philip, 2017).
- DURING WATER TREATMENTS
While treating water, some communities start with a lousy hand due to polluted water sources- particularly in states like Oklahoma and Texas, which provide a significant breeding ground for bacterias with high summer temperatures. It is therefore essential to avoid water pollutants entering the water supply in the first place (Millions of Americans Drink Potentially Unsafe Tap Water. How Does, 2018).
- SMALL SYSTEMS, BIG PROBLEMS
Less than 5,000 residents use most municipal water supplies, which account for 97,800 cases, where authorities have referred to a water system containing too many pollutants and contaminants over the last decade.
Wilfork and Brady, for instance, are two small communities in western and central Texas that have received more water citations on the quality (Philip, 2017).
There is no denying that the water issues in America are severe and cannot be ignored. Thus, it is essential to address these issues. One of the several reasons for the current water crisis in America is because environmental regulations provide insufficient protection. It is important to start putting efforts on prevention and clean up especially by the communities (generally small belonging to remote areas) who tend to suffer the most. America is also witnessing water-borne diseases, including medieval-seeming diseases like cholera and dysentery, which are very dangerous for people, especially the young ones. Unless and until current pollutants are removed from water sources and further prevented, Americans will face an epidemic of the size in developed countries.
Since clean water plays a key role in the healthy living of the people of a nation, it is significant for both the government and citizens to clean up their act and maintain proper water management and sanitization.
Chow, L. (2021, February 12). Safe drinking water in America: Not everyone has it. Downtoearth. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/water/safe-drinking-water-in-america-not-everyone-has-it-75518
Drinking Water Week. (2021, March 30). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/drinking-water-week.html
Importance of Water Quality and Testing | Public Water Systems | Drinking Water | Healthy Water | CDC. (n.d.). Cdc. https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/public/water_quality.html#:%7E:text=The%20United%20States%20has%20one,to%20safe%20drinking%20water%20standards.
Johansson, A. (2019, September 9). Why Is U.S. Drinking Water Dirty? Earth911. https://earth911.com/business-policy/dirty-drinking-water-us/
Millions of Americans drink potentially unsafe tap water. How does. (2018, February 12). Science | AAAS. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/02/millions-americans-drink-potentially-unsafe-tap-water-how-does-your-county-stack
Philip, A. E. S. (2017, August 16). 63 million Americans exposed to unsafe drinking water. USA TODAY. https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/08/14/63-million-americans-exposed-unsafe-drinking-water/564278001/
Worland, J. (2020, February 20). America’s Clean Water Crisis Goes Far Beyond Flint. There’s No Relief in Sight. Time. https://time.com/longform/clean-water-access-united-states/