IN DECEMBER OF 1974, the 93rd United States Congress enacted an amendment to the Public
Health Service Act to ensure that water providers continued to deliver safe drinking water to
individuals and communities. The amendment, better known as the Safe Drinking Water Act
(SDWA), created a national program to identify emerging challenges faced by the water community and to develop best practices to address these issues. By encouraging new treatment
techniques for pathogen control, the identification of potential new contaminants, and more
emphasis on source water protection, the water community and the U.S. government, together, made monumental advances in
the quality of drinking water that have had a significant and lasting positive impact on public health throughout the country.
This issue of Advances in Water Research celebrates both the achievements of the SDWA and addresses some of the impending
challenges utilities may face with pathogens and contaminants that aren’t currently covered by the SDWA.
As John Huber, retired President and CEO of the Louisville Water Company, so eloquently explains in a Q&A in this issue, the SDWA
changed how the water community operated and inspired a new era of innovation. Water systems expanded their laboratories,
focused on source water protection, emphasized interstate river compacts, and became far more proactive on water quality issues.
Through implementation of the SDWA, the EPA, state agencies, water systems, and other constituencies all began working together
in the regulatory process.
Mr. Huber also describes how the Water Research Foundation’s history is intertwined with that of the SDWA. When the SDWA
was enacted in the 1970s, very little time and money had been spent on water research. After the advent of the SDWA, water utili-
ties wanted to ensure that any new regulations were based on sound science. Some of these forward-thinking utilities, including
Louisville Water, led an expansion of the Water Research Foundation to include a research subscription program with the mission
to “advance the science of water.”
The primary way that the Water Research Foundation continues to support the SDWA and other federal or state regulations is to
study potential contaminants in advance of regulation. For example, the Stage 1 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rule was
announced in December 1998 as part of the first set of rules under the 1996 SDWA Amendments. The Water Research Foundation’s
first research project on DBPs (and one of the first research projects under the new subscription program), was completed in 1986.
We studied why DBPs occur in water supplies, where they occur, how to detect them, and most importantly, how to cost-effectively
remove them. The Water Research Foundation continues to study DBPs as the EPA continues to consider new regulations related to
them. It’s one of the Water Research Foundation’s goals, and a goal of the greater water community, to always be ahead of regulation.
The first two feature articles in this issue of Advances in Water Research focus on emerging pathogens, such as mycobacteria and
Legionella, and emerging contaminants, such as endocrine disruptors and pharmaceuticals. These pathogens and contaminants are
“emerging” because they are currently under investigation by the EPA as part of the SDWA’s Contaminant Candidate List. If the EPA
determines that any of these emerging issues are a threat to public health, Water Research Foundation research will help utilities
respond appropriately, and will provide our subscribers the research solutions they need to manage them. “Advancing the science
of water to improve the quality of life” is our mission, and the EPA, our subscribers, and others throughout the water community
contribute to, and benefit from, that commitment.
The SDWA and the Water
Chair, Board of Trustees
Robert C. Renner, PE, BCEE