Early on, these concerns led
the water community to advocate
that any new regulation be based
on sound science. Compared to
where we are today, the research
effort back then was pretty small.
It was probably less than $100,000
a year at the time, so we had to
make sure more attention was
paid to research. Additionally,
there were no groups in the
industry to advocate on behalf
of the water community itself
on the legislative and regulatory
proposals. So, we had to create the business infrastructure to
deal with this. We expanded the Water Research Foundation
(formerly AWWA Research Foundation) to address the new
research needs, and groups like the AWWA Water Utility
Council and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies
were founded to address regulatory and legislative issues.
What are the biggest changes in the way utilities
operate pre-SDWA and post-SDWA?
I would say that the changes are significant. Pre-SDWA, most
water systems effort was involved in creating the resources
and infrastructure to support growth and to renew and replace
treatment and pumping facilities. In many respects, water utilities were engineering companies that sold water. The SDWA
triggered an influx of scientists and engineers with knowledge
and capabilities that we simply didn’t have before. Really, it
introduced a new era. Water systems expanded their laboratories and acquired what was then sophisticated laboratory
equipment. They became more involved in water resource
monitoring and pollution prevention, even advocating for
limits on industrial waste streams. Source protection and
pollution prevention became more important. Spill monitoring was intensified. Interstate river compacts became more
focused and more active. Utilities became far more proactive
on water quality issues. The EPA, state agencies, water systems,
and other constituencies began working together in the
Q&A with John Huber
President and CEO of the Louisville Water Company, retired
Safe Drinking Water Act: Utility Perspective
To mark the 40th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act’s
introduction, the Water Research Foundation sat down with
John Huber, the now retired President and CEO of the Louisville
Water Company, and Peter Grevatt, PhD, Director, EPA Office
of Ground Water and Drinking Water (page 6), to provide
historical perspective as well as present day context, opportunities, and challenges around the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Mr. Huber spent his entire working career in the water supply
industry. He began his career in the Drinking Water Program at
the Kentucky Department of Health in 1968. At the Louisville
Water Company, Mr. Huber worked in various engineering,
administrative, and leadership positions. He served as President
and CEO of the Company from April 1991 to August 2007.
Water Research Foundation: How would you describe
the drinking water regulatory landscape before
John Huber: Utilities and other groups involved in water
safety were doing everything in their power to address water
safety, but there were very few drinking water regulations
and federal rule was very limited. The federal regulations
were set by the U.S. Public Health Service, and they applied
only at the point of delivery for interstate water carriers
(such as airports, train stations, and bus stations). The states
largely administered the public health service standards,
but each state also had its own standards for water systems.
Many of the states based their requirements on U.S. Public
Health Service regulations, but this was not required.
What was the water community’s reaction to the
initiation of SDWA?
When the SDWA first became law, the reaction was one
of great concern and skepticism. It was the beginning of
a new era and the EPA was a relatively new agency. The
water community wanted to make sure regulations were
set appropriately and based on sound science. We were
also concerned about how the EPA would work with the
water community and what type of role various advocacy
groups could potentially play in the regulatory process.