The 1986 and 1996 SDWA Amendments enabled the SDWA
to address the importance of treatment technique requirements for enhanced pathogen control, newly emerging
contaminants, source water protection, certified operators, adequate training, funding for capital water system
improvements (including the distribution system), and the
importance of public knowledge regarding water quality.
The water sector as a whole came to understand that quality
drinking water requires protection from the source to the tap.
What pathogens and/or contaminants do you see
posing the biggest challenges to water utilities?
Improvements in science and technology are revealing
previously unknown contaminants in our water. Source
water is often threatened by pollution or development.
For example, two major drinking water systems have
been shut down this year alone due to source water pollution emergencies. In addition, climate change is bringing
warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, stronger storms,
more droughts, and changes to water chemistry.
Given the progress we have made with controlling fecal
pathogens originating from source water contamination, one
of the next major challenges is enhancing control of pathogens associated with distribution system vulnerabilities. One
major concern are the respiratory disease-causing pathogens,
Legionella and Non-Tuberculosis Mycobacterium, which tend
to manifest most significantly in building drinking water
systems. While these organisms often manifest most significantly outside a drinking water utility’s immediate jurisdiction, the qualities of the delivered water may be important
factors in influencing subsequent pathogen propagation in
the building system environment. More research into this
relationship will inform strategies to control such pathogens.
Given that all drinking water treatment plants that use
chemical disinfectants are chemical reactors, the changing nature of source water conditions will influence the
mixtures of disinfection by-products. Developing a better
understanding of how these mixtures may be changing in
chemical composition, their relative associated risks, and
how to optimize prevention and/or remediation in the
face of uncertainty will continue to pose challenges.
Is there anything else you would like to add about
the significance of the SDWA?
Water sector professionals have made incredible prog-
ress in improving the safety of drinking water during the
past 40 years. Safe and reliable drinking water is central
to our lives. It is extremely important to recognize the
essential work that water sector professionals per-
form every day to protect the health of the American
people and the vitality of our local economies.