Water Quality and Water Acts

What is Water Quality?

Water quality is based off the public’s perception and contaminates in water.  Potentially harmful contaminants are suspended solids and other compounds in the water.  While water that is not clear is generally considered to be poor water quality by the public, it can be considered good water quality to health officials.  Another common misconception is that water must have poor water quality if it smells funny.  In a lot of situations this is not the case.  Water that may smell funny but is clean otherwise can potentially be considered to be of very good quality.

Primary Drinking Water Standards (PDWS)

These standards are set and regulated based on how harmful certain contaminants are on the public’s health.  These regulations are the most important mandates that are used to regulate water quality.

National Secondary Drinking Water Standards (SDWR)

These standards are set to assist with the public’s perception of water quality.  These standards are not enforceable but rather to appease the public with their perception of the water quality.  These standards are placed in order to regulate the aesthetics of water such as:

  • Clarity
  • Odor
  • Color
  • Taste

Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948

Allowed the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service to create programs to combat pollution of water across America.  It also paved the way for federal funding towards water quality objectives throughout America and related territories.  This included water treatment plants, wastewater treatment plants, and water conservation objectives. 

Water Quality Act of 1965

This provided States with the power to regulate and monitor the quality of water.  The Federal Water Pollution Control Administration was enacted in order to help with water quality regulation.  The main purpose of this act was to help protect the quality of ground and surface water as people had begun realizing the issues associated with contaminated water.  This act also provided more funding in the form of grants to State and Local governments for water treatment and water quality preservation.

The Clean Water Act of 1972 (CWA)

In 1972 the already amended Water Quality Act of 1965 became the Clean Water Act.  This act set the structure for regulating water contaminants. 

  • Banned dumping of any contaminants into waterway by individuals.
  • Required any facility dumping pollutants into a waterway to obtain a permit.
  • Expanded the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to regulate contaminates.
  • Provided federal funding for wastewater treatment facilities.

Safe drinking water Act of 1974 (SDWA)

Created to protect the public from contaminated water.  Water quality has been linked to being the number one factor in determing a population’s life expectancy.  This act established methods of regulating drinking water quality for all public water providers.  This act required the EPA to create and maintain National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWR) for any contaminate deemed dangerous to the public’s health.

One major part of the SDWA was the establishment of MCLs and MCLGs.

Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL)

Maximum Contaminant levels are set by the Federal and State government.  While the States are not allowed to reduce any Federal MCLs they are allowed to lower MCLs in order to create more strict water quality standards.

Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLG)

Non regulated water quality standards at which there aren’t any known affects for contaminates on the public’s health.

How are MCLs Created?

Maximum contaminate levels are created by contaminates being placed on a Contaminate Candidate List (CCL).  Contaminates added to this list have been shown to cause long-term damage to the public’s health and are promoted if technology and feasibility allows for regular water treatment facilities to remove these contaminates.

Sources: https://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/history-clean-water-act

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