Group launches campaign to commemorate Safe Drinking Water Act anniversary

water glass

The Water & Health Advisory Council (the council), a multidisciplinary group of drinking water experts, recently announced the launch of a national campaign to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act and provide guidance to lawmakers on the future of drinking water safety in the United States.

The campaign will showcase public health successes achieved by the Safe Drinking Water Act and illuminate regulatory actions that have veered from the law’s original intent. Throughout 2024, the council will promote multimedia testimonials from drinking water, public health and elected officials; host local events in select municipalities and conclude with a symposium at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) marked a pivotal moment in public health, ushering in crucial regulatory changes and water treatment protocols that significantly improved the quality of drinking water. However, over 2 million Americans still today do not have dependable access to safe drinking water. Small, rural, and disadvantaged communities are particularly vulnerable, facing increased threats from unsafe and unreliable water sources. As the SDWA enters its sixth decade, the council said it is essential that upgrading deteriorating infrastructure and eradicating microbial and other known contaminants in drinking water are a top priority.  

“It is remarkable to reflect on the progress we have made providing safe drinking water in our nation,” said Rob Renner, chair of the council. “In the next 50 years, it is essential that we prioritize improvements to our drinking water infrastructure that meaningfully reduce public health risks and extend access to safe drinking water to more individuals. We must remain vigilant in addressing the most pressing public health risks in our drinking water.”

A recent report from Utah State University revealed a $452 billion shortfall in crucial funding required to modernize the network of pipes delivering tap water to households nationwide. The report also highlighted the occurrence of over 260,000 breaks in these water pipelines annually. Regrettably, federal and state resources designated for safeguarding drinking water safety often prioritize emerging, attention-grabbing concerns, leaving well-documented risks unaddressed. 

The SDWA 50th Anniversary campaign will culminate with a symposium at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, bringing together water sector leaders, academic researchers, and community leaders to issue guidance for achieving reliable and safe drinking water into the future.

“The SDWA led to great strides in public health over the past fifty years, but too many communities and regulatory agencies lack the capacity to ensure safe, reliable, and sustainable water,” said Manny Teodoro, Robert F. and Sylvia T. Wagner Professor of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “The challenge ahead is to get the basics right: sound distribution systems, robust utility organizations, and effective implementation of existing regulations, everywhere and for everyone.” 

About the Water & Health Advisory Council

The Water & Health Advisory Council is an independent, multidisciplinary group of water professionals committed to providing clarity and context to water policymakers, public health professionals and the public to help them navigate complex issues and assure the protection of our nation’s drinking water supply from all valid threats. Learn more at @WaterAdvisory and wateradvisory.org.  

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