The primary legislation governing drinking water quality is the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) passed by Congress in 1974 and amended in 1986 and further strengthened in 1996.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), after consulting with the National Academy of Science, sets a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for each regulated substance. Periodically, these standards are reviewed and refined based on scientific and technological advancements.
The national regulations apply to all water systems that provide drinking water to at least 25 people or 15 service connections for a minimum of 60 days a year. This includes water utilities that service about 85 percent of the U.S. population. The remainder receive their drinking water from privately owned and operated sources such as wells and are responsible for regulating their own water quality.
To ensure the highest quality, the SDWA requires each public water utility to implement a regular program of sample collection and laboratory analysis. Contaminants that can cause acute health effects are monitored daily. Others are monitored weekly and still others, monthly. By law, each state must meet federal standards. Local water utilities must meet all the requirements for the state in which them operate. Testing and monitoring results are reported regularly to the state health department and are available to the public. Strict adherence to monitoring and testing are the best guarantees for safe drinking water. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and EPA work together to see that all requirements are followed.
In addition to the SDWA, there are other federal laws that safeguard the quality of drinking water by regulating surface and ground water pollution, management of hazardous substances, and use of chemical pesticides.
Safe Drinking Water Hotline
For more information about the SDWA, call EPA toll-free
Monday - Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST