50th Anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act

More often than not, when we go to grab a glass of ice-cold water, we are not always considering the source and safety of the water; we just know that it’s about to quench our thirst.

Fortunately for us, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was established to protect the quality of drinking water in the U.S. and set strong water quality standards. This law focuses on all waters designed for drinking use.

Established in 1974, the SDWA has provided protection against hazards that threaten our water supply and our health.

In accordance with the SDWA, the Virginia Department of Health, Office of Drinking Water (ODW) works to protect public health and ensure all Virginians have a safe and adequate supply of drinking water.

As outlined in the Code of Virginia, § 32.1-167

  • The Office of Drinking Water provides a simple and effective regulatory program for waterworks.
  • Adapts to new health concerns in drinking water treatment and distribution systems
  • Provides a means to improve inadequate waterworks.
  • Provides 24/7 oversight and emergency response services to the Commonwealth.

ODW oversees 2,828 public systems that serve approximately 7.75 million consumers. Public water systems can also be privately owned but are regulated in the same way. Water from regulated water systems is regularly tested for over 90 different contaminants.

The capacity to live, make food, and maintain hygiene is dependent on a supply of safe water. In Virginia, not everyone is on a water supply regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Some are on private wells and are responsible for testing their own water and maintaining their own systems.

Check out the Drinking Water Viewer, which is an application that lets any community member view data that ODW maintains about a regulated public water system or waterworks. This application does not apply to private wells or other water systems not regulated as a waterworks. The information that can be retrieved typically includes:

  • Size and type of population served
  • Water system facilities (e.g., wells, intakes, treatment plant, etc.)
  • Sampling requirements
  • Sampling results reported to VDH-ODW
  • Violations
  • Inspections

To deliver safe, trusted, affordable, sufficient, and accessible drinking water, a multitude of experts collaborate seamlessly, drawing upon their understanding of engineering, environmental science, toxicology, epidemiology, hydrology, biology, chemistry, physics, climatology, meteorology, project and construction management, law, watershed management, emergency preparedness, technology, water and wastewater treatment, communication, marketing, scientific inquiry, and contaminants.

Today, the Safe Drinking Water Act continues to provide a framework for monitoring and responding to hazards that threaten our water supply and public health.