The drinking water challenges facing Flint, Michigan and other communities throughout America have raised the collective consciousness about the quality of the water we drink, and the infrastructure that treats and delivers it through 1.5 million miles of pipes serving more than 300 million people.
The National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) members, many of whom are investor-owned utilities, recently distributed their annual water quality reports to the customers they serve throughout the country. These reports compare drinking water quality to state and federal standards and are an annual requirement of the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) for water providers.
With a few exceptions, most of the water from the nation's rivers, streams and underground aquifers generally is not healthy to drink without being treated. Geographically there are many other variables that impact treatment protocol. The final treated drinking water that flows from the faucet must meet strict EPA water quality standards. Yet the day-to-day responsibility for federal and state regulatory compliance for water quality standards belongs to the water utility. This responsibility is profound when one considers reliable water service is essential to our quality of life.
As a requirement of the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Act, nearly all Americans receive notices about the quality of their water from their respective water utilities. These annual notices, called Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs), provide important printed and online information about the levels of contaminants found in untreated source water and the quality of the drinking water delivered to the faucet after it has been treated.
These reports show private water companies have a stellar record of providing high-quality drinking water, underscoring each NAWC member company's commitment to consistently make the necessary investments to improve water infrastructure. A recently published study (Konisky, D. and Teodoro, M., 2015, When Governments Regulate Governments) concluded that private water utilities have significantly fewer violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act than the national average.
Today, millions of Americans depend on investor-owned water utilities or private water contractors (vis-à-vis public-private partnerships) to treat their water and ensure the water and wastewater systems operate reliably and safely. Private water professionals across the nation constantly monitor and test the untreated source water for unhealthy contaminants identified by the EPA. Once the water is treated, these same private water professionals monitor and test the water again to ensure it meets or exceeds strict EPA standards. Recent technological advances can now detect contaminants in water down to parts per billion.
Private water companies have been committed to providing safe, clean water and reliable service to homes and businesses for more than 100 years. These water and wastewater service providers reliably support the needs of nearly 73 million people every day.