Is Your Drinking Water Safe?

Environment Policy Brief #143 | By: Roarke Cullenbine | May 31, 2022

Header photo taken from: Environmental Law Monitor




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Biden’s infrastructure plan targets lead pipes that threaten public health across the U.S.

Photo taken from: PBS

Policy Summary

Water pollution is a serious epidemic in the US, impacting hundreds of thousands. With the US ranking twenty-third in the world for tap water safety, great progress is necessary to keep citizens out of the hospital from consuming either lead, diesel, or pathogens in their water supplies. With few additions to the dated 1972 Clean Water Act, impurity of America’s drinking water is not improving. With 50 percent of US water being so polluted that it is unusable, water pollution threatens the health of many Americans, especially minority populations. 75% of African-Americans are more likely to live near facilities that create hazardous waste and communities with 25% or more of Latinx residents live in communities that have double the water purity violation rates. It is essential that both federal and local governments be kept accountable for regulating the water that its citizens rely on for survival.

Some hope may be on the way with the recent passing of President Biden’s $55 billion allocation to improve water treatment systems through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. However, this is set to target the replacement of lead water systems and not to resolve other threats.


Policy Analysis

When your faucet is turned on, how confident are you that the clear, dispensed liquid is truly pure drinking water? If you live in, for example, Austria, Finland, Malta, Switzerland, or the United Kingdom, chances are that your faith was placed in the right hands. However, if you live in Israel, Cyprus, Canada, or the United States, the odds aren’t so favorable.

Why is the United States on this list? With the U.S, being the richest country in the world, why is the quality of its drinking water so disappointing? Why do our water emergencies continue, threatening innocent lives, such as the 1 million citizens having to boil their water in Austin, Texas, or the tap water in Oahu being contaminated with over 350 times the safe amount of diesel fuel for human consumption; or the infamous water crisis in Flint, Michigan, that today still is having adverse effects on its citizens. This is all not to mention the serious adverse impacts water pollution is having on US wildlife such as the ongoing threat to Florida’s manatees or, local to my home, Maryland’s famous blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay.

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Flint’s water crisis started 5 years ago. It’s not over. Pipes are now being replaced and officials say the water is safe, but residents still worry, drink bottled water and doubt their elected leaders.

Photo taken from: The New York Times

With the passing of Biden’s Infrastructure Law, $55 billion was allocated to implement better drinking water and wastewater treatment systems. Despite great historical resistance from the Republican Party, the Infrastructure Law’s passing shows that legitimate access to clean water can be a non-partisan issue.


Those that support clean water accessibility should contact their state representatives, regardless of party, and advocate for this issue to remain on the Congress floor. For those areas currently impacted by polluted waters, direct change can be promoted within the state level through citizen participation in grassroot organizations and speaking when local government is in session. While some organizations to get involved can be found below, a simple Google search for organizations in your area can be all the change necessary to create a better nation for tomorrow.

Engagement Resources​

Click or tap on resource URL to visit links where available 

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The NDRC is a legal advocacy group, dedicated to combat issues of climate change and all negative consequences it brings. Founded in 1970, the NDRC has over 700 staff with over 2 million members.

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Formed in 1909, the NAACP is a legal advocacy group primarily concerned with the elimination of race-based discrimination. As a mission for climate justice, a part of this discrimination includes advocating for the many minority communities that receive the greater weight of adverse climate change effects.

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A political lobbying organization, Environment America advocates for new legislation to address the climate crisis within US communities. Founded in 2007, Environment America lobbies as a national network of 30 state environmental groups to better bolster change across the US.

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An example of a local organization, Blue Water Baltimore is a grassroots organization that advocates for the restoration of clean water within the City of Baltimore’s rivers, streams, and famous harbor. With ongoing challenges to the purity of the Chesapeake Bay, local organizations such as Blue Water Baltimore make it possible to combat big problems at the local level.

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