ing, to education, to science, to collaboration with others to push for a successful future for the seventh generation.


Benjamin Grumbles, Assistant Administrator

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

When it comes to water, Benjamin Franklin said it best, “we know the worth of water when the well runs dry.” As issues of water quality and security coalesce with issues of water quantity, changing landscapes, and weather patterns, the value of water comes into question. Although there are many reasons to believe the current patterns of unlimited, high-quality water are impossible to maintain for the future, water prices remain artificially low, with most of the costs and risks remaining invisible to consumers. Adjusting water pricing to reflect the true costs involved is a major need. This will promote water conservation and improvements and at the same time prevent future costs from escalating in such a way that the well runs so dry or dirty. Prior approaches by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) focused primarily on water quality, without considering the limitations or implications of water quantity. This approach is changing, with the EPA hoping to educate stakeholders and the public about the symbiotic relationship between quantity and quality. Challenges to be addressed and potential solutions to ensure the future availability of quality water have been outlined.

The Legacy of Clean Water: Gains in Health and the Environment

The 35th anniversary of the Clean Water Act in 2007 pointed to significant public health advances. For example, of the 230 million people served by wastewater treatment facilities in the United States, more than 98.5 percent are served by systems that provide secondary treatment. Furthermore, an estimated 31 million pounds of pollutants have been kept from waterways in the past 35 years as a direct result of the Clean Water Act and its amendments; the EPA is expanding its efforts to include the impacts of nonpoint sources (water pollution from diffuse sources) as the next step in removing toxic contaminants from water sources. The Safe Water Drinking Act of 1974 has led to nearly universal access to high-quality drinking water. Regulatory standards have been almost entirely achieved through scientific investigation into adverse environmental health impacts, emerging contaminants, and safe levels. In the past century, access to clean water has resulted in a three-quarters reduction in child mortality nearly half the total mortality reduction in major cities (Cutler and Miller, 2005), and a water delivery system admired throughout the world. Despite these gains, many challenges remain that threaten past accomplishments, with the potential to make future threats for adequate and safe water insurmountable.

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