understanding of how to adapt environmental management in the face of climate change.
Water Quality. The availability of clean water is essential for human consumption, personal hygiene, agriculture, business practices, recreation, and other activities. National water-quality policy has been driven primarily by the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. With increasing demands on freshwater supplies, particularly in the more arid regions of the western United States, the challenges of providing freshwater are prominent today and will probably continue to be a concern in the future, especially as climate change alters water supply. Furthermore, water-quality challenges remain pressing, including the need to monitor and understand the transport and fate of contaminants, the need to maintain and update aging water-treatment infrastructure, and the need to address the persistent problem of nutrient pollution.
As progress has been made in solving local problems and as more has been learned about the health and environmental consequences of chronic low-level exposures to diverse and disperse physical and chemical stressors, environmental science and engineering has begun to focus on impacts over wider geographic areas. The spatial and temporal scales required to understand emerging environmental issues vary widely, and their range is widening as more is learned about the systems and feedback loops underlying the observed phenomena. These large-scale problems require improved understanding of the fate and transport of contaminants on international and global scales and of options for coordinated solutions. Long-term monitoring is also needed to identify and track changes and problems that develop slowly.
Developing Tools and Technologies to Address Environmental Challenges
Supporting the development of leading-edge scientific methods, tools, and technologies is critical for understanding environmental changes and their effects on human health and for identifying solutions. In addition, addressing the challenges of the future will require a more deliberate approach to systems thinking and interdisciplinary science, for example, by using frameworks that strive to characterize and integrate a broad array of interactions between humans and the environment. Although new tools and technologies can substantially improve the scientific basis of environmental policy and regulations, many of the new tools and technologies need to build on and enhance the current foundation of environmental science and engineering. Some tools and technologies that EPA has used or could use to address environmental and human health challenges are discussed in the following paragraphs.
Many advancing tools and technologies are being used to understand the transport and fate of chemicals in the environment, to understand the extent of human exposures, and to identify and predict the extent of potential toxic effects. For example, advances in separation and identification of nucleotides,