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How Are Water Quality Standards Determined? What's Involved?
Monday, October 21, 2019

Have you heard about the Flint water crisis?

It may come as a shock, but residents in Flint, Michigan, haven't had clean drinking water since 2014 - that's almost six years. Many residents, including children, are now suffering from lead poisoning.

The whole situation was preventable. Our nation has water quality standards for a reason.

You may be wondering --how are water quality standards determined? How are they enforced? Read on to learn more.

How Are Water Quality Standards Determined?

So, how do agencies and officials determine what makes water safe? Water quality standards get produced by authorities. Often, the agency or authority gets appointed by territorial or federal law.

Most countries have their own environmental agencies, but the UN, US, and others rely on the EPA. The EPA approves standards set by other agencies.

When analyzing water, agencies look at three things:

  • Designated uses for the water
  • Criteria for the designated uses of the water
  • Anti-degradation requirements

So, agencies must first determine what the water will get used for. It could be for recreation, a habitat for wildlife, or for public consumption.

Drinking Water: When is it Safe?

When the water's meant for drinking, agencies follow strict standards. The EPA has identified several pollutants and chemicals that are hazardous to consume.

Each water sample gets tested to see if these pollutants are present. Here are a few things the EPA tests for:

  • Arsenic
  • Asbestos
  • Barium
  • Cadmium
  • Chloroform
  • Cyanide
  • Manganese
  • Nickel
  • Nitrates
  • Zinc

Some pollutants are safe when levels are low. The EPA gives exact measurements to show what's safe or not.

Each water sample gets scrutinized. If pollutant levels are high, then it'll likely get deemed unsuitable for drinking.

Testing Your Water

With all these regulatory bodies, it makes you wonder -- how does an oversight like Flint happen? How do you even know if your water meets EPA standards?

It's important to never assume your water is safe to drink based on the fact others are consuming it. Often, health effects from contaminated water won't surface right away.

Instead, get peace of mind by getting your water tested.

Reach out to your local, state, or national environmental agency. They'll be able to direct your call to the proper testing agency in your area.

Testers will take a sample of your water, send it to the lab, and let you know the results. If your water has pollutants, you need to consider your next steps.

Depending on your situation, you may need to rely on bottled water for a while. Consider getting water filters if the issue is minor, but alert the EPA if things are serious.

It's also advised that you buy water quality monitors to ensure your water levels stay safe.

Is Your Drinking Water Safe?

Is your drinking water safe? How are water quality standards determined, anyway?

These are questions every family needs to seek the answers to. If you're drinking contaminated water, then your health will deteriorate.

Are you looking for professional water quality experts to help ensure your water is safe? Head over to our coverage map, click on your location, and reach out to the nearest expert near you.

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