The Safe Drinking Water Act is a piece of legislation that allows the CDC and EPA to monitor and regulate the quality of drinking water in the United States. This week, we are exploring the highlights of this legislation. Read on to learn how the Safe Drinking Water Act impacts all Americans.


We use a few key acronyms in this article, that are important to define.

  1. CDC

“CDC” stands for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC is the leading institute of national public health in the United States. It falls under the control of the executive branch level Department of Health and Human Services.

  1. EPA

“EPA” stands for Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA is an independent executive agency of the united states.

  1. SDWA

“SDWA” stands for Safe Drinking Water Act, a piece of federal legislation. In this article it refers to the original act, passed by Congress in 1974, as well as the amendments to the act. The amendments were made in both 1986 and 1996. Ultimately  SDWA is shorthand for over two decades of environmental and public health legislation pertaining to America’s drinking water.

Safe Drinking Water Act (SWDA) Basics

The SWDA protects the water quality of drinking water in the United States. The law includes “all waters actually or potentially designed for drinking use, whether from above ground or underground sources” per EPA guidelines.

Essentially, the EPA is authorized to establish guidelines in order to protect tap water. Additionally, owners and/or operators of public water must comply with the primary standards established by the EPA.

The act also protects underground water sources, such as Florida’s aquifers, from contaminants. The EPA does this by establishing standards for state programs to protect the underground sources.

The SWDA Monitoring System

The monitoring system for SWDA Compliance is expansive and has many moving parts.

  • EPA
  • State governments
  • Indigenous tribes
  • Public Water systems
  • Public water system operators
  • Certified labs, which conduct the scientific analysis of the water.

The EPA has set legal limits on over 90 possible chemical and microbial contaminants. However, the amendments added to the act later make it more difficult for the EPA to regulate additional contaminants.

To counterbalance this issue, the EPA also monitors the unregulated contaminants.

No matter what, the monitoring bodies (the EPA, states, and tribes) have the responsibility to inform people who are potentially impacted by water contaminants.

Right To Know Rules

Consumer Confidence Report

The Consumer Confidence Report (or CCR) is an annual report that water suppliers must send out. In other words, the CCR informs users of the water quality in their local water supply. Find out more information here.

Public Notification Rule

This rule guarantees that users know if something is wrong with their drinking water. The notifications have a few possible uses.

  • There is an imminent threat to public health.
  • The water does not meet drinking water standards.
  • The water system does not test the water.
  • If a local system earns a testing variance from the EPA.
  • If a local system also earns a exemption from testing from the EPA. For example, they mey need more time to comply with new regulations.

All of these regulations are in place to protect all Americans, no matter if they have a well or drink from municipal sources.