Where is tap water putting children at risk and how are state leaders responding?
University of California Nutrition Policy Institute and the National Drinking Water Alliance just released an interactive map identifying places across the country where drinking water has been rendered unsafe to drink by lead or other contaminants. The map was created to fill a gap: there is little readily accessible information on the extent of tap water contamination across the U.S.
Each pin tells a story: you can link to news articles about drinking water contamination around the U.S. You’ll see the states that have adopted policies or programs to test for lead in schools and childcare, and the states considering such action. You can sort each incident by Congressional district. The tool bar on the upper left side provides a legend feature and a layers feature to access the different types of information.
How does tap water get contaminated? Source water can be contaminated by heavy metals, biologicals, or agricultural or industrial chemicals. Public water utilities treat water to remove contaminants and they provide an annual Consumer Confidence Report to inform customers about water quality. Links to supplemental resources: Understanding Your Water Quality and Consumer Confidence Reports and A Guide to Understanding Your CCR.
Once water leaves utility main pipes and flows through service lines and into interior plumbing, it can absorb lead if lead is present in pipes, solder, or fittings. This leaching of lead is reduced when water pH is adjusted through adequate corrosion control by the water utility. The map reveals that despite laws and regulations that protect water quality for the majority of the U.S., problems such as inadequate or incorrect water treatment, lack of monitoring of water safety, and contaminants present in well water mean that there are times and places when the public is not getting safe drinking water.
Did we miss a news story about contamination in your community? Are we missing a state legislative proposal? Let us know at DWAlliance@ucanr.edu.