Safe and clean water is necessary for human and environmental health and economic well-being. Over the last 40 years, the nations water quality and drinking water have improved, but threats to water quality and safety remain. For example, EPA and states have identified almost 39,000 water bodies nationwide that are considered impaired by pollutants so that they do not meet water quality standards set by the states or EPA.
EPA has broad responsibility for ensuring clean and safe water through implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA).
- Under the authorities in SDWA, EPA establishes legally enforceable standards that generally limit the levels of specific contaminants in drinking water that can adversely affect public health. Public water systems must meet these health-based requirements and comply with monitoring, reporting, and other requirements established by EPA and responsible states. A key information source for EPA regarding water system compliance with SDWA is data provided by the states.
- Under the structure of the CWA, EPA and states share responsibility for protecting water quality. States play a key role in managing water pollution from diffuse, or nonpoint sourcessuch as runoff from farms or construction siteswhich is the leading cause of impairment of the nations waters. In addition, under the CWA, EPA awards federal funds to states to implement nonpoint source management programs. EPA also implements regulatory programs to reduce pollution from point sources, such as industrial plants, wastewater plants and municipal stormwater runoff. These sources are regulated through National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits and technological and water-quality based limits in those permits.
- EPA has also taken on large-scale watershed restoration efforts, such as those in the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lake regions. These efforts involve protecting aquatic ecosystems and wetlands in these important geographic areas.
- The CWA and SDWA State Revolving Fund programs help states provide financing to address capital needs for building and upgrading wastewater and drinking water treatment systems and improving water quality.