Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Basics

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The Safe Drinking Water Act first passed the U.S. Congress in 1974. It was reauthorized and amended in 1986 and 1996.

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) regulates Public Water Systems, which are (publicly and privately owned) systems serving 25 people or 15 service connections.

The SDWA does not cover private wells. Get more information from the EPA for those consuming water from private wells.

EPA sets drinking water standards to protect public health.

EPA can set a legal (enforceable) limit or Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) or require specific treatment (Treatment Technique or TT).

The process by which EPA determines whether to regulate and sets the regulation can be found here. EPA also sets a non-enforceable public health standard known as the Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) that is based only on health considerations.

The SDWA Amendments of 1996 require Public Water Systems to provide an annual "Consumer Confidence Report" or "Right to Know Report" to their consumers. These reports provide helpful information about water quality, the water system's operation and about opportunities for community participation.

You can find your state regulatory agency and then your own Public Water System's report by starting at EPA's page, or you can obtain the report by contacting your water system using information from your water bill.

In March 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a new "Drinking Water Strategy" in order to better protect public health.

Read our overview of the strategy.