Drinking water supply and sanitation in the United States | Wikipedia audio article

Drinking water supply and sanitation in the United States | Wikipedia audio article


Issues that affect drinking water supply and
sanitation in the United States include water scarcity, pollution, a backlog of investment,
concerns about the affordability of water for the poorest, and a rapidly retiring workforce. Increased variability and intensity of rainfall
as a result of climate change is expected to produce both more severe droughts and flooding,
with potentially serious consequences for water supply and for pollution from combined
sewer overflows. Droughts are likely to particularly affect
the 66 percent of Americans whose communities depend on surface water. As for drinking water quality, there are concerns
about disinfection by-products, lead, perchlorates and pharmaceutical substances, but generally
drinking water quality in the U.S. is good. Cities, utilities, state governments and the
federal government have addressed the above issues in various ways. To keep pace with demand from an increasing
population, utilities traditionally have augmented supplies. However, faced with increasing costs and droughts,
water conservation is beginning to receive more attention and is being supported through
the federal WaterSense program. The reuse of treated wastewater for non-potable
uses is also becoming increasingly common. Pollution through wastewater discharges, a
major issue in the 1960s, has been brought largely under control. Most Americans are served by publicly owned
water and sewer utilities. Eleven percent of Americans receive water
from private (so-called “investor-owned”) utilities. In rural areas, cooperatives often provide
drinking water. Finally, up to 15 percent of Americans are
served by their own wells. Water supply and wastewater systems are regulated
by state governments and the federal government. At the state level, health and environmental
regulation is entrusted to the corresponding state-level departments. Public Utilities Commissions or Public Service
Commissions regulate tariffs charged by private utilities. In some states they also regulate tariffs
by public utilities. At the federal level, drinking water quality
and wastewater discharges are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
which also provides funding to utilities through State Revolving Funds. Water consumption in the United States is
more than double that in Central Europe, with large variations among the states. In 2002 the average American family spent
$474 on water and sewerage charges, which is about the same level as in Europe. The median household spent about 1.1 percent
of its income on water and sewage.==History==In the 19th century numerous American cities
were afflicted with major outbreaks of disease, including cholera in 1832, 1849 and 1866 and
typhoid in 1848. The fast-growing cities did not have sewers
and relied on contaminated wells within the city confines for drinking water supply. In the mid-19th century many cities built
centralized water supply systems. However, initially these systems provided
raw river water without any treatment. Only after John Snow established the link
between contaminated water and disease in 1854 and after authorities became gradually
convinced of that link, water treatment plants were added and public health improved. Sewers were built since the 1850s, initially
based on the erroneous belief that bad air (miasma theory) caused cholera and typhoid. It took until the 1890s for the now universally
accepted germ theory of disease to prevail. However, most wastewater was still discharged
without any treatment, because wastewater was not believed to be harmful to receiving
waters due to the natural dilution and self-purifying capacity of rivers, lakes and the sea. Wastewater treatment only became widespread
after the introduction of federal funding in 1948 and especially after an increase in
environmental consciousness and the upscaling of financing in the 1970s. For decades federal funding for water supply
and sanitation was provided through grants to local governments. After 1987 the system was changed to loans
through revolving funds.===Piped water supply until 1948===
In the 1840s and 1850s the largest cities in the U.S. built pipelines to supply drinking
water from rivers or lakes. However, the drinking water was initially
not treated, since the link between waterborne pathogens and diseases was not yet well known. In 1842 New York City was one of the first
cities in the U.S. to tap water resources outside the city limits. It dammed the Croton River in Westchester
County, New York, and built an aqueduct from the reservoir to the city. Also in 1842, construction was completed on
Chicago’s first water works, with water mains made of cedar and a water intake located about
150 feet (46 m) into Lake Michigan. In 1848, Boston began construction of a water
transmission system. A tributary of the Sudbury River was impounded
creating Lake Cochituate, from where the Cochituate Aqueduct transported water to the Brookline
Reservoir that fed the city’s distribution system. In 1853 Washington, D.C. followed suit by
beginning the construction of the Washington Aqueduct to provide water from the Great Falls
on the Potomac River.In 1854, the British physician John Snow found that cholera was
spread through contaminated water. As a result of his findings, several cities
began to treat all water with sand filters and chlorine before distributing it to the
public. Cities also began to construct sewers. As a result of water treatment and sanitation,
the incidence of cholera and typhoid rapidly decreased. Slow sand filtration was initially the technology
of choice for water treatment, later being gradually displaced by rapid sand filtration. In the arid American Southwest, the water
demand of rapidly growing cities such as Los Angeles exceeded local water availability,
requiring the construction of large pipelines to bring in water from far-away sources. The most spectacular example is the first
Los Angeles Aqueduct built between 1905 and 1913 to supply water from the Owens Valley
over a distance of 375 km.===Sanitation until 1948===
Most of the first sewer systems in the United States were built as combined sewers (carrying
both storm water and sewerage). They discharged into rivers, lakes and the
sea without any treatment. The main reason for choosing combined sewers
over separate systems (separating sanitary sewers from storm water drains) was a belief
that combined sewer systems were cheaper to build than separate systems. Also, there was no European precedent for
successful separate sewer systems at the time. The first large-scale sewer systems in the
United States were constructed in Chicago and Brooklyn in the late 1850s, followed by
other major U.S. cities.Few sewage treatment facilities were constructed in the late 19th
century to treat combined wastewater because of the associated difficulties. There were only 27 U.S. cities with wastewater
treatment works by 1892, most of them “treating” wastewater through land application. Of these 27 cities, 26 had separate sanitary
and storm water sewer systems, thus facilitating wastewater treatment, because there was no
need for large capacitites to accommodate wet weather flows. Furthermore, there was a belief that the diluted
combined wastewater was not harmful to receiving waters, due to the natural dilution and self-purifying
capacity of rivers, lakes and the sea. In the early 20th century a debate evolved
between those who thought it was in the best interest of public health to construct wastewater
treatment facilities and those who believed building them was unnecessary. Nevertheless, many cities began to opt for
separate sewer systems, creating favorable conditions for adding wastewater treatment
plants in the future.Where wastewater was being treated it was typically discharged
into rivers or lakes. However, in 1932, the first reclaimed water
facility in the U.S. was built in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, for the reuse of treated
wastewater in landscape irrigation. Sanitary sewers were not the only sanitation
solution applied. They were particularly useful in high-density
urban areas. However, in some newly built lower-density
areas, decentralized septic systems were built. They were attractive because they reduced
capital expenditures and had fewer operation and maintenance costs compared to wastewater
treatment plants.===After 1948: Enter the federal government
===In the first half of the 20th century water
supply and sanitation were a local government responsibility with regulation at the state
level; the federal government played almost no role in the sector at that time. This changed with the enactment of the Federal
Water Pollution Control Act of 1948, which provided for comprehensive planning, technical
services, research, and financial assistance by the federal government to state and local
governments for sanitary infrastructure. The Act was amended in 1965, establishing
a uniform set of water quality standards and creating a Federal Water Pollution Control
Administration authorized to set standards where states failed to do so. Comprehensive federal regulations for water
supply and sanitation were introduced in the 1970s, in reaction to an increase in environmental
concerns. In 1970 EPA was created by the Richard Nixon
administration, and authority for managing various environmental programs was transferred
to the new agency. In 1972, Congress passed the Clean Water Act,
requiring industrial plants and municipal sewage plants to proactively improve their
waste treatment practices in order to limit the effect of contaminants on freshwater sources. In 1974, the Safe Drinking Water Act was adopted
for the regulation of public water systems. This law specified a number of contaminants
that must be closely monitored and reported to residents should they exceed the maximum
contaminant levels allowed. From then on, drinking water systems were
closely monitored by federal, state, and municipal governments for safety and compliance with
existing regulations. The Clean Water Act set the unprecedented
goal of eliminating all water pollution by 1985 and authorized massive expenditures of
$24.6 billion in research and construction grants for municipal sewage treatment. The funds initially provided an incentive
to build centralized wastewater collection and treatment infrastructure for municipalities,
instead of decentralized systems. However, the 1977 amendments to the Clean
Water Act required communities to consider alternatives to the conventional centralized
sewer systems, and financial assistance was made available for such alternatives. In the mid-1990s decentralized systems served
approximately 25 percent of the U.S. population, and approximately 37 percent of new housing
developments.There were disagreements between the federal government and local government
about the appropriate level of wastewater treatment, with the former arguing for more
stringent standards. For example, in the late 1980s, the city of
San Diego and EPA were involved in a legal dispute over the requirement to treat sewage
at the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant to secondary treatment standards. The city prevailed, saying that it saved ratepayers
an estimated $3 billion and that process had proved successful in maintaining a healthy
ocean environment. The Point Loma plant uses an advanced primary
process. The requirement to perform secondary treatment
on wastewater before ocean discharge was waived by the EPA in 1995, “taking into account the
city’s unique circumstances”.In 1987 Congress passed the Water Quality Act, which replaced
the construction grant program with a system of subsidized loans using the Clean Water
State Revolving Fund (CWSRF). The intention at the time was to completely
phase out federal funding after a few years. Funding peaked in 1991 and continued at high
levels thereafter, despite the original intentions. New challenges arose, such as the need to
address combined sewer overflows for which EPA issued a policy in 1994. In 1996 Congress established the Drinking
Water State Revolving Fund, building on the success of the CWSRF, in order to finance
investments to improve compliance with more stringent drinking water quality standards.==Technical and environmental overview==
This section provides a brief overview of the water supply and sanitation infrastructure
in the U.S., water sources of some of the main cities, and the main types of residential
water use.===Infrastructure===
The centralized drinking water supply infrastructure in the United States consists of dams and
reservoirs, well fields, pumping stations, aqueducts for the transport of large quantities
of water over long distances, water treatment plants, reservoirs in the distribution system
(including water towers), and 1.8 million miles of distribution lines. Depending on the location and quality of the
water source, all or some of these elements may be present in a particular water supply
system. In addition to this infrastructure for centralized
network distribution, 14.5% of Americans rely on their own water sources, usually wells.The
centralized sanitation infrastructure in the U.S. consists of 1.2 million miles of sewers—including
both sanitary sewers and combined sewers, sewage pumping stations and publicly owned
treatment works (POTW). EPA estimated that there were at least 16,583
POTWs operating in 2004, serving a population of 222.8 million. About 772 communities in the U.S. have combined
sewer systems, serving about 40 million people. In addition, at least 17% of Americans are
served by on-site sanitation systems such as septic tanks.===Water sources===About 90% of public water systems in the U.S.
obtain their water from groundwater. However, since systems served by groundwater
tend to be much smaller than systems served by surface water, only 34% of Americans (101
million) are supplied with treated groundwater, while 66% (195 million) are supplied with
surface water.For a surface water system to operate without filtration it has to fulfill
certain criteria set by the EPA under its Surface Water Treatment Rule, including the
implementation of a watershed control program. The water system of New York City has repeatedly
fulfilled these criteria.====Cities supplied primarily by surface
water without water treatment====Boston, New York City, San Francisco, Denver,
and Portland, Oregon are among the large cities in the U.S. that do not need to treat their
surface water sources beyond disinfection, because their water sources are located in
the upper reaches of protected watersheds and thus are naturally very pure. Boston receives most of its water from the
Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs and the Ware River in central and western Massachusetts. New York City’s water supply is fed by a 2,000-square-mile
(5,200 km2) watershed in the Catskill Mountains. The watershed is in one of the largest protected
wilderness areas in the United States. San Francisco obtains 85% of its drinking
water from high Sierra snowmelt through the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National
Park. However, to supplement the imported water
supply, and to help maintain delivery of drinking water in the event of a major earthquake,
drought or decline in the snowpack, San Francisco considers the use of alternative locally produced,
sustainable water sources such as reclaimed water for irrigation, local groundwater and
desalination during drought periods, all as part of its Water Supply Diversification Program. The largest source of water supply for Portland,
Oregon, is the Bull Run Watershed. Denver receives its water almost entirely
from mountain snowmelt in a number of highly protected watersheds in more than 9 counties. Its water is stored in 14 reservoirs, the
largest of which is the Dillon Reservoir on the Blue River in the Colorado River. Water is diverted from there through the Harold
D. Roberts Tunnel under the Continental Divide into the South Platte River Basin.====Cities supplied primarily by surface
water with water treatment====Cities that rely on more or less polluted
surface water from the lower reaches of rivers have to rely on extensive and costly water
purification plants. The Las Vegas Valley obtains 90% of its water
from Lake Mead on the Colorado River, which has been affected by drought. To supply a portion of the future water supply,
Las Vegas plans to buy water rights in the Snake Valley in White Pine County, 250 mi
(400 km) north of the city straddling the Utah border and other areas, pumping it to
Las Vegas through a US$2 billion pipeline. Phoenix draws about half of its drinking water
from the Salt River–Verde River watershed, and about 40% from the Colorado River further
downstream at Lake Havasu through the Central Arizona Project. Los Angeles obtains about half of its drinking
water from the Owens River and Mono Lake through the Los Angeles Aqueduct, with additional
supplies from Lake Havasu through the Colorado River Aqueduct. San Diego imports nearly 90 percent of its
water from other areas, specifically northern California and the Colorado River. The cities on the Mississippi River are supplied
by water from that river except for Memphis. The metropolitan area of Atlanta receives
70% of its water from the Chattahoochee River and another 28% from the Etowah, Flint, Ocmulgee
and Oconee rivers. Chicago is supplied by water from Lake Michigan
and Detroit receives its water from the Detroit River. Philadelphia receives 60% of its water from
the Delaware River and 40% from the Schuylkill River. Washington, D.C. receives its water from the
Potomac River through the Washington Aqueduct.====Cities supplied primarily by groundwater
====Miami and its metropolitan area obtain drinking
water primarily from the Biscayne Aquifer. Given increasing water demand, Miami-Dade
County is considering the use of reclaimed water to help preserve the Biscayne Aquifer. Memphis receives its water from artesian aquifers. San Antonio draws the bulk of its water from
the Edwards Aquifer; it did not use any surface water until 2006.====Cities supplied by a mix of groundwater
and surface water====Seventy-one percent of Houston’s supply flows
from the Trinity River into Lake Livingston, and from the San Jacinto River into Lake Conroe
and Lake Houston. Deep underground wells drilled into the Evangeline
and Chicot aquifers provide the other 29 percent of the city’s water supply.===Water use===
Domestic water use (also called home or residential water use) in the United States was estimated
by the United States Geological Survey at 29.4 billion US gallons (111,000,000 m3) per
day in 2005, and 27.4 billion US gallons (104,000,000 m3) per day in 2010 (7 percent lower). The bulk of domestic water is provided through
public networks. 13% or 3.6 billion US gallons (14,000,000
m3) of water is self-supplied. The average domestic water use per person
in the U.S. was 98-US-gallon (370 L) per day in 2005, and 88-US-gallon (330 L) per day
in 2010. This is about 2.2 times as high as in England
(150 Liter) and 2.6 times as high as in Germany (126 Liter).One of the reasons for the high
domestic water use in the U.S. is the high share of outdoor water use. For example, the arid West has some of the
highest per capita domestic water use, largely because of landscape irrigation. Per capita domestic water use varied from
51-US-gallon (190 L) per day in Maine to 148-US-gallon (560 L) per day in Arizona and 167-US-gallon
(630 L) per day in Utah. According to a 1999 study, on average all
over the U.S. 58% of domestic water use is outdoors for gardening, swimming pools etc.
and 42% is used indoors. A 2016 update of the 1999 study measured the
average quantities and percent shares of seven indoor end uses of water:
24% Toilets 3% Baths
20% Showers 17% Clothes Washers
1% Dishwashers 19% Faucets
4% Other Domestic UsesOnly a very small share of public water supply is used for drinking. According to one 2002 survey of 1,000 households,
an estimated 56% of Americans drank water straight from the tap and an additional 37%
drank tap water after filtering it. 74% of Americans said they bought bottled
water. According to a non-representative survey conducted
among 216 parents (173 Latinos and 43 non-Latinos), 63 (29%) never drank tap water. The share is much higher among Latinos (34%)
than among non-Latinos (12%). The study concluded that many Latino families
avoid drinking tap water because they fear it causes illness, resulting in greater cost
for the purchase of bottled and filtered water. This notion is also repeated among Asians.==Institutional overview=====Service providers===EPA defines a public water system (PWS) as
one that provides water for human consumption through pipes or other constructed conveyances
to at least 15 service connections or serves an average of at least 25 people for at least
60 days a year. The agency has defined three types of PWS: Community Water System (CWS). A PWS that supplies water to the same population
year-round. Non-Transient Non-Community Water System (NTNCWS). A PWS that regularly supplies water to at
least 25 of the same people at least six months per year, but not year-round. Some examples are schools, factories, office
buildings, and hospitals which have their own water systems. Transient Non-Community Water System (TNCWS). A PWS that provides water in a place such
as a gas station or campground where people do not remain for long periods of time.In
2007 there were about 155,000 PWSs in the United States, of which 52,000 CWSs. PWSs are either publicly owned, cooperatives
or privately owned, serving a total of about 242 million people in 2000. EPA estimates the number of beneficiaries
of community water systems at 288 million in 2007 The United States Geological Survey
estimates that “About 242 million people depended on water from public suppliers” in 2000. Four thousand systems provide water in localities
with more than 10,000 inhabitants, and the remaining 50,000 systems provide water in
localities with less than 10,000 inhabitants. In 2000 15% of Americans (43.5 million people)
relied on their own water source, usually a well, for drinking water.Utilities in charge
of public water supply and sanitation systems can be owned, financed, operated and maintained
by a public entity, a private company or both can share responsibilities through a public-private
partnership. Utilities can either be in charge of only
water supply and/or sanitation, or they can also be in charge of providing other services,
in particular electricity and gas. In the latter case they are called multi-utilities. Bulk water suppliers are entities that manage
large aqueducts and sell either treated or untreated water to various users, including
utilities. Public service providers. Eighty-nine percent of Americans served by
a public water system are served by a public or cooperative entity. Usually public systems are managed by utilities
that are owned by a city or county, but have a separate legal personality, management and
finances. Examples are the District of Columbia Water
and Sewer Authority, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Denver Water. In some cases public utilities span several
jurisdictions. An example is the Washington Suburban Sanitary
Commission that spans two counties in Maryland. Utility cooperatives are a major provider
of water services, especially in small towns and rural areasPrivate utilities. About half of American drinking water utilities,
or about 26,700, are privately owned, providing water to 11% of Americans served by public
water systems. Most of the private utilities are small, but
a few are large and are traded on the stock exchange. The largest private water company in the U.S.
is American Water, which serves 15 million customers in 1,600 communities in the U.S.
and Canada. It is followed by United Water, which serves
7 million customers and is owned by the French firm Suez Environnement. Overall, about 33.5 million Americans (11%
of the population) get water from a privately owned drinking water utility. In addition, 20% of all wastewater utilities
in the U.S. are privately owned, many of them relatively small. About 3% of Americans get wastewater service
from private wastewater utilities. In addition, more than 1,300 government entities
(typically municipalities) contract with private companies to provide water and/or wastewater
services.Multi-utilities. Some utilities in the U.S. provide only water
and/or sewer services, while others are multi-utilities that also provide power and gas services. Examples of utilities that provide only water
and sewer services are the Boston Water and Sewer Commission, Dallas Water Utilities,
the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Seattle Public Utilities and the
Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. Other utilities, such as the San Francisco
Public Utilities Commission, provide power in addition to water and sewer services. Other multi-utilities provide power and water
services, but no sewer services, such as the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
and the Orlando Utilities Commission. There are also some utilities that provide
only sewer services, such as the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago
or the sewer utility in the city of Santa Clara. Bulk water suppliers. There are also a few large bulk water suppliers
in the arid Southwest of the United States, which sell water to utilities. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern
California (MWD) sells treated water from the Colorado River and Northern California
to its member utilities in Southern California through the California Aqueduct. Twenty-six cities and water districts serving
18 million people are members of MWD. The Central Arizona Water Conservation district
supplies water from the Colorado River to 80 municipal, industrial, agricultural and
Indian customers in Central and Southern Arizona through the Central Arizona Project Aqueduct
(CAP).===Regulators===
The economic regulation of water and sanitation service providers in the U.S. (in particular
in relation to the setting of user water rates) is usually the responsibility of regulators
such as Public Utility Commissions at the state level, which are organized in the National
Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. (see economic regulator). However, while all investor-owned utilities
are subject to tariff regulation, only few public utilities are subjected to the same
regulation. In fact, only 12 states have laws restricting
pricing practices by public water and sanitation utilities.The environmental and drinking water
quality regulation is the responsibility of state departments of health or environment
and the EPA.===Other stakeholders===
There are a number of Professional associations, trade associations and other non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) that are actively engaged in water supply and sanitation. Professional associations include the American
Society of Civil Engineers focused on advocacy for state revolving fund and water resource
development legislation, American Water Works Association (AWWA) oriented mainly towards
drinking water professionals and the Water Environment Federation (WEF) geared mainly
at wastewater professionals. The geographical scope of both is greater
than the U.S.: AWWA has members in 100 countries, with a focus on the U.S. and Canada, and WEF
has member associations in 30 countries.There are a number of trade associations in the
sector, including: The National Association of Water Companies
(NAWC), founded in 1895, which represents the interests of small and large private water
and wastewater utilities; The National Association of Clean Water Agencies
(NACWA), founded in 1970, which represents the interests of wastewater utilities;
The National Rural Water Association (NRWA), founded in 1976, which represents small water
and wastewater utilities; The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies
(AMWA), founded in 1981, which represents the interests of large publicly owned drinking
water utilities. The Water Reuse Association, founded in 2000,
which promotes water reclamation, recycling, reuse and desalination. The Water Quality Association represents manufacturers
and dealers of equipment for water treatment.In addition to lobbying, some of these trade
associations also provide public education, as well as training and technical assistance
to their members.An example of an NGO active in water supply and sanitation is Food & Water
Watch, a consumer rights group created in 2005 which focuses on corporate and government
accountability relating to food, water, and fishing. Another example is the Alliance for Water
Efficiency (AWE), which was created in 2007 with seed funding from the EPA to “advocate
for water efficiency research, evaluation, and education” at the national level. Its Board members “represent water utilities,
environmental organizations, plumbing and appliance associations, irrigation manufacturers,
the academic community, government, and others.”==Issues==
Among the main issues facing water users and the water industry in the U.S. in 2009 are
water scarcity and adaptation to climate change; concerns about combined sewer overflows and
drinking water quality; as well as concerns about a gap between investment needs and actual
investments. Other issues are concerns about a swiftly
retiring workforce, the affordability of water bills for the poor during a recession, and
water fluoridation, which is opposed by some mainly on ethical and safety grounds.===Water scarcity and climate change===
With water use in the United States increasing every year, many regions are starting to feel
the pressure. At least 36 states are anticipating local,
regional, or statewide water shortages by 2013, even under non-drought conditions.According
to the National Academies, climate change affects water supply in the U.S. in the following
ways: Rising water demands. Hotter summers mean thirstier people and plants. In addition, more evaporation from reservoirs
and irrigated farmland will lead to faster depletion of water supplies. Increased drought. Scientific evidence suggests that rising temperatures
in the southwestern United States will reduce river flows and contribute to an increased
severity, frequency, and duration of droughts. Seasonal supply reductions. Many utilities depend on winter snowpack to
store water and then gradually release it through snowmelt during spring and summer. Warmer temperatures will accelerate snowmelt,
causing the bulk of the runoff to occur earlier and potentially increasing water storage needs
in these areas.===Pollution===
An important turning point in managing drinking water pollution in the United States occurred
after passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974, which required the National Academy
of Sciences (NAS) to conduct a study of the issue. The NAS found that there really was not a
lot of information available on drinking water quality. Perhaps the most important part of the study,
according to senior EPA officials responsible for implementing the 1974 law, was that it
described some methodologies for doing risk assessments for chemicals that were suspected
carcinogens. Sewer overflows. Combined sewer overflows (CSO) and sanitary
sewer overflows affect the quality of water resources in many parts of the U.S. About 772 communities have combined sewer
systems, serving about 40 million people, mostly in the Northeast, the Great Lakes Region
and the Pacific Northwest. CSO discharges during heavy storms can cause
serious water pollution. A 2004 EPA report to Congress estimated that
there are 9,348 CSO outflows in the U.S., discharging about 850 billion US gallons (3.2×109
m3) of untreated wastewater and storm water to the environment. EPA estimates that between 23,000 and 75,000
sanitary sewer overflows occur each year, resulting in releases of between 3 and 10
billion US gallons (38,000,000 m3) of untreated wastewater.The increased frequency and intensity
of rainfall as a result of climate change will result in additional water pollution
from wastewater treatment, storage, and conveyance systems.” For the most part, wastewater treatment plants
and combined sewer overflow control programs have been designed on the basis of the historic
hydrologic record, taking no account of prospective changes in flow conditions due to climate
change. Drinking water quality. There are several aspects of drinking water
quality that are of some concern in the United States, including Cryptosporidium, disinfection
by-products, lead, perchlorates and pharmaceutical substances. However, in almost all cases drinking water
quality is in conformity with the norms of the Safe Drinking Water Act, which requires
EPA to set Maximum Contaminant Levels for pollutants. In addition, the EPA’s Consumer Confidence
Rule of 1998 requires most public water suppliers to provide consumer confidence reports, also
known as annual water quality reports, to their customers. Each year by July 1 anyone connected to a
public water system should receive in the mail an annual water quality report that tells
where water in a specific locality comes from and what’s in it. Consumers can find out about these local reports
on a map provided by EPA. 29% of Americans are reading their water quality
reports. A 2003 survey found that customers were generally
satisfied with the information they are receiving from their water companies and their local
or state environmental offices.===Investment gap===
In its Infrastructure Report Card the American Society of Civil Engineers gave both the U.S.
drinking water and wastewater infrastructure a grade of D- in 2005, down from D in 2001. According to the report, “the nation’s drinking
water system faces a staggering public investment need to replace aging facilities, comply with
safe drinking water regulations and meet future needs.” Investment needs are about $19 billion/year
for sanitation and $14 billion/year for drinking water, totaling $33 billion/year. State and local governments invested $35.1
billion in water supply and sanitation in 2008, including 16.3 billion for drinking
water supply and 18.8 billion for sanitation.As of 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers
report card remains a “D”, and a recent paper from Stanford University’s Center for Reinventing
the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt) describes why “water infrastructure is systemically
resistant to innovation”: Despite a growing sense that water will be
as important a global issue as energy in the coming century, capital deployed for water
resources “pales in comparison to that for renewable energy.”… Only 5 percent of the $4.3 billion in VC money
invested in the clean tech industry goes to water technologies. Federal support is also on the decline. The membranes that today enable desalinization
and water reuse, for example, were the fruits of R&D undertaken during the Kennedy administration. We now spend ten times less on that research. The paper notes that innovations occur when
utilities see opportunities for “short-term benefits and immediate savings,” when there
are water shortages, and in quality of life situations, like Philadelphia’s “green infrastructure
initiative designed to reduce combined sewer overflow.”Concerning drinking water supply
the EPA estimated in 2003 that $276.8 billion would have to be invested between 2003 and
2023. Concerning sanitation, the EPA estimated in
2007 that investment of $202.5 billion is needed over the next 20 years to control wastewater
pollution. This includes $134 billion for wastewater
treatment and collection, $54.8 billion for resolving unsatisfactory combined sewer overflows
and $9 billion for stormwater management. The EPA needs surveys do not capture all investment
needs, in particular concerning capital replacement.===Access===
In the U.S, in 2015, about 2.7 million people still lacked access to “improved” water. Regarding sanitation, in 2015, only around
36,000 people did not have access to “improved” sanitation.More than 99% of the U.S. population
has access to “complete plumbing facilities”, defined as the following services within the
housing unit: hot and cold piped water,
bathtub or shower, and flush toilet.However, more than 1.6 million
people in the United States, in 630,000 households, still lack basic plumbing facilities. More than a third of them have household incomes
below the federal poverty level. They are spread across all racial and ethnic
categories, but they are more prominent in the minority groups. Most of the people who lacked plumbing services
were elderly, poor, and living in rural areas. Alaska has the highest percentage of households
without plumbing – 6.32 percent of all its households.===Pricing and affordability===The median household in the U.S. spent about
1.1% of its income on water and sewerage in 2002. However, poor households face a different
situation: In 1997 18% of U.S. households, many of them poor, paid more than 4% of their
income on their water and sewer bill.The mean U.S. water tariff – excluding sewer tariffs
– was $2.72 per 1,000 gallons ($0.72 per cubic meter) in 2000, with significant variations
between localities. Average residential water tariffs for a monthly
consumption of 15 cubic meters varied between $0.35 per cubic meter in Chicago and $3.01
in Atlanta in 2007. The combined water and sewer tariff was $0.64
in Chicago and $3.01 in Atlanta, with Atlanta not charging separately for sewer services. Annual combined water and sewer bills vary
between $228 in Chicago and $1,476 in Atlanta in 2008. For purposes of comparison, the average water
and sewer bill in England and Wales in 2008 was equivalent to $466.The average annual
increase in typical residential water bills was approximately 5.3 percent from 2001 through
2009, while the increase in typical residential sewer bills was approximately 5.5 percent
according to data from the 50 Largest Cities Water and Wastewater Rate Survey by Black
& Veatch.===Retiring workforce===
The water community in the US is faced with a swiftly retiring workforce and a tightening
market place for new workers. In 2008, approximately one third of executives
and managers were expected to retire in the following five years. Water and sanitation utilities in the United
States had 41,922 employees in 2002.===Fluoridation===Water fluoridation, the controlled addition
of moderate concentrations of fluoride to a public water supply to reduce tooth decay,
is used for about two-thirds of the U.S. population on public water systems. Almost all major public health and dental
organizations support water fluoridation, or consider it safe. Nevertheless, it is contentious for ethical,
safety, and efficacy reasons.==Responses to address issues=====Supply-side management===
Historically the predominant response to increasing water demand in the U.S. has been to tap into
ever more distant sources of conventional water supply, in particular rivers. Because of environmental concerns and limitations
in the availability of water resources, including droughts that may be due to climate change,
this approach now is in many cases not feasible any more. Still, supply-side management is often being
pursued tapping into non-conventional water resources, in particular seawater desalination
in coastal areas with high population growth. California alone had plans to build 21 desalination
plants in 2006 with a total capacity of 450 million US gallons (1,700,000 m3) per day,
which would represent a massive 70-fold increase over current seawater desalination capacity
in the state. In 2007 the largest desalination plant in
the United States is the one at Tampa Bay, Florida, which began desalinating 25 million
US gallons (95,000 m3) of water per day in December 2007.In 2005 over 2,000 desalination
plants with a capacity of more than 100m3/day had been installed or contracted in every
state in the U.S. with a total capacity of more than 6 million m3/day. Only 7% of that capacity was for seawater
desalination, while 51% used brackish water and 26% used river water as water source. The contracted capacity corresponds to 2.4%
of total municipal and industrial water use in the country in 2000. The actual share of desalinated water is lower,
because some of the contracted capacity was never built or never operated, was closed
down or is not operated at full capacity.===Demand-side management===
Demand-side management, including the reduction of leakage in the distribution network and
water conservation, are other options that are being considered and, in some cases, also
applied to address water scarcity. For example, Seattle has reduced per capita
water use from 152 US gallons (580 L) per day in 1990 to 97 US gallons (370 L) per day
in 2007 through a comprehensive water conservation program including pricing policies, education,
regulations and rebates for water-saving appliances. Other cities such as Atlanta and Las Vegas
have also launched water conservation programs that are somewhat less comprehensive than
the one in Seattle concerning indoor water use. However, Las Vegas has intentionally focused
on curbing outdoor water demand, which accounts for 70% of residential water use in the city,
through reductions in turf area and incentives for the use of rains sensors, irrigation controllers
and pool covers. At the federal level, the Energy Policy Act
of 1992 set standards for water-efficient appliances, replacing the 3.5 US gallons (13
L) per flush (gpf) toilet with a new 1.6 gpf/6 litres per flush maximum standard for all
new toilets. By 1994, federal law mandated that showerheads
and faucets sold in the U.S. release no more than 2.5 and 2.2 US gallons (8.3 L) of water
per minute respectively. Also in 1994 the AWWA established a clearinghouse
for water conservation, efficiency, and demand management, called WaterWiser, to assist water
conservation professionals and the general public in using water more efficiently. In 2006 the EPA launched its WaterSense program
to encourage water efficiency beyond the standards set by the Energy Policy Act through the use
of a special label on consumer products.Distributional losses in the U.S. are typically 10–15%
of total withdrawals, although they can exceed 25% of total water use in older systems. According to another source unaccounted-for
water (UFW) – which includes system losses, water used for firefighting and water used
in the treatment process – was estimated to be only 8% in systems with more than 500,000
connections in 2000. In comparison, the level of water losses is
7% in Germany, 19% in England and Wales, and 26% in France. Together with Germany water losses in the
U.S. are thus among the lowest in 16 industrial countries.Low water tariffs and inappropriate
tariff structures do not encourage water conservation. For example, decreasing-block rates, under
which the unit rate decreases with consumption, offer hardly any incentive for water conservation. In 2000 about 51% of water tariffs in the
U.S.were uniform (i.e. the unit tariff is independent of the level of consumption),
12% were increasing-block tariffs (the unit rate increases with consumption) and 19% were
decreasing-block tariffs. The use of decreasing-block tariffs declined
sharply from 45% of all tariff structures in 1992. Sewer rates are often flat rates that are
not linked to consumption, thus offering no incentive to conserve water.===Water reuse===
Reuse of reclaimed water is an increasingly common response to water scarcity in many
parts of the United States. Reclaimed water is being reused directly for
various non-potable uses in the United States, including urban landscape irrigation of parks,
school yards, highway medians and golf courses; fire protection; commercial uses such as vehicle
washing; industrial reuse such as cooling water, boiler water and process water; environmental
and recreational uses such as the creation or restoration of wetlands; as well as agricultural
irrigation. In some cases, such as in Irvine Ranch Water
District in Orange County it is also used for flushing toilets.It was estimated that
in 2002 a total of 1.7 billion US gallons (6,400,000 m3) per day, or almost 3% of public
water supply, were being directly reused. California reused 0.6 and Florida 0.5 billion
US gallons (1,900,000 m3) per day respectively. Twenty-five states had regulations regarding
the use of reclaimed water in 2002. Planned direct reuse of reclaimed water was
initiated in 1932 with the construction of a reclaimed water facility at San Francisco’s
Golden Gate Park. Reclaimed water is typically distributed with
a color-coded dual piping network that keeps reclaimed water pipes completely separate
from potable water pipes.The leaders in use of reclaimed water in the U.S. are Florida
and California, with Irvine Ranch Water District as one of the leading developers. They were the first district to approve the
use of reclaimed water for in-building piping and use in flushing toilets. In places like Florida, where it is necessary
to avoid nutrient overload of sensitive receiving water, reuse of treated or reclaimed water
can be more economically feasible than meeting the higher standards for surface water disposal
mandated by the Clean Water ActIn a January 2012 U.S. National Research Council report,
a committee of independent experts found that expanding the reuse of municipal wastewater
for irrigation, industrial uses, and drinking water augmentation could significantly increase
the United States’ total available water resources. The committee noted that a portfolio of treatment
options is available to mitigate water quality issues in reclaimed water. The report also includes a risk analysis that
suggests the risk of exposure to certain microbial and chemical contaminants from drinking reclaimed
water is not any higher than the risk from drinking water from current water treatment
systems—and in some cases, may be orders of magnitude lower. The report concludes that adjustments to the
federal regulatory framework could enhance public health protection and increase public
confidence in water reuse. There are examples of communities that have
safely used recycled water for many years. Los Angeles County’s sanitation districts
have provided treated wastewater for landscape irrigation in parks and golf courses since
1929. The first reclaimed water facility in California
was built at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in 1932. The Water Replenishment District of Southern
California was the first groundwater agency to obtain permitted use of recycled water
for groundwater recharge in 1962. The Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD) was
the first water district in California to receive an unrestricted use permit from the
state for its recycled water; such a permit means that water can be used for any purpose
except drinking. IRWD maintains one of the largest recycled
water systems in the nation with more than 400 miles serving more than 4,500 metered
connections. The Irvine Ranch Water District and Orange
County Water District in Southern California are established leaders in recycled water. Further, the Orange County Water District,
located in Orange County, water is given more advanced treatments and is used indirectly
for drinking.The Trinity River in Texas is a representative example of an effluent-dominated
surface water system where de facto potable water reuse occurs. The section of the river south of Dallas/Fort
Worth consists almost entirely of wastewater effluent under base flow conditions. In response to concerns about nutrients, the
wastewater treatment plants in Dallas/Fort Worth that collectively discharge about 2
million m3 per day of effluent employ nutrient removal processes. Little dilution of the effluent-dominated
waters occurs as the water travels from Dallas/Fort Worth to Lake Livingston, which is one of
the main drinking water reservoirs for Houston. Once the water reaches Lake Livingston, it
is subjected to conventional drinking water treatment prior to delivery to consumers in
Houston.====Non-potable reuse (NPR)====
Austin, Texas Clark County, Nevada
Clearwater, Florida Contra Costa County, California
San Antonio operates the largest recycled water system in the United States. Tucson, Arizona
San Diego, California (San Diego County) St. Petersburg, Florida====Indirect potable reuse (IPR)====
Orange County is located in Southern California, USA, and houses a classic example in IPR. A large-scale artificial groundwater recharge
scheme exists in the area, providing a much-needed freshwater barrier to intruding seawater. Part of the injected water consists of recycled
water, starting as of 1976 with Water Factory 21, which used RO and high lime to clean the
water (production capacity of 19,000 m3 per day). This plant was de-commissioned in 2004 and
has since made place for a new project with a higher capacity (265,000 m3 per day with
an ultimate capacity of 492,000 m3 per day), under the name of Groundwater Replenishment
System. This newer scheme uses the newer technological
combination of RO, MF, and ultraviolet light with hydrogen peroxide. Plans are also underway to further increase
the capacity of the system, which already provides up to 20% of the water used by the
country.In the USA, San Diego, California is the leading state implementing IPR. MF, RO and UV/H2O2 are employed prior to groundwater
replenishment with the treated effluents (CDPH, 2013). In San Diego, the effort to increase the share
of recycled water was rekindled with an extensive study in 2006. MF provides substantial removal of the dissolved
effluent organic matter (dEfOM), while dEfOM reduction down to 0.5 mg/L (in terms of TOC)
is achieved through RO application. The chemical oxidation treatment (UV/H2O2)
following the membrane steps, results in the mitigation of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA),
as well as in the improvement of the effluent quality with respect to its organic content.The
City of El Paso’s (Texas, USA) water sources include groundwater aquifers and surface water
from the Rio Grande. In order to increase groundwater levels, the
El Paso Water Utilities injects advanced treated reclaimed water into the aquifer. The advanced treatment facilities use two-stage
powdered activated carbon (PAC), addition of lime, two-stage recarbonation, sand filtration,
ozonation, granular activated carbon (GAC), and chlorination for purifying the water. The Hueco Bolson Recharge Project, which initially
began in 1985, currently recharges 1,700 acre-feet per year of reclaimed water at 10 injection
wells and 800 acre-feet per year at an infiltration basin for groundwater recharge.In Colorado,
USA, the Colorado River Municipal Water District implemented a project to capture treated municipal
effluent from the City of Big Spring, and provide additional advanced treatment prior
to blending into their raw surface water delivery system (2012). Advanced treatment of the municipal effluent
consisted of MF, RO, and ultraviolet oxidation, producing very high quality water, which is
blended with surface water from Lake E.V. Spence for distribution to their member and
customer cities (production of 6,700 m3 per day).Further examples: Big Spring, Texas indirect potable reuse program
Orange County, California Pasadena, California
Payson, Arizona The Torreele project in the Veurne coastal
region of Belgium, which began operating in 2002″
Virginia Occoquan Reservoir – The Upper Occoquan Sewage Authority plant discharges
its highly treated output to supply roughly 20% of the inflow into the Occoquan Reservoir,
which provides drinking water used by the Fairfax County Water Authority – one of
the three major water providers in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Windhoek, Namibia
Wichita Falls, Texas (toilet-to-tap reuse as a temporary measure during drought conditions,
2014–2015; Indirect potable use 2015)====Direct Potable Reuse (DPR)====
In July 2014, the city of Wichita Falls, Texas (USA), became one of the first in the United
States to use treated wastewater directly in its drinking water supply (production of
45,000–60,000 m3 per day). Treated wastewater is disinfected and pumped
to the Cypress Water Treatment Plant where it goes through clarification, microfiltration
(MF), reverse osmosis (RO), and ultraviolet light disinfection before being released into
a holding lagoon where it is blended with lake water (50:50). The blended water goes through a seven-step
conventional surface water treatment.Proposed projects: Los Angeles, California – By 2019, the Los
Angeles Department of Water and Power will build a plant to replenish their groundwater
aquifer with purified water in order to deal with the shortage of rain and snow fall, restricted
water imports and local groundwater contamination. San Diego, California (San Diego County)===Pollution control===
Numerous efforts have been undertaken in the United States to control the pollution of
water resources and to make drinking water safe. The most comprehensive federal regulations
and standards for the water treatment industry were implemented in the 1970s, in reaction
to a huge increase in environmental concerns in the country. In 1972, Congress passed the Clean Water Act
(CWA), with the unprecedented goal of eliminating all water pollution by 1985 and authorized
expenditures of $24.6 billion in research and construction grants. In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking
Water Act, specifying a number of contaminants that had to be closely monitored and reported
to residents should they exceed the maximum contaminant levels. The CWA included substantial federal grant
funding to improve sewage treatment infrastructure in the form of construction grants to local
governments. The 1987 Water Quality Act amended the CWA,
replacing the sewage treatment construction grant program with a system of subsidized
loans, using the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF). The loans use a combination of 80% federal
funds and 20% matching funds from states. The intention at the time was to completely
phase out federal funding after a few years. Funding for the CWSRF peaked in 1991 and continued
at high levels thereafter, despite the original intentions. New challenges arose, such as the need to
address combined sewer overflows for which EPA issued a policy in 1994, and which was
codified into law by Congress in 2000. In 1996 Congress established the Drinking
Water State Revolving Fund, in order to finance investments to improve compliance with more
stringent drinking water quality standards.Today cities make significant investments in the
control of combined sewer overflows, including through the construction of storage facilities
in the sewerage system in order to allow for the subsequent controlled release of sewage
into treatment plants.===Federal assistance===One way to address the funding needs of utilities
to respond to the various challenges they face without increasing the burden of water
bills on users is federal financial assistance. Centralized water and sanitation infrastructure
is typically financed through utilities’ own revenue or debt. Debt can be in the form of soft loans from
State Revolving Funds (SRF), credits from commercial Banks or – in the case of large
utilities – from bonds issued directly in the capital market. In the case of water supply (i.e. excluding
sanitation), 42% of investments were financed by private sector borrowing, 39% by current
revenues, 13% by government loans including the Drinking Water SRF, 5% by government grants
and 1% from other sources. Although federal funding for the main of the
two SRFs has declined in real terms by 70% between its peak in 1991 and 2006, SRFs play
an important role in financing water and sanitation investments. There are two SRFs: The larger Clean Water
State Revolving Fund, created in 1987, and the smaller Drinking Water State Revolving
Fund, created in 1997. They receive federal and state contributions
and issue bonds. In turn, they provide soft loans to utilities
in their respective states, with average interest rates at 2% for up to 20 years in the case
of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. In addition to the SRFs, the United States
Department of Agriculture provides grants, loans and loan guarantees for water supply
and sanitation in small communities (those with less than 10,000 inhabitants), together
with technical assistance and training.The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of
February 17, 2009, provided $4 billion for the Clean Water SRF, $2 billion for the Drinking
Water SRF and, among others, $126 million for water recycling projects through the United
States Bureau of Reclamation. This program exceeded previous levels of financing,
since Congress approved only US$1.5 billion of federal funding for State Revolving Funds
in 2008. This was much below the historical average
of US$3 billion/year for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (1987–2006) and US$1.2 billion/year
for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (1997–2005). The share of federal funding for sanitation
has declined from almost 50% in the early 1980s to about 20% in the early 1990s. A May 2016 article asserted that there has
been “a huge federal retreat from helping cities fund water projects,” stating that
overall federal spending on water utilities “has dropped 75 percent since 1977,” and that
experts expect more situations like the Flint water crisis to emerge.Congress passed the
Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014 (WIFIA) to provide an expanded
credit program for water and wastewater infrastructure projects, with broader eligibility criteria
than the previously-authorized revolving funds. Pursuant to the act, EPA established its Water
Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center in 2015 to help local governments and municipal
utilities design innovative financing mechanisms, including public-private partnerships. It is part of the federal government’s Build
American Investment Initiative. Congress amended the WIFIA program in 2015
and 2016. One of the envisaged instruments to boost
financing in water infrastructure are Qualified Public Infrastructure Bonds (QPIBs), tax-exempt
municipal bonds that can be used by private companies.==See also==
Bottled water in the United States Environment of the United States
List of water supply and sanitation by country Water pollution in the United States==References====Further reading====External links==
Ground Water and Drinking Water – EPA EPA Wastewater Permit Program – NPDES
Rural Water Supplies and Water Quality Issues – Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
Public Water Systems – Water Sources – CDC ReNUWIt, Engineering Research Center for Re-inventing
the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure National Rural Water Association

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