Clean and safe drinking water is a human right that is vital for living a healthy life, protecting the environment, and supporting economic growth. However, across the country American families are threatened by unsafe drinking water and low-income communities are bearing the brunt of this issue. In many cities, agricultural runoff, toxic algal blooms, industrial chemicals, and lead contamination have proven to harm water quality and in certain cases, violate federal law.
The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was passed by Congress in 1974 to protect public health by regulating the nation’s public drinking water supply. The Act was amended in the following years protect drinking water sources which include rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs and ground water wells. This approach ensures the quality of drinking water by protecting it from the source to the tap.
However, federal law has proven insufficient to protecting our nation’s drinking water sources. The SDWA sets maximum levels for specific contaminants in drinking water and requires regular water testing, but the law does not extend to communities, homes, or schools that rely on private wells or smaller systems. Many contaminants in our drinking water are not regulated by federal law, which has resulted in harmful chemicals in our drinking supply and corporations not being held accountable for the toxins they produce that threaten our waterways and reservoirs.
Water quality varies greatly across the nation – the neighborhood you live in can determine whether or not you have access to safe, clean drinking water. The quality of water not only reflects a public health crisis, but reflects the inequities and underinvestment in our rural and low-income communities.
Ensuring clean, safe drinking water for all Americans transcends partisan politics. I have spent much of my professional career protecting water quality and water supplies as Executive Director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network. One of my proudest moments at the TCWN was the initiative done to make clean drinking water accessible across Tennessee in an effort to lower obesity and diabetes rates statewide. The project worked in many ways to encourage people to drink more water by installing water bottle refill stations in high traffic areas like downtown, parks, and schools and successfully tripled the number of water bottle refill stations in Tennessee public schools.
As a member of Congress, I will continue to fight for policies that protect our water quality and water sources. I would support legislation that:
- Strengthens the Safe Drinking Water Act
- Invests in updating water infrastructure
- Increases accountability for corporate polluters
- Identifies and develops community-driven, inclusive solutions