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Time for U.S. water drinking standards to meet those of the E.U

Clean water

(NaturalNews) Although the U.S. is regarded as a developed nation, its infrastructure often does not provide Americans with safe drinking water. In wake of the Flint, Michigan incident, where state and federal regulators permitted the public to drink water contaminated with lead, it would be wise for the U.S. to take note of the water drinking standards of the European Union (E.U.).

Most Americans are unaware of how big a problem contaminated water in the U.S. has become. The water crisis isn't limited to Flint, Michigan. More than 156,000 water systems provide tap water to around 320 million Americans through a network of corroding pipes spanning 700,000 miles. The pipes have alloys, which contaminate the water with lead over time.

Most of the pipes and mains in the U.S. are over one hundred years old. Experts agree that the aging U.S. water infrastructure is a problem that needs immediate action. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issued a report about America's infrastructure in 2013, which concluded that much of the drinking water infrastructure is approaching the ends of its useful lifespan. "In this country, 44% of America's water infrastructure will be considered poor, very poor, or life elapsed," said Susan Story, President and CEO of American Water Works (AWK).

Who sets the standard?

Water drinking standards are different across the globe. In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the drinking water standards. Current standards encompass inorganic (IOCs), volatile organic (VOCs), semi-volatile organic (SOCs), disinfection byproducts, microbials, and radiological contaminants, according to the National Drinking Water Cleaning House. Not all countries abide by U.S. drinking standards, however. A review of members of the E.U. reveals that some countries monitor far more contaminants than the U.S. does.

The Drinking Water Directive sets the standards for drinking water in the E.U. Approximately 48 microbiological, chemical and indicator parameters have to be constantly monitored and tested. When the Drinking Water Directive is applied at the national level, member states of the E.U. can add more requirements, such as regulating an additional substance pertinent to an area, or setting even higher standards. However, member states are not permitted to set lower standards.

E.U. has the strictest pesticide standards anywhere

The E.U. has the strictest pesticide standards in the world. Instead of attempting to regulate every single type of pesticide and its stringent, the E.U. has a maximum limit of 0.1 ug/L for every pesticide and metabolite. Pesticide concentrations cannot surpass 0.5 ug/L. If the U.S. were to adopt the drinking standards of the E.U., many water suppliers would have to purchase carbon or membrane technology, which would significantly raise the price of water production.

The regulation of organic compounds containing only carbon and hydrogen, otherwise known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), is more complex in the E.U too. Like pesticides, contaminate concentrations cannot exceed certain standards.

Germany has set the standard for endocrine altering chemicals like polybrominated biphenyls and terphenyls. The country is at the forefront of research into endocrine disruptors, and recognizes the chemicals in their drinking laws. They have set standards for polychlorinated and polybrominated biphenyls (PCBs and PBBs ), which have been used to poison people in places like Michigan. As Germany continues to investigate endocrine disrupting chemicals, additional standards will likely be created for brominated compounds and other classes of Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SOCs).

The Drinking Water Directive also demands a flow of data to consumerssomething the EPA failed to do after they flooded the Animas River with 3 million gallons of toxic sludge early last year. Furthermore, in the E.U., drinking water quality must be reported to the European Commission every three years. The Commission compares the quality of the water reported to the standards set by the Drinking Water Directive. They then produce a synthesis report, which outlines the quality of the drinking water and how it can be improved.

Fixing America's corroding infrastructure

The U.S. falls short of the drinking standards set by the E.U. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), 40 out of 50 state water managers fear that they will have a water supply problem within the next ten years. These concerns have only intensified in light of recent events in Flint, Michigan.

In other words, America's infrastructure needs fixing but it won't be cheap. The American Water Works Association estimates it will cost over $1 trillion to replace all the pipes in U.S. over the next decade.

America's water crisis isn't limited to just a corroding infrastructure either. Most water in the United States comes from groundwater and surface water. The demand for groundwater has increased along with the growth of the population over the last few decades. Consequently, many communities are exhausting groundwater just to fulfill their daily needs. As a corollary, groundwater depletion has become a major problem for these residential colonies.

In F.Y. 2016, the EPA announced that it needed $2.3 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), a federal-state program to help ensure clean drinking water. Since state and federal agencies have failed to secure safe drinking water in the past, why trust them now? More to the point, what sources can be trusted?

Alternative water sources

To decrease the reliance on groundwater, many people across the globe are using rainwater harvesting systems. Until recently, rainwater was primarily used as a source of drinking water in rural regions. The foremost benefit of rainwater is that it is devoid of both natural and man-made contaminants. In addition, rainwater is easy to maintain, lowers water bills, works for irrigation, minimizes soil erosion, and can be used for purposes other than drinking. Although rainwater collection and filtration systems are expensive in the short-term, they help reduce high water bills in the long-term.

Because of strict standards, members of the E.U. reap the benefits of high-quality water. By contrast, the infrastructure of the United States is corroding, and state regulators consistently fail to ensure clean water for its citizens. As a result, it's time that Americans seek alternative sources of water and hold the EPA accountable for its shortcomings. In short: think before you drink.

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