The water tragedy in Flint, Michigan has been splashed all over the media over the past two years, as residents have had to deal with polluted tap water – a tragedy with no end in sight.
It’s easy to take water for granted, especially considering the fact that your tap water may not be as clean as you think. It may not be a Flint-esque situation, but your county’s water supply is potentially unsafe, depending on where you live.
Threats to Clean Drinking Water
A new study by a water economist at the University of California, Irvine, analyzed water supplies on a county by county basis. While the author says most water in the U.S. is safe, the biggest risk comes in rural, low-income areas. And even some metropolitan water sources have issues.
The most common threats, according to the study, include elevated lead levels, the presence of coliform bacteria, arsenic, nitrates, and other harmful contaminants. Water is regulated in the U.S. under the EPA, but these contaminants are still present – and the number of violations filed under the EPA has gone up steadily from 1982 to 2015, right around the time of the Flint crisis.
Fortunately, when looking at a map of county-by-county violations, Alabama has a pretty clean record, with virtually all counties accounting for just 0-4 violations per water system from 1982 to 2015. During that time period, Jefferson County in particular only received 1.3 violations.
The number of violations isn’t conclusive proof that water is safe to drink, since there may be violations that aren’t reported or discovered by the EPA. However, the metro Birmingham area has some of the fewest violations and some of the best drinking water in the nation, which you can learn more about by reading the 2018 annual report from the Birmingham Water Works Board.
The county in Alabama with the highest number of violations during that time period per water system was Sumter County, with 9.3. The highest in the nation belongs to McCullough County, Texas, with 149.3 violations per water system.
As the study shows, lower-income, rural areas typically have smaller budgets for water systems and can’t afford a full staff of full-time operators or the latest technology. One potential solution is to use larger metro-area water systems to supply water to more rural areas, a practice that can be less expensive than building a new, high-tech water treatment facility.
Contact Water Way for More Information
Water is life’s most precious resource, and every American should have access to clean drinking water. Hopefully the study will help push policy-makers in that direction.