Closing the Water Quality Gap: Using Policy to Improve Drinking Water in Federally-Unregulated Drinking Water Systems

Topics in Drinking Water
Oral Presentation

Prepared by , C. Fry

Contact Information: [email protected]; 510-302-3304


The federal Safe Drinking Water Act1 (SDWA) regulates the nationís public drinking water supply, safeguarding drinking water for the majority of US residents. However, the SDWA does not apply to all drinking water sources. Privately owned wells serve approximately 12% of the US population, or 34 million residents. These smaller water systems do not meet the federal definition of a public water system and therefore are not regulated by federal law.

Many states and localities educate owners and users of private water systems about potential risks of these federally-unregulated water systems and implement programs and policies to fill this gap in regulation.

This purpose of fact sheet is to highlight how policy in particular can be used at the local and state levels to ensure access to safe drinking water for people who use private wells. This fact sheet defines policy; discusses the role that health departments can play in policy change; and provides examples of state and local policies. It also focuses specifically on policy changes that apply to federally-unregulated wells, which account for the majority of federally-unregulated water systems.