DEQ marks anniversary of Safe Drinking Water Act

On December 16, 2004, the country marks the 30th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act. “The Act has been at the core of our progress as a nation in improving the quality of drinking water and the health of our citizens”, said Steve Thompson, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). “This historic day is an appropriate time to reflect on the accomplishments of the past 30 years, the states' role in the implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act and the challenges that still lie ahead,” continued Thompson.

“The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 has helped the citizens of the United States enjoy one of the safest water supplies in the world”, noted Jon Craig, Director of DEQ's Water Quality Division. “The Act provides a far-reaching mandate and the tools to get the job done.” The overall strategy embodied in the Act is a multifaceted one. It starts with protecting the quality and quantity of water that will ultimately be the source of public water supplies. The approach includes critical actions from the time water is withdrawn from its source, through treatment, to its eventual delivery to homes, schools and businesses.

By almost any measure, a tremendous amount has been accomplished over the past three decades in ensuring the safety of drinking water for our citizens:

H Since 1974, we have dramatically increased the number of individuals and communities receiving water that meets all public health standards. Today, more than 3,473,415 people in Oklahoma receive water from 1,160 community water systems. The vast majority of that water meets all public health standards.

H The number of contaminants that are regulated by public water systems has grown from about two dozen in 1974 to almost 100 in 2004, while the number of waterborne disease outbreaks had dropped and continues to stay low.

H Using funds provided by the federal government and matched with their own funds, Oklahoma has provided $149,736,877 to local water systems since 1996. This assistance has helped water systems make the infrastructure improvements needed to maintain public health.

Oklahoma has played a central role in this march of progress. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, states are vested with the principal responsibility for administering the requirements of the Act within their jurisdictions. States carry out their responsibilities through partnerships - working closely with officials at the federal, state and local levels. Drinking water has always been important in our state and as a result Oklahoma was the first state in the nation to attain primary enforcement responsibility for both the Public Water Supply Supervision Program and the Underground Injection Control Program under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The tasks facing state drinking water programs will continue to be extremely challenging — especially in an era of scarce resources. The drinking water infrastructure in many cities is aging and presents daunting resource demands. As a nation, we continue to be challenged by new and emerging drinking water contaminants associated with our industrial society. “Today, states renew their commitment to build on the successes of the past 30 years and to continue to work with all of our partners to fully realize the public health goals of the Safe Drinking Water Act”, said Thompson.

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