Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – March 19th, 2005

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

March 18, 2005

Frist Introduces Bill to Support Safe Drinking Water

Legislation making safe drinking water for developing nations a major policy goal of U.S. foreign policy was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn) last week. The bill, “The Medicine, Health and Safe Water: Currency for Peace Act of 2005,” would authorize a five-year pilot program providing $250 million a year to assist countries with high rates of waterborne diseases develop alternative funding mechanisms toward the creation of sustainable water infrastructures.

Safe water and sanitation are key preventative measures to eradicate diseases such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery, dengue fever, diarrheal disease and malaria in developing nations. Investment insurance, investment guarantees or loan guarantees up to 75 percent are provided as incentives in the bill to encourage infrastructure investment, according to Dr. Frist. The legislation would also require the U.S. Secretary of State and the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop a national strategy for both assessing and expanding current water safety and sanitation efforts within180 days.

Water-related diseases kill an estimated 14,000 people worldwide a day, the majority of whom are children. Conservative projections show that by 2025, two-thirds of the global population may not have access to safe water.
EPA to Strengthen Lead Rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it intended to strengthen a 1991 rule regulating lead levels in drinking water. In the wake of revelations that portions of residential Washington, DC had lead levels exceeding national standards, the EPA’s year-long review has produced nine targeted revisions to the existing Lead and Copper Rule.

According to the EPA, the proposed rule would strengthen monitoring, require water utilities to provide more complete information to states and customers, increase public awareness and education, and clarify actions water systems must take if high levels of lead are found. In addition, the recommended revisions will assist utilities to comply with the Lead and Copper Rule while maintaining compliance with other drinking water rules. The EPA hopes that the proposed rule will be introduced by the end of 2005 or in early 2006.

There are approximately 170,000 public water systems in the U.S. Elevated lead levels are typically caused by leaching as drinking water passes through subterranean pipes and home plumbing fixtures containing lead.

To read EPA’s proposed revision to the “Lead and Copper Rule,” please go to:

World Water Day to Kick-off a Decade of Change

A new United Nations “International Decade for Action” on water will be launched on World Water Day, March 22, 2005. The goal of the Water for Life Decade 2005-2015 is to heighten attention to water education programs and increase the participation of women, who are largely responsible for household water handling.

The first water decade, from 1981-1990 succeeded in providing water to over one billion people and adequate sanitation to 77 million. Yet currently almost 1.1 billion people remain without adequate access to water and 2.4 billion are without proper sanitation. A UN Summit in September 2005 will review the progress made towards Millennium Development Goals that include reducing by half the number of people without access to clean water and safe sanitation by 2015.

An initiative that grew out of the 1992 UN Conference on Environmental and Development, World Water Day is an international day of observance to raise global awareness for the necessity of safer, healthier water conditions worldwide.

To read more about the World Water Day, please go to:

National Water Quality Assessment Data Now On-Line

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Water has released the first-ever interactive database of state water quality assessment data, providing easy Web access to water quality information at the state and local levels. The National Water Quality Assessment Database (NWQAD) summarizes water quality reports submitted electronically by the states to EPA for the 2002 reporting cycle.

The initial release of NWQAD features data summaries for 32 states, allowing Web site visitors to view assessments of individual water bodies. The remaining states are participating in a review and approval process of their 2002 data. They are slated to be added to the database by March 31.

EPA will also continue to work with the states to improve electronic reporting for the 2004 cycle and beyond.

To view the new EPA database, please go to:
EPA “National Water Quality Assessment Database”

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