Clean, potable water is perhaps the most fundamentally important resource for a population. Access to reliable water supplies have shaped the history of settlement and human migration, the rise and fall of cultures and civilizations, strategic battles and land controversy and the success of the agricultural and industrial revolution.
Knowledge of water quality and access has evolved over time and in particular, advancement and technologies over the past couple of centuries have allowed human populations to thrive and endeavors to develop and expand. Despite the achievements made, consistency regarding regulation, treatment and quality has been a very recent occurrence. Bringing together federal, state and local agencies to agree upon, establish and enforce water quality standards was the integral step in ensuring adequate access for all Americans. Even today, there are new threats, technologies and circumstances that require continuous attention so that standards are updated and upheld. Scientific data must be embraced to this end as water supplies and quality are strained society’s need for water.
A review of water treatment milestones offers a perspective on the history of drinking water, and a review of past practice reveals some of the inherent problems facing water supplies over the last several decades. By investigating the threats, one can itemize key aspects of modern water laws and become an advocate for the policies that have been established to maintain the health of our surface and groundwater supplies.