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Who makes the rules and regulations for drinking water?
Regulations are made by both federal and state agencies. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) passed by Congress in 1974 and amended in 1986 and 1996 is governed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Within the EPA, the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water administers the drinking water program under the Public Water Supply Supervision Program. Their functions include:
Setting the maximum contaminant levels (MCL’s) for contaminants in drinking water and setting other requirements to ensure drinking water is safe.
Delegating primary enforcement responsibilities to the states. Monitoring state activities to ensure that regulations are being met.
Providing for continued research on drinking water contaminants.
Providing technical assistance to the states.
Provided for in the SDWA is the intent that states accept primary responsibility for enforcement of the states’ drinking water program (primacy). Under these provisions, each state must establish requirements for public water systems at least as stringent as those set by the EPA. In Virginia, the agency is the Virginia Department of Health.
In addition to the SDWA, the EPA has promulgated several specific rules to address various types of water contaminant problems. Some of these rules are: Surface Water Treatment Rule, Total Revised Coliform Rule and the Lead and Copper Rule.
|Water Hardness Scale|
|Grains Per Gallon||Milligrams Per Liter (mg/L)
or Parts Per Million (ppm)
|less than 1.0||less than 17.1||Soft|
|1.0 - 3.5||17.1 - 60||Slightly Hard|
|3.5 - 7.0||60 - 120||Moderately Hard|
|7.0 - 10.5||120 - 180||Hard|
|over 10.5||over 180||Very Hard|
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establishes standards for drinking water which fall into two categories — Primary Standards and Secondary Standards. Primary Standards are based on health considerations and Secondary Standards are based on aesthetics such as taste, odor, color or corrosivity. There is no Primary or Secondary standard for water hardness. In fact, the National Research Council (National Academy of Sciences) states that hard drinking water generally contributes a small amount toward total calcium and magnesium human dietary needs (National Research Council, Drinking Water and Health, Volume 3, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1980)