US Drinking Water Regulation: History and Politics, 1914-2015


Series: Water Resource Planning, Development and Management
BISAC: TEC010030

What constitutes “safe” drinking water? For more than a century, the US government has attempted to answer this question by setting national standards for drinking water quality. In a federal system of governance, however, national standards only go so far. State and local governments have long considered it their prerogative to select water supplies and treatment technologies – decisions that largely determine whether or not national standards will ever be met. Tragedies like the drinking water crisis in Flint, MI remind us that there are definite limits to what federal power can achieve. Nevertheless, the quest to raise the quality of drinking water through national standards remains an important and underappreciated episode in the history of US public health policy.

In this book, Michael Zarkin traces the development of US drinking water standards, beginning with the earliest efforts by the US Public Health Service to craft national standards, and ending with the EPA’s most recent efforts to implement the Safe Drinking Water Act. Along the way, Dr. Zarkin tells the story of the ideas, political battles, and scientific controversies that shaped our nation’s drinking water regulations. In the end, Dr. Zarkin concludes that drinking water regulation is made through an unconventional style of politics not found in other areas of US environmental policy.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents



List of Abbreviations

Chapter 1. Introduction

Chapter 2. Beginnings of Federal Involvement

Chapter 3. Formulating & Implementing the SDWA

Chapter 4. Political Conflict & Policy Reform

Chapter 5. The Triumph of Risk Management, 1990-2015

Chapter 6. Conclusion



Additional Information

Audience: Scholars of US environmental and public health studies (policy and history).

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