Water, Water Everywhere, But is it Safe to Drink?

It’s nearly summertime. That means swimsuit shopping, margarita mixing and staying hydrated.

As hard as finding the right suit and mixing the perfect drink is, the last thing on that list might be most difficult of all.

A recent report by the National Resources Defense League (NRDL), a New York environmental advocacy group said that approximately 77 million Americans currently drink water violating the Safe Water Drinking Act of 1974. That’s about one in four people in the country.

The NRDC report writes: “NRDC has documented serious problems with our outdated and deteriorating water infrastructure, widespread violations and inadequate enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act.”

Not only is a shocking amount of American drinking water compromised by things like lead, arsenic, and nitrates, but the presence of these contaminants is routinely under-reported, leaving many Americans unaware of how dangerous their water might be.

The Flint Water Crisis is one of the more extreme cases of water contamination and corruption in recent years. Government officials ignored or covered up concerns about the city’s water supply, leading to the continued struggle of this underserved Michigan community. Issues of discrimination and reckless endangerment entered the national conversation around this controversy, as the city of Flint is comprised of about 57 percent African American residents, with approximately 41 percent of its residents living below the poverty line.

With such pervasive threats to drinking water throughout the country (all fifty states have water systems with reported violations), the NRDC recommends immediate and sweeping action in the form of improved infrastructure (supported by additional funding), new regulations and beefed up enforcement of old ones, and better testing for water contamination.

However, in a press release accompanying their report, the group seemed concerned that the new administration’s fiscal plan would exacerbate problems rather than remedy them:  “A new threat to the nation’s water supplies comes in the form of dramatic cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2018 budget—including programs designed to safeguard our nation’s drinking water,” they stated.

So, at least for this summer, maybe we should all just play it safe and stick to Gatorade—because that’s totally healthy, right? (spoiler alert: no, it’s not)