Water & Health Advisory Council
Last year, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law which included $50 billion to improve our nation’s water systems—the largest investment towards water that the government has ever made. Now that the money has been granted, it is up to the EPA and state leaders to make sure the investment is prioritized to most benefit public health.
In December, EPA Administrator Michael Regan sent a letter outlining the EPA’s plan to partner with states to maximize the impact of these funds. These priorities only begin to touch on the long list of needs in our drinking water systems today.
Disadvantaged Communities
Throughout the past year, we’ve seen numerous accounts of tribes, communities of color, and low-income people struggling for access to clean drinking water. The EPA is giving states the power to deliver water equity to these communities by providing almost half of the available funds via grants and full forgivable loans. While federal funds of this caliber can be transformative to communities that are plagued with severe water issues, money alone cannot sustain a clean drinking water supply. Ensuring that state water utility leaders know the most effective way to improve systems and have the resources in place to maintain them is vital to long-term water equity for disadvantaged communities.
Child blood lead continues to decline because lead exposure is declining. However, there are still communities in the United States that are not meeting Lead and Copper Regulations because of a lack of corrosion control on water contacting old lead service lines and galvanized plumbing. These people are often low-income or live in small communities with limited access to assistance. Lead contamination can come from many sources, including old lead paint in older homes, but in drinking water lead has been a concern for many years and has been addressed in many communities, but not all. In areas and homes where lead has not been properly monitored and addressed, it is essential to prioritize funding and resources to reach these homes in communities that are now at high-risk for lead contamination from plumbing.

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been a contaminant of concern and the EPA has responded by dedicating $10 billion to address PFAS contamination. It’s important that areas with high PFAS contamination be monitored and addressed immediately. Additionally, we encourage the EPA to implement regulations using a risk- and cost-benefit analysis to determine the most effective path forward for our nation. Funds should be focused on research to help us get a better understanding of which communities are affected by PFAS so that we can prioritize resources in the most efficient way.
If distributed in a way that most benefits public health, these funds can be transformative for our nation’s drinking water systems. We stand ready to support a science-based approach to identifying and addressing the issues that present the greatest risks to water quality and public health in the United States.
Water Advisory Insights
Statement | EPA Administrator Regan Announces Bold Actions to Protect Communities Following the Journey to Justice Tour
The Water & Health Advisory Council applauds the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Administrator Michael S. Regan for the recently announced actions to protect communities that have been historically and disproportionately impacted by water infrastructure challenges.
Circle of Blue: The harrowing trail of toxic nutrients in farm country water
Council member Chad Seidel sat down with Circle of Blue to discuss the nitrate issues impacting our nation’s drinking water supply: “If we were addressing nitrate with the fervor we’re currently addressing PFAS, we would have solved the problem a decade ago,” said Seidel. “But we haven’t. We’ve accepted the fact that hundreds and hundreds of water systems across the U.S. can be out of compliance. And we’re okay with it.”
Member Research | AWWA Water Science: Does regulating per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances represent a meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction?
Katherine Alfredo, Amlan Ghosh and Council member Chad Seidel recently released a peer-reviewed analysis that sets a new way for policymakers to analyze toxic contaminants throughout the US.
Water News
From emergency climate-induced weather conditions to ongoing aging infrastructure needs, our nation's water supply is at risk. We must prioritize what best protects public health for the greatest number of people.
Associated Press: Haaland: 16 tribal water settlements will get $1.7 billion
The Biden administration will use $1.7 billion from the recently enacted federal infrastructure bill to fund 16 tribal water rights settlements, U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced Tuesday. The money will ensure that tribes get access to water they’ve been promised but have been unable to use because of a lack of funding for infrastructure to store and move it. Access to reliable, clean water and basic sanitation facilities on tribal lands remains a challenge for hundreds of thousands of people. The funding for settlements is part of about $11 billion from the infrastructure law headed to Indian Country to expand broadband coverage, fix roads and provide basic needs like running water.
New York Times: Harris Says Replacing Lead Pipes Is a Priority, Despite Limited Funding
The White House has made removing every lead pipe within 10 years in the United States a centerpiece of its plan to address racial disparities and environmental issues in the wake of water contamination crises in recent years from Newark to Flint, Mich. As many as 10 million lead service lines still deliver water to schools, offices, homes and day care centers throughout the country. “Lead pipes do exist in high-income communities, but in high-income communities they have the income to fix it, which means that whether it gets fixed or not might be a function of how much money you have,” Ms. Harris said. “And that’s not right.”
The Guardian: US west ‘megadrought’ is worst in at least 1,200 years, new study says
The American west has spent the last two decades in what scientists are now saying is the most extreme megadrought in at least 1,200 years. In a new study, published on Monday, researchers also noted that human-caused climate change is a significant driver of the destructive conditions and offered a grim prognosis: even drier decades lie ahead. “Anyone who has been paying attention knows that the west has been dry for most of the last couple decades,” says Park Williams, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles and the study’s lead author. “We now know from these studies that is dry not only from the context of recent memory but in the context of the last millennium.”
Associated Press: Board adopts PFAS standards for drinking, surface waters
The Department of Natural Resources policy board adopted Wisconsin’s first limits on so-called “forever chemicals” in drinking and surface water Wednesday, handing Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ administration a partial victory as he heads toward November’s election. Evers has been pushing to curtail PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, pollution since he took office in 2019, going so far as to declare his first year in office “the year of clean drinking water.” The DNR board didn’t hand Evers a complete win, however; members killed proposed limits on PFAS in groundwater citing compliance costs in the tens of millions of dollars. That means no limits on PFAS for hundreds of thousands of wells across Wisconsin.
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