National Water Quality Month: A Reminder to Enhance Water Safety and Sustainability Efforts

Aug 06, 2015 | Stella Bartholet

National Water Quality Month in August serves as an important reminder for local health departments to reflect on the safety of water in their communities. Although the United States has one of the most developed drinking water systems in the world, there are still many factors that threaten the quality and quantity of drinking water.

NACCHO recently released policy statements summarizing its positions on Water Quality and Sustainable Water Use. These documents are available for local health departments to learn about threats to water quality and actions to take to prevent the depletion of drinking water.

These policy statements indicate that one of the biggest threats to water quality and availability is the lack of funding and support for local health department water services. Water is arguably the most important resource to sustaining health and life, yet many health departments are reducing or eliminating water programs as a result of budget cuts. According to a survey NACCHO conducted in 2012, the percentage of public health directors who reported programmatic activity to protect the quality and quantity of fresh water decreased from 66.9% in 2008 to 46.4% in 2012.

Meanwhile, human activities are polluting water sources. An emerging threat is the improper disposal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products.[1] Local health departments can protect their communities by educating residents, providing a means for the proper disposal of such products, and carefully monitoring drinking water to prevent the ingestion of contaminants.

Another source of water pollution is wastewater discharge from industrial practices, such as mining. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency oversees this direct, point source pollution through the Clean Water Act.[2] Other organizations play a role in regulation through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, which monitors industrial and commercial facilities at the state and local levels.[3] Health departments can encourage industrial sites to reduce pollutant discharge by strengthening monitoring and offering incentives.

Lastly, the agricultural industry is one of the leading contributors to both nonpoint source pollution and groundwater depletion. Improper farming techniques such as overgrazing, plowing practices, and pesticide usage can indirectly pollute water sources.[4] Irrigation can remove water from aquifers more quickly than it is replenished.[5] Local health departments can endorse research on efficient irrigation practices and work with agricultural partners to encourage the use of sustainable agricultural techniques.

While it is clear that maintaining quality drinking water is already a challenge, climate change will potentially make it increasingly more difficult. Studies predict the loss of snowpack and groundwater which will result in the depletion of drinking water resources.[6] Increased temperatures and severe precipitation events could elevate the risk of waterborne disease outbreaks.[7] To prepare for the local effects of climate change, local health departments in regions with high concentrations of private wells, which are largely unregulated, can raise awareness about waterborne diseases and stress the importance of monitoring drinking water.

For additional information on water quality, see the following NACCHO policy statements:


  1. Boxall, A., Rudd, M. A., Brooks, B. W., Caldwell, D. J., Choi, K., Hickmann, S., et al. (2012). Pharmaceutical and personal care products in the environment: What are the big questions? Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(9), 1221–1229. Retrieved August 5, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3440110/
  2. Environmental Protection Agency. (2014). Industrial and Commercial Facilities webpage. Retrieved August 5, 2015, from http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/npdes/Industrial-and-Commercial-Facilities.cfm
  3. Environmental Protection Agency. (2015). Clean Water Act (CWA) Compliance Monitoring webpage. Retrieved August 5, 2015, from http://www2.epa.gov/compliance/clean-water-act-cwa-compliance-monitoring
  4. Environmental Protection Agency. (2005). Agricultural Nonpoint Source Fact Sheet. Retrieved from August 5, 2015, from http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/agriculture_facts.cfm
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Agricultural Water webpage. Retrieved August 5, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/other/agricultural/index.html
  6. Hall, N., Stuntz, B., & Abrams, R. (2008). Climate Change and Freshwater Resources. Natural Resources & Environment. Retrieved August 5, 2015, from http://ic.ucsc.edu/~mloik/envs80b/FreshwaterResources.pdf
  7. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. (2013). Waterborne Diseases & Climate Change webpage. Retrieved August 5, 2015, from http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/programs/geh/climatechange/health_impacts/waterborne_diseases/

About Stella Bartholet

More posts by Stella Bartholet

Related Posts

Splash park
  • Community Engagement
  • Community Resilience
  • Climate Change

City of Somerville Hosts Year-Round Preparedness...

The City of Somerville’s “Keep Cool Somerville” initiative works to improve...

Sep 26, 2022 | Beth Hess

City of Somerville Hosts Year-Round Preparedness...

House Live 1

House Passes Public Safety Legislation to Support Mental...

On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a package of public safety...

Sep 23, 2022 | Lluvia Botello, Kerry Allen

House Passes Public Safety Legislation to Support Mental...

Abstracts web
  • Community Resilience
  • Emergency Response
  • Health Equity & Social Justice
  • Medical Reserve Corps

Now Accepting Abstracts: 2023 Preparedness Summit

Submit an abstract by October 24.

Sep 22, 2022 | Beth Hess

Now Accepting Abstracts: 2023 Preparedness Summit

Opportunity
  • Funding Opportunity
  • Workforce Development

Public Health AmeriCorps Funding Opportunity

Applications due January 4, 2023.

Sep 22, 2022 | Beth Hess

Public Health AmeriCorps Funding Opportunity

MOV Logo
  • Community Engagement

Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department Hosts Month of...

The Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department is hosting a series of classes for its...

Sep 22, 2022 | Beth Hess

Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department Hosts Month of...

MRC 20th
  • Medical Reserve Corps

Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Medical Reserve...

In celebration of the Medical Reserve Corps’ 20 years of service to the...

Sep 21, 2022 | Beth Hess

Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Medical Reserve...

PFA Course web
  • Tools & Resources
  • Webinar
  • Mental Health
  • Workforce Development

New Course: Building Workforce Resilience through the...

New course for leaders and teams: Building Workforce Resilience through the...

Sep 21, 2022 | Jessica Pryor

New Course: Building Workforce Resilience through the...

Prep Month1
  • Community Engagement

Tompkins County Health Department Brings Preparedness...

The Tompkins County Health Department hosted a Preparedness Resource Fair to...

Sep 20, 2022 | Beth Hess

Tompkins County Health Department Brings Preparedness...

Opportunity
  • Funding Opportunity
  • Infectious Disease
  • Maternal, Child, & Adolescent Health

RFA: Demonstration Sites for Bridging Preparedness,...

Request for applications due October 20.

Sep 20, 2022 | Elana Filipos

RFA: Demonstration Sites for Bridging Preparedness,...

Back to Top