As we celebrate National Drinking Water Week May 7-13, it’s important to remember that safe, reliable drinking water doesn’t just happen by itself – it takes national, state and local groups working together to provide you and your family with this precious commodity.

In some parts of the world, safe drinking water is rare, and people either have to travel great distances to obtain it, or they will turn to a closer water source that may be tainted with contaminants. Fortunately, in the United States and throughout the Brazos River basin, drinking water is plentiful and considered safe and reliable. In fact, it is those rare instances in which the system breaks down that become news stories.

The American Water Works Association sponsors this annual spotlight on drinking water in partnership with other groups, such as the Environmental Protection Agency “to highlight the importance of tap water and the need to reinvest in our water infrastructure,” according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Without safe, reliable tap water, a society doesn’t enjoy the full benefits of a modern lifestyle, with its focus on health.

“During the past century, many improvements in the health, prosperity, and longevity of the U.S. population can be attributed to improvements in water quality,” the CDC reports, adding that a century ago, the average life expectancy in the U.S. was 47 years, and today it is 78.

“This short life span was partially due to sickness and death from diseases spread through drinking water, like typhoid fever,” according to the CDC. Diseases caused by impure water still frequently occur in developed countries, but water treatment methods have made American drinking water among the safest in the world.

Maintaining this safe water supply takes plenty of attention, effort and expense.

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a Drinking Water Action Plan which it refers to as a “national call to action, urging all levels of government, utilities, community organizations, and other stakeholders to work together to increase the safety and reliability of drinking water.”

The six-part plan focuses on:

  • Promoting equity and building capacity for drinking water infrastructure financing and management in disadvantaged and small and communities.
  • Stricter oversight of drinking water providers via the Safe Drinking Water Act.
  • Strengthening source water protection and drinking water supplies.
  • Taking action to address unregulated contaminants.
  • Improving transparency, public education and risk communication about drinking water safety.
  • Reducing lead risks through the Lead and Copper Rule.

Among those organizations helping to ensure there is access to safe drinking water is the Texas Water Development Board. Through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Loan program, the TWDB provides low-cost help that enables both public and privately owned water providers to address crucial areas of water infrastructure.

These grants can be used for “planning, acquisition, design and construction” of infrastructure to provide drinking water, according to the TWDB. A total of $250 million is available each year for this purpose.

The end goal is for people have access to tap water that is safe and meets or exceeds federal standards, and there are substantial efforts and expense behind the scenes working to make this a reality.