By Karen R. Smith
December 16 has been a noteworthy day for America for quite some time. In 1773, the date hosted the Boston Tea Party while in 1811, Missouri suffered an 8.0 earthquake. On December 16, 1835, a major fire destroyed hundreds of buildings in New York City. During the Civil War, the Battle of Nashville ended on this day, with a total of 4,400 casualties. On a lighter note, in 1893, the first female theater ushers escorted folks to their seats at the Majestic. Jack Dempsey KO’d Carl Morris in 14 seconds on December 16, 1918. Harry S. Truman proclaimed a state of emergency against “Communist Imperialism” on the same date in 1950 and the first White House press conference was held by Dwight D. Eisenhower on December 16, 1953.
For those in the water treatment and purification industry, however, the date is most often remembered as the anniversary of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Its 30th anniversary gives us the opportunity to assess its merits and accomplishments.
Thanks to that legislation, Americans today enjoy one of the safest and cleanest water supplies in the world. The number of regulated drinking water contaminants has grown from 23 in 1974 to nearly 100 in 2004, while unregulated contaminants are monitored by the Act as well.
A dozen years after its inception, President Ronald Reagan amended the legislation. His 1986 measure mandated state-developed critical wellhead protection programs and required the development of drinking water standards for many contaminants which had been previously unregulated. The amendments also strengthened the EPA’s enforcement powers, including increased civil and criminal penalty provisions for violations. Groundwater disinfection treatment in certain water systems and monitoring requirements for public systems are also part of the amendments.
The Safe Water Drinking Act can be judged as an unqualified success in many ways. However, Americans are buying more bottled water than ever before. Are other factors at work in consumer decisions? Might the legislation be to blame?
Increased contaminants and monitoring create news—from simple announcements to contamination notices. Consumer confidence—which should be extremely high given the quality of U.S. water—instead appears to erode with each and every announcement.
Yet there is an upside to even that negative result. Your products and services are more in demand than ever before. From sanitation concerns to the desire for improved taste and clarity, Americans over the past three decades have sought out water industry products and services to improve their drinking water.
This may simply mean that the Act needs a better publicist, however, the industry as a whole has certainly reaped unintended benefits from its vigilance.
Still, we need to guard against complacency. Drought conditions persist in many states and the threat of terrorism continues. Watershed disputes abound. The good news is that these perils are creating a drive for technological innovation. New media, better filtration, atmospheric water generators, enhanced sanitation methods—there is change afoot in every aspect of the industry. Will you be in a position to embrace those changes? Does your current business plan allow for a potential paradigm shift?
The Safe Drinking Water Act may represent the best of farsighted federal legislation of our natural resources. However, it might be wise to note that on the very same day—December 16, 1974, there was an atomic weapons test at the Nevada Test Site. The effect on groundwater? Time will tell. It was also December 16, 1953 that Chuck Yeager flew > 2,575 kph in Bell X-1A …and a world of possibilities opened.
We’ll make it a point, in the coming issues of WC&P, to bring you the innovations in every aspect of the industry. Whether you are a distributer or a manufacturer, a bottler or a dealer, we’ll be focusing on the changes happening at every level, so your business can successfully evolve. When your anniversary rolls around this new year, take a moment to look back on where you’ve been and let us help you plan where you’re going.