New roadmap sets forth path toward comprehensively assessing the nation’s drinking water quality for the first time
UCLA Luskin researchers and Rural Community Assistance Partnership Incorporated plan to implement the recommendations over the next five years
Photo by Jennifer_Sharp/iStock
By Mara Elana Burstein
Today, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and Rural Community Assistance Partnership Incorporated released a comprehensive roadmap for what the first national assessment of drinking water quality compliance can and should look like in the next decade.
The nation’s roughly 50,000 regulated community water systems face aging infrastructure and underinvestment that cause challenges in providing safe drinking water — but no one has assessed the full extent of the problem. Current national data on water quality can be underreported, inconsistent and difficult to extract for analysis.
The new report outlines how to identify the specific problems systems face, the solutions and which communities should receive priority investments. The four phases of a full compliance assessment are detailed in the report as follows:
- Develop a transparent, accessible and consistent set of national drinking water quality data to help agencies identify which water systems are regularly out of compliance.
- Evaluate feasible solutions and select the best options.
- Estimate the upfront and ongoing costs.
- Improve access to no-cost technical assistance to help disadvantaged communities receive funding.
Despite the availability of new government funding, these steps will be challenging to achieve, as each one is complicated and multifaceted.
“Our recommendations, while layered and complex, are feasible to incorporate over the next decade with a continued commitment to and funding for community water systems across the country,” said Gregory Pierce, co-director of the Luskin Center for Innovation.
This report builds on the first comprehensive analysis from the Luskin Center for Innovation on what is needed to provide safe drinking water throughout California. It identifies where water systems are out of compliance, proposes solutions and estimates how much it would cost to implement those solutions.
“The work to advance the human right to water is too important to limit to just one state. Countless communities do not have access to safe, affordable drinking water. We need a nationwide assessment,” said Pierce, who also directs the Human Right to Water Solutions Lab at UCLA.
States and the federal government are making unprecedented investments in water infrastructure and environmental justice, particularly after the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in 2021. Now there is a historic opportunity to make water infrastructure improvements and work towards ensuring safe drinking water for all.
To view the full report, made possible by the financial support from the Water Foundation, click here. To learn more about our latest water research, visit the Human Right to Water Solutions Lab website.