Drinking water is a vital component of human life and health, and ensuring its quality is a critical public health issue. Governments play a key role in monitoring and managing the quality of drinking water in public systems, with the aim of keeping contaminants within safe levels. This responsibility involves a complex interplay of scientific research, regulatory oversight, and public health policy.
In Canada, the responsibility for determining contaminant limits in drinking water falls to the provinces and territories, with the federal government contributing through research on identified contaminants and establishing safe levels. This collaborative approach ensures that drinking water standards are based on the latest scientific knowledge and address the specific needs and circumstances of different regions.
In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is tasked with monitoring and regulating key contaminants in public drinking water services. The EPA’s role is critical in identifying emerging contaminants, assessing their risks, and setting enforceable standards to protect public health. This is part of the agency’s broader responsibility under the Safe Drinking Water Act, which mandates the provision of safe drinking water for the public.
The health aspects of drinking water are multifaceted and extend beyond the mere presence of contaminants. They involve understanding the health effects of various substances that might be found in water sources, including naturally occurring elements and man-made pollutants. Assessing these health effects requires comprehensive research and an understanding of how different contaminants interact with the human body at varying levels of exposure.
Evaluating public-interest risks in drinking water involves not only the scientific assessment of potential health effects but also the development of innovative technologies and methods for detecting and measuring contaminants. This is especially important in light of emerging challenges, such as new industrial chemicals, changes in land use that can affect water quality, and the impacts of climate change on water resources.
RSI experience in Drinking water
In our work at RSI, we have led several significant projects related to drinking water. One of our projects involved researching the health effects of natural lithium found in the groundwater sources of public supply wells in the United States. Our report, serving as a backgrounder for water utilities, compared the health effects of lithium concentrations in groundwater with those in a range of natural water and food sources, as well as the known health effects of high-dose lithium used in pharmaceutical drugs.
Another project we undertook aimed at supporting the EPA's responsibilities under the Safe Drinking Water Act. We proposed the use of innovative technology for detecting and measuring a wide range of contaminants in drinking water sources in the US. This project underscores our commitment to advancing the understanding and management of drinking water quality, thereby contributing to the protection of public health.