Public Lab Research note

Water Quality Legislation, Regulations & Availability

by gilbert | November 01, 2017 18:26 01 Nov 18:26 | #15137 | #15137


[Photo Credit: Mass Seal Deaths (Nerpa) on Lake Baikal, Siberia. Moscow Times, Oct. 31, 2017]

Notwithstanding the fact that approximately 71% of the surface of planet Earth is covered by water, 96.5% is oceanic water, leaving only 3.5% as "fresh water". Of that fresh water total, 68.7% is in the polar ice caps, glaciers and permanent snow. The remainder is distributed among lakes, rivers, swamps, groundwater, atmospheric water vapor, soil moisture and permafrost.

image description

Source: Igor Shiklomanov's chapter "World fresh water resources" in Peter H. Gleick (editor), 1993, Water in Crisis: A Guide to the World's Fresh Water Resources (Oxford University Press, New York). |

The vulnerability of lacustrine water is dramatically illustrated in the case of Lake Baikal, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre site in South-Eastern Siberia, the world's oldest lake (twenty-five million years), the world's deepest lake (over 5,000 ft./ 1,700 m.), holding 20% of the planet's unfrozen freshwater (23,000 cubic km.). Kenneth Rapoza in the April 7, 2017 edition of Forbes, reports on a hydroelectric dam project of Mongolian power companies, assisted by the World Bank which would imperil Lake Baikal by installing dams on the Selenga River, which flows into Lake Baikal. The Lake is also home to the world's only freshwater benthic community, to a wide array of indigenous flora & aquatic life, and the world's only freshwater seal species, nerpa (Pusa sibirica). The October 31, 2017 edition of the Moscow Times reported "Russian Authorities Investigating Mass Seal Deaths in Lake Baikal!" [](file:///C:/Users/gilbe/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image002.jpg)****

"Approximately 132 seal carcasses were discovered at three locations near Lake Baikal...Reports earlier this month indicated that a tourist boom, growing pollution and lack of sewage treatment has led to the disappearance of local fish species and a growth of putrid algae in Lake Baikal."

Given humanity's dependence upon potable water for basic survival, it is becoming increasingly evident that action must be taken to protect imperiled global water resources. (UN FAO Review of World Water Resources by Country; FAO Aquastat; World Bank Water Resources Data) and that the public health of individuated communities and the sustainability of their environments are at increased risk, given rapid and rampant deregulation of environmental resource protections (E.P.A. Moves to Rescind Contested Water Pollution Regulation, NY Times, by Coral Davenport, June 27, 2017), as well as the deference given to industrial non-compliance with existing regulations, thereby freeing corporations to either sidestep regulations or else to comply or even to exceed them for reasons other than fear of enforcement ("Social License and Environmental Protection: Why Businesses Go beyond Compliance" Neil Gunningham, 29 Law & Soc. Inquiry 307, 2004).

Moreover, the devolution of regulatory authority and of environmental monitoring ("52 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump," by Nadja Popovich and Livia Albeck-Ripka Updated Oct. 6, 2017 NY Times) and official governmental adherence to counter-scientific denial of the reality and impacts of climate change ("U.S. submits formal notice of withdrawal from Paris climate pact," by Valerie Volcovici, Reuters. August 4, 2017 / 4:25 PM), as well as expanding urbanization and its impact on peri-urban fragile ecosystems (Environmental Impacts of Urban Growth - Yale U. Seto Lab), makes it imperative for local communities to develop self-sufficiency with respect to affordable environmental monitoring, analytical technologies and associated capacity building for indigenous expertise, peer production and advocacy. While officials in New Jersey were commemorating the 45th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the US EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced a review of both the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act in order to "reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens" on business.

Drinking Water:

Parameters for determining water quality are dependent upon the intended end-use of the water resource. More stringent testing guidelines/standards/regulations/legislation for drinking water have been promulgated by the World Health Organization (WHO) , the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for bottled drinking water, by certain individual states, such as California and by an array of foreign governments, including Canada , the European Union, South Africa, Kenya, Australia, China61884-4/abstract), South American Countries, Russia, etc.


Guidelines for water quality considered safe for recreational activities, including swimming, have been issued by the U.S. EPA and specifically by the EPA for coastal and Great Lakes recreational waters. Guidelines for swimming pools, spas and recreational waters have also been issued by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and by the CDC. State-specific water quality standards under the Clean Water Act are accessible through an EPA map-based format.


The acceptable standards for sustainable recreational and commercial fishing are to some degree dependent upon both species, season and state regulations, e.g. Wisconsin Trout Fishing Regulations 2017-2018, North Carolina Rainbow Trout Regulations, Florida Bass Fishing Regulations, 2017 Louisiana Recreational Shrimping Regulations, [Maine Lobster Regulations] (, Alabama Saltwater fishing and Alabama freshwater fishing.


The EPA in the past periodically issued recommendations with respect to the water quality required in certain municipalities related to recreational use of water, e.g. boating, kayaking and canoeing, as was the case in Chicago. Similar water quality regulations for boating and recreational water use have emerged from the Washington [DC] Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), by the Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) for canoeing & kayaking, and by Massachusetts for boat fishing in the Quabbin Reservoir.


Less stringent requirements would normally apply to water usage for agricultural irrigation. Guidelines have been issued by multilateral organizations concerning the use of wastewater and sludge for agricultural use, such as by the United Nation's Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), by the U.S. EPA, as well as for agricultural irrigation water quality in specific states, e.g. California and Oregon and in specific countries, such as in India and in Saudi Arabia.

Global Water Systems Project (GWSP).

"International Water Quality Guidelines for Ecosystems" (IWQGES)

State Regulations:

The degree to which water quality is regulated and the degree to which such regulations are enforced is highly dependent upon evolving (or devolving) policies and the implementation thereof at international, federal, state, county and even municipal levels. Risks associated with consumption and/or exposure to contaminated water resources are abundant. Areas of concern have included leaching of lead pipes into water supplies in New Orleans, LA; as well as major copper and lead contamination of tap water in Flint, Michigan.

The following EPA link: State-Specific Water Quality Standards Effective under the Clean Water Act (CWA) US EPA , leads to map of the United States, providing interactive state-specific water quality standards regulations, by clicking on the State of interest; however, such information is no longer being updated by the EPA. Accordingly, readers aware of recent changes in their state legislation, county/municipal ordinances or court judgements within their own communities, with respect to water quality, environmental sustainability and/or public health are urged to share their contributions to the broader network, so as to build capacity for collaboration, strengthened advocacy and development of a geospatial database for environmental deregulation, and consequent vulnerable ecosystems and populations-at-risk.


Login to comment.