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Aircraft Drinking Water Rule

Welcome to the Aircraft Drinking Water Rule (ADWR) page. On this site you will find links to the rule, fact sheets, as well as general information about the history of the rulemaking.

You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the Adobe PDF files on this page. See EPA's PDF page for more information about getting and using the free Acrobat Reader.

Aircraft Drinking Water Rule

The primary purpose of the Aircraft Drinking Water Rule (ADWR) is to ensure that safe and reliable drinking water is provided to aircraft passengers and crew. This entails providing air carriers with a feasible way to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and the national primary drinking water regulations (NPDWRs). The existing regulations were designed primarily with traditional, stationary public water systems in mind. Some of these requirements have proven difficult to implement when applied to aircraft water systems, which are operationally very different.  Therefore, using a collaborative rulemaking process, EPA developed the ADWR that is tailored to aircraft public water systems. The final rule combines coliform sampling, best management practices, corrective action, public notification, operator training, and reporting and recordkeeping to improve public health protection.

The ADWR was signed on October 5, 2009.

For additional supporting information related to this rule-making, including the Response to Comment document, visit docket number EPA-HQ-OW-2005-0025 at Regulations.gov.

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Rulemaking History

In the United States, drinking water safety on airlines is jointly regulated by the EPA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  EPA regulates water quality in public water systems in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). EPA  regulates the public water systems that supply water to the airports and the drinking water once it is onboard the aircraft. The regulatory structure for all public water systems, including aircraft, relies upon self-monitoring and reporting of results to the primacy (primary enforcement) agency. The primacy agency for aircraft public water systems is EPA.

In 2004, EPA found all aircraft PWSs to be out of compliance with the national primary drinking water regulations (NPDWRs).  According to the air carriers, it is not feasible for them to comply with all of the monitoring that is required in the existing regulations.  The existing NPDWRs were designed for traditional, stationary public water systems, not mobile aircraft water systems that are operationally very different. 

These unique operational characteristics present different challenges, which EPA addressed in the final ADWR.

Proposed Aircraft Drinking Water Rule (April 9, 2008)

In developing the proposed ADWR, EPA used a collaborative process to obtain a broad range of views including the airlines, flight attendants, passengers, pilots, airports, laboratories, public health officials and environmental organizations. Summaries of the 2005 public meeting and 2006 and 2007 stakeholder workshops are available on the public meetings page.

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Food and Drug Administration and Federal Aviation Administration Requirements

FDA has jurisdiction over culinary water (i.e., water used in food preparation including coffee, tea and ice) and the points where aircraft obtain water (e.g., pipes or tankers) at the airport.

FAA oversees operation and maintenance programs covering all parts of the aircraft, including the potable water system.

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