Compliance

Providing Safe Drinking Water in America: National Public Water Systems Compliance Report

Each year, EPA reports drinking water violations at America's public water systems (PWS).  The 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) requires the Administrator to annually prepare a publicly available national compliance report summarizing PWS’s violations reported by primacy agencies (i.e., states, tribes, and territories). The national compliance report also separately summarizes:

  • the violations at systems in Indian country;
  • EPA's enforcement and compliance assistance activities with respect to tribal systems;
  • recommendations for improving compliance; and
  • the financial assistance EPA provided to the tribes that they may have direct access to safe drinking water.

The target audiences for the national report are the drinking water regulators and environmental professionals, although anyone interested in a summary of PWS compliance may find the report useful.

National PWS Compliance Dashboard Report

The Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) Drinking Water Dashboard presents the national PWS compliance report in an interactive format.  Beginning with calendar year 2014 data, users can access summarized national statistics as well as individual violations and enforcement responses reported by the primacy agencies. Each dashboard report shows the annual compliance data to provide context either at the national level or within a state, tribe, or territory. Note: For the Drinking Water Dashboard the user should ensure for the “Year View” drop down menu that the calendar option is selected.

National Snapshots of National PWS Report

  • 2015 National Snapshot
    • During calendar year 2015 the number of active PWS in the U.S. was 151,319. 
    • While the majority of the U.S. population served by PWS receives safe drinking water, many PWS incurred violations of federal drinking water quality standards. The number of PWS with at least one violation was 50,794 in 2015. 
      • The data submitted by primacy agencies indicate that 14,480 of all PWS in the U.S. had violations of health-based standards in 2015, while monitoring and reporting violations were reported for 38,390 of all PWS. 
      • The number of systems that are serious violators was 4,753 in 2015. Systems typically become serious violators after multiple violations over a sustained period. Small PWS comprise the vast majority of all these PWS 
    • In 2015, EPA and primacy agencies initiated 31,404 enforcement actions in response to drinking water violations at PWS within their jurisdictions. 

    Readers should be aware that data in these reports may differ somewhat from other reports that draw from the Safe Drinking Water Information System-Federal, depending on the specific queries used to generate each report.

  • 2014 National Snapshot
    • During calendar year 2014 the number of active PWS in the U.S. was 152,258. While the majority of the U.S. population served by PWS receives safe drinking water, many PWS incurred violations of federal drinking water quality standards. The number of PWS with at least one violation was 53,209 in 2014.
      • The data submitted by primacy agencies indicate that 15,073 of all PWS in the U.S. had violations of health-based standards in 2014, while monitoring and reporting violations were reported for 40,617 of all PWS.

      • The number of systems that are serious violators was 5,108 in 2014. Systems typically become serious violators after multiple violations over a sustained period. Small PWS comprise the vast majority of all these PWS.

    • In 2014, EPA and primacy agencies initiated 32,386 enforcement actions in response to drinking water violations at PWS within their jurisdictions. 

    Readers should be aware that data in these reports may differ somewhat from other reports that draw from the Safe Drinking Water Information System-Federal, depending on the specific queries used to generate each report.

Recommendations for National PWS Report

The following recommendations are provided to assist with improving the ability of public water systems to meet the federal drinking water requirements under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

  • 1. Continue to Improve Compliance

    States, territories, Navajo Nation and EPA should continue working together and with the regulated entities to return violating systems to compliance, as efficiently and effectively as possible. Pursuing the more holistic, systems-based approach to addressing noncompliance in all primacy agencies is an important element of improving performance among PWS.

  • 2. Improve Data Quality

    Data completeness and accuracy must remain a high priority for EPA and the primacy agencies. Without high quality data from primacy agencies, EPA cannot fulfill its responsibility to fully assess the state of compliance of the nation’s PWS and to communicate to the public, Congress and other oversight bodies.

    Some of the next steps EPA, states and the drinking water stakeholders have agreed to undertake include:

    • providing online error reporting on EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online;
    • encouraging states to issue regular reminders to water systems of their compliance monitoring schedules;
    • negotiating grant conditions with several states to encourage them to follow quality assurance/quality control plans for drinking water violation data reported to EPA and address the differences in interpretation of the regulation; and
    • working with all states to implement the EPA Order CIO 2105.0 addressing requirements for quality management systems.
  • 3. Continue to Implement the 2009 Enforcement Response Policy

    Primacy agencies will continue to pursue enforcement actions against violating PWS - including those in Indian country - both to expeditiously return systems to compliance and to deter future violations. EPA and primacy agencies will continue to implement the Enforcement Response Policy (ERP), which has already decreased the number of PWS in serious noncompliance. EPA will continue to work with primacy agencies as they implement the ERP by providing training and support as needed.

  • 4. Continue to Develop Capacity at Smaller Public Water Systems

    EPA will continue its efforts to support PWS serving 10,000 or fewer consumers through the capacity development program and other sustainability efforts. Recognizing the challenges facing these drinking water systems, EPA provides tools and assistance to develop system capacity (the technical, financial and managerial capacity of a system to provide safe drinking water). The program also provides information about treatment technology options for small systems.

    • Additional information on EPA’s capacity development efforts can be found at Building the Capacity of Drinking Water Systems, including numerous assistance activities, such as on-site visits and the distribution of easy-to-read guides and checklists.
    • The Local Government Environmental Assistance Network (LGEAN) Exitweb site, a source of information on current and developing SDWA requirements (as well as technical assistance, peer counseling and financial guidance). LGEAN can also be accessed by calling toll-free 1-877-TO-LGEAN (865-4326).
    • The Financing for Environmental Compliance web site providing financial and technical assistance resources to help communities create a plan to finance environmental capital assets.
    • Additional tools and resources can be found at Sustainable Water Infrastructure.
  • 5. Continue to Increase Transparency of Data

    EPA believes that raising the public’s awareness of the violations at PWS will encourage PWS to improve their compliance. EPA’s transition to a dashboard format to annually summarize violation and enforcement data for public water systems increases the public’s access to the data. The format allows users easier access to additional data through hyperlinks provided in this dashboard format along with the ability to download the data.  

Readers should be aware that data in these reports and others using SDWIS/FED data may differ somewhat, depending on the specific queries used to generate each report.

Previous National PWS Report

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