History lesson: The reason you have clean drinking water


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Next time you go to the sink to pour yourself a nice refreshing glass of H2O, take a moment to quietly (or loudly if you are really into it) celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, and be grateful you can get your hands on clean water so easily.

The Clean Water Act was enacted in 1948 as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, but it wasn’t until 1972 when the act was reorganized and expanded with a number of amendments that it became the law we know today.

We can thank the Clean Water Act for helping to keep our drinking water safe by making it illegal for industries and municipalities to just dump any old thing in the water. (Anyone who’s seen “Erin Brockovich” knows this is not something you want to do.) The act also established wastewater standards for the industry and helped fund the construction of sewage treatment plants.

Even with the Clean Water Act, there is always concern for water safety, and many individuals and organizations have spoken out against such practices as fracking for their potential to impact our water supply.  And no matter how well industries adhere to the law, we as individuals still need to do our part to keep our water safe.

While things might not be perfect, and most of us living in the United States or other industrialized nations may not have access to crisp mountain spring water (Poland Spring does not count), we can be thankful that, for the most part, our water is readily available and safe to drink.

Sadly this is not the case in many parts of the world. According to the National Resources Defense Council, 1 billion people across the globe are unable to access clean, safe water. This means that people living in these areas are prone to such waterborne illnesses as cholera, typhoid and malaria — diseases that have essentially been eradicated in much of the developed world. These illnesses are responsible for 5 million deaths every year.  And as the planet gets warmer, drought becomes a growing problem in areas where water is already scarce, while heavy rains cause sewage overflows in other areas.

Solving the world’s water problems may seem like a daunting task, but oftentimes it is a simple matter of providing needy communities with the right tools to make the change. Organizations such as Charity Water are working to provide safe drinking water to every person, and you can help. Here’s how.