Clean Water Act: EPA Regulations and the Importance of Quality

Posted on May 15, 2024

Man filling a kettle in his kitchen with tap water

"Water is the driving force of nature."

       —Leonardo DaVinci (Codex Leicester, Vol. K, fol. 2r)

Why is there a need for the Clean Water Act? Well, it's not hard to see the truth of the above statement. Water shapes mountains, transports compounds across the planet, and plays a critical role in the health and well-being of all organisms—meaning so too does water quality.

The whole nation watched with bated breath as we collectively wondered, "What's the source of lead in water?" in Flint, Michigan. Unfortunately, lead in water is a problem shared by many other municipal water supplies containing lead, which the EPA states is unsafe in any amount.

However, water quality proponents breathed a momentary sigh of relief after the EPA imposed limits on another common contaminant in municipal water supplies: per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The so-termed "forever chemicals," PFAS, gained notoriety when it became widely known that they're frequently (or, some studies suggest, always) found in human placentas.

What do these issues and regulatory maneuverings mean for the health of your drinking water? Dive right in to learn all this and more.

Clean Water Act for Quality Water

The Clean Water Act plays a vital role in maintaining the quality of water, which is essential for health and life. It's impossible to exaggerate clean water's importance for health and life. A continual supply of high-quality water is paramount for every bodily function, ranging from digestion and hydration to cell signaling, electrolyte balance, hormone regulation, and bodily homeostasis.

When likened to food, we consume water in the highest quantities. Water also likely plays an important role in the transmission of gut microbiota. Tap water was found to exert a signature effect on the gut microbiome that was less diverse and even associated with increased levels of campylobacter bacteria.

Studies show a clear connection between high-quality drinking water and greater overall health outcomes—and just the opposite with hard, unfiltered water, which is associated with higher cardiovascular mortality, growth retardation, and other adverse health outcomes.

Hard water contains naturally occurring substances, including calcium and magnesium ions, as well as dissolved metals, endocrine disruptors, and carcinogens, including PFAS.

Understanding Forever Chemicals

Forever chemicals in water largely come from consumer products, especially cookware. They're also used to produce clothing and food packaging, and PFAS enter our water supplies through a variety of means.

Further, water contamination is just one of several ways people are exposed to PFAS. Others include dietary sources, handling everyday products, and even air pollution. The amount of PFAS in water was enough to compel serious action from the EPA, although many have been sounding the alarm on water contamination from a variety of sources for decades.

PFAS, in particular, has generated a high amount of awareness about these issues, along with their association with serious health conditions that include:


  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Immune function
  • Cancer
  • Nervous system disorders
  • G.I. tract dysfunction
  • Respiratory disease
  • Reproductive harms
  • Urinary system dysfunction


The EPA's new PFAS regulation sets enforceable limits for around a half-dozen PFAS compounds, including PFAO, which will have several effects on municipal water suppliers:

  1. Public water suppliers must monitor regulated PFAS and present their findings to the public

  2. Suppliers must implement a means of reducing PFAS to under maximum contaminant levels (MCLs)

  3. Public water systems found exceeding these MCLs will be forced to take action and notify the public of their Clean Water Act violation(s)


The Impact of Water Quality on Health

While the issue of PFAS has achieved mass awareness, it's far from the only tap water contaminant raising concerns. There are, in fact, numerous common waterborne contaminants, each posing their own health challenges and which, altogether, have untold effects.

Water contaminated with PFAS, arsenic, chlorine byproducts, and nitrates has been associated with a risk of cancer. Even some disinfection byproducts (DBPs) used for water treatment increase these risks. So, certain fertilizer byproducts, the main source of nitrates (along with fish farming), are also used.

There are also certain levels of neurotoxins in water, both from industrial and natural sources, which include metals, industrial chemicals, solvents (including nanomaterials), and natural products. Much research into neurotoxic water compounds focuses particularly on their effect on the developing brain, but it stands to reason that the same concerns could affect the wider population to some degree.

To cite just several of the most concerning examples:

  • Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that sometimes appears in water supplies, and there's even an organic type called methylmercury produced by bacteria. Rarely though it appears in tap water, methylmercury is what caused the Minamata disease in Japan, which resulted in widespread neuromotor and brain damage.
  • Arsenic in groundwater sources, such as well water, can contribute further to one's overall neurotoxin load, although many people already have elevated arsenic levels due to diet (especially rice).
  • Fluoride is also a neurotoxin, and the source of fluoride in large municipal water supplies is often a type of industrial waste called hexafluorosilicic acid. Even groundwater sources of fluoride can weaken bones, "mottle" the teeth, and cause or contribute to neurological, reproductive, genotoxic (toxic to the genome), and many other disorders.
  • Fluoride also exacerbates the harmful effects of aluminum, which is present in our water supplies through several sources (including as a DBP).


Tap Water Health FAQs

Can You Get Sick From Drinking Too Much Water?
You can get sick from taking too much of anything, including even the purest form of water. Drinking too many forever chemicals and other contaminants in tap water, though, can absolutely make you sick, and the risks are especially serious for pregnant mothers and developing children.

Is There Estrogen in Water?
Yes, although researchers say the amount of estrogen in water is 82 times lower compared to dietary sources and less than proposed "acceptable dietary intake" (ADI) levels of endogenous estrogen.

Tap water also contains endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), such as pesticides, phthalates, bisphenol A, fluorinated compounds, and forever chemicals. Altogether, even small amounts of individual but compounding contaminants may have sustained, chronic effects in the form of birth defects and impaired reproductive function.

Can Babies Drink Tap Water?
To be honest, many believe even adults shouldn't drink tap water if they don't have to—at least, not without a suitable filtration or treatment method for the type of contaminants at issue.

Babies are certainly much more vulnerable to the negative effects of tap water contaminants (and dialysis patients are, too). Care should be taken to provide pregnant women and children with the cleanest water available.

Clean Water Act: Assessing Your Water Quality

The scope of water quality issues has attracted a high degree of attention, prompting the creation of many official and peer-to-peer tools now available to those taking a more active role in their water quality. Some of the most readily available include:


  • An online database of the number of contaminants and Clean Water Act violations associated with water suppliers
  • Annual water quality reports from municipal water suppliers disclosing the most recent results
  • Tap water test kits that you can often find from large home improvement centers (typically for free)
  • More thorough tap water testing from private labs following strict testing and analysis standards


Comparing water tests for your home and municipal water supplies helps determine the likeliest source of contaminants. Those wondering what the source of lead in water is where they're located can at least reduce the amount of lead in their water pipes by using cold water for drinking or cooking, as hot water increases the amount of leeched lead from solder and pipe fittings.

However, filtration is the only robust solution for the vast majority of artificial chemicals, industrial pollutants, endocrine disruptors, and many other contaminants.

Does Tap Water Have Chlorine?
Yes, hot water also exacerbates the negative effects of chlorine. Consider installing a shower filter for better skin and lung health. For other uses, you could accelerate chlorine's evaporation process by heating or aerating water, a simple trick long used by aquarium owners and proud parents of houseplants.

Yet evaporation still leaves behind chloramine, a mixture of chlorine and ammonia often used with or in place of chlorine. Again, the need for filtration is unavoidable, at least for those aspiring to a higher standard of health.

What You Can Do to Improve Water Quality

Regularly evaluating the amount of contaminants in your water supply is important, but after a certain point, you know that as much as you need to see the best use of your time, you are implementing the most effective solutions. There are many good ways to improve water quality. While they don't get at the root of the wider problem, self water treatment will keep you in better shape as the broader issues surrounding water pollution unfold.

Compare the following popular methods you can implement at home or work, and decide which may be right for you:

Treatment Methods

  • Reverse Osmosis (RO) Filters: These are unparalleled for their water purification potential, but they have a drawback. Tap water's alkalinity relies on calcium bicarbonate and magnesium bicarbonate. These filters strip water of essential minerals, which can make it slightly more acidic. 
  • Activated Carbon: Even the best NSF- and ANSI-certified charcoal carbon filters won't completely eliminate the toxins discussed above. However, they effectively remove carbon, certain pesticides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and 80 other contaminants.
  • Water Softeners: These are more often touted for their benefits to your plumbing system, such as "softening" (i.e., removing total dissolved solids). However, water can also benefit your internal plumbing.
  • Whole-House Filtration System: The most straightforward and all-encompassing solution is filtering your structure's entire tap water system at its source. This is most commonly done using RO filters, activated charcoal, water softeners, or some combination.
  • Water Distillers: Mimicking the Earth's own hydrological cycle, water distillation evaporates water. It then separates it from impurities before collecting and cooling the purified water vapor. Yet distillers can be time-consuming, and they, like RO filters, strip water of important minerals (including electrolytes).
  • UV Filters: These are a fast and effective way to eradicate microbial contaminants. You may have seen UV water filters sprouting up at water bottle filling stations. Portable UV filtration bottles are also on the market.


Other Solutions

  • Natural Spring Water: Of course, one of the most ideal solutions is right below our feet. Don't count out the possibility of learning to forage for water. There are likely more potable sources of spring water near you than you realize.
    Community-driven spring water maps help health explorers connect and find ground-filtered water sources. This process builds a psychological link to our ecosystem, reminding us of our role in the natural order.
  • Bottled Water: While not everyone's first choice, there are good bottled water options on the market. These are sourced sustainably and without marketing trickery. Look for "spring water" printed on the label—or even better, establish your own home or office reusable bottle-filling station. 
  • Other Portable Solutions: On the go? No problem. You can also choose innovative water filter pouches containing several types of mineral compounds that filter, alkalize, and remineralize water.


Clean Water Act: Cleaning Up Our Water Supplies—One Glass at a Time

Populations en masse have been compelled to discover, "What's the source of lead in water, and how can I take action to remedy it?" It may not be a journey we felt we signed up for. Yet, ensuring future generations have the safest and most contaminant-free water possible is a worthy endeavor.

Clean water should be a non-negotiable standard. But, too often, it's all you can do to mitigate the harmful effects of contaminants. Now, there are numerous resources to help people purify their water and exert greater control of their health destinies.

You can optimize your hydration while building an equally strong foundation in nutrition with our carefully formulated drink mixes, organic coffees, adaptogen-fueled superfoods, and more. Try Laird's most popular drinks and mixes—specially curated by and for the world's most dedicated health enthusiasts:


  • Daily Greens, an ideal way to simultaneously nourish and hydrate your gut microbiome
  • Daily Reds, to support the cardiovascular system via better hydration (and pack an antioxidant wallop!)
  • Organic Coffee, including adaptogenic blends that support the body's energy system in more ways than one
  • Adaptogenic Superfood Creamer, containing functional mushrooms known to boost physical endurance, mental capacities, and immune function


The EPA is contending with water issues of epic proportions. It's not the first time lead in public water systems was a looming issue in human affairs, but it is the first time we've contended with forever chemicals and industrial pollutants.

Perhaps what's more unprecedented, though, is the massive outpouring of human innovation, showing how fine-tuned we are to forging healthier ways, just as water always finds its way to the bedrock.




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