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boy drinking waterThe Drinking Water and Human Health eXtension site launched in April 2011.

The goal of the National Water Program is to protect or improve water resources throughout the United States and its territories through research, education and extension efforts. The National Water Program has identified Drinking Water and Human Health as a theme on which to focus these efforts.

What are NIFA and the Land Grant System Doing to Improve Drinking Water and Human Health?

The NIFA network is unique in that it has a system of community-based educators carrying out public outreach education. It can reach a very large audience with its message of how local citizens can improve drinking water quality due to its local contacts and its collaborations with numerous agencies, organizations, local communities and citizen groups. The NIFA network is changing attitudes and influencing the adoption of behavioral patterns to protect drinking water. Throughout the U.S., NIFA and Extension are integral parts of Source Water Assessment and Protection Programs. These programs help citizens identify current or potential threats to drinking water around homes, businesses and farms and take action toward remediation of problem areas or prevention of future contamination. NIFA and Land Grant System efforts have established many educational programs that address water monitoring and assessment, water conservation, pollution prevention, and drinking water testing. As a result of these activities, U.S. citizens are educated about water quality and are taking action to protect their drinking water and family’s health.

By teaching our citizens to identify and better understand health and nuisance problems in drinking water, the treatment alternatives to these problems and how they can prevent future contamination, we help to assure safe and adequate supplies of drinking water for the future. Through the Land Grant System partnering with NIFA, the numerous college-level courses and degree programs offered pertaining to agriculture and the environment help to educate citizens on drinking water related topics. NIFA and the Land Grant System are also collaborating in many innovative research efforts, such as the use of bacterial DNA to track pollution sources, the effectiveness of Best Management Practices, the effectiveness of on-site wastewater treatment technologies, and the assessment of the policy and economics surrounding drinking water supply.

Why is Drinking Water and Human Health Important?

The health and livelihood of Americans depends on the availability of a safe drinking water supply. In some portions of the nation drinking water is a scarce resource, while in other areas abundant water supplies are available. Community water systems now supply drinking water to over 80 percent of the U.S. population. Other citizens drink water from private sources, mostly wells. Increasing water demands from a growing population, economic expansion and increasing use per capita mean that we need to emphasize the wise use, proper management and protection of this resource.

Both community and private sources of drinking water are susceptible to a myriad of chemical contaminants, biological pollutants and nuisance water problems that may vary depending on site conditions and other factors. Some of the more common chemical pollutants include pesticides, fertilizers, petroleum products, and industrial solvents. Some problem organisms, including viruses, bacteria, protozoa and algae, cause nuisance problems with taste and odor while others are potential pathogens. Threats to drinking water quality come from animal and plant production agriculture, industrial activities and even activities around our businesses, residences, recreational areas and transportation systems. Many U.S. citizens are becoming more concerned about potential health risks and nuisance problems associated with their drinking water.

More information on how Drinking Water and Human Health issues are being addressed throughout the country is available via these NIFA Regional Water Quality Programs (these external links will open in a new window) external link :

Great Lakes Heartland Mid-Atlantic Northeast States & Caribbean Islands Northern Plains and Mountains Pacific Northwest Southern Southwest States and Pacific Islands

The following people generously volunteered their time and expertise to assist with the development of the Drinking Water and Human Health area of this website:

Deb Grantham, Cornell University
Jim Hairston, Auburn University
Mark McFarland, Texas A&M University

This National Theme website, Drinking Water and Human Health, was developed and is maintained by Kelly Addy (kaddy@uri.edu) and Greg Bonynge, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881.