August 2006, Vol. 18, No.8

Water Volumes

Water Volumes - Drinking Water Regulation and Health

Frederick W. Pontius (2003). John Wiley & Sons Inc., 605 Third Ave., New York, NY 10158, 1072 pp., $175 (hardcover), ISBN 0-471-41554-5.

Considering the ongoing discussions about safe drinking water and how to achieve it, this book is timely and useful. It covers all aspects related to safe drinking water regulations, ranging from historical perspectives, health issues, legislation, and social and economic aspects, to technical solutions and the challenges for the future.

The book starts with the “why and how” of drinking water regulations past, present, and future. Tracing events back to ancient Rome and the Middle Ages, the author describes the developments that led to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in 1974. An in-depth overview of waterborne disease outbreaks in the United States indicates the current situation with regard to the (mainly microbiological) safety of drinking water. It is remarkable that in nearly one in three outbreaks, the etiologic agent is “undetermined.” This should be a motivation to keep working on amendments to SDWA, an issue discussed here rather technically, with only brief references to such issues as terrorist threats and the occurrence of endocrine disruptors and pharmaceuticals.

The next part of the book looks at water-related risks in terms of toxicity and the occurrence of epidemia, and how this information should be used in the development of regulations. The author offers a variety of issues for readers to consider — for instance, how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should use information on risks in developing regulations and how this can be achieved using new technologies.

Finally, the author points out some challenges ahead, such as meeting customer expectations, achieving capacity and sustainability, and protecting sensitive subpopulations.