Jay Apperson
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MDE celebrates landmark public health legislation, issues reminder on the value of drinking water in our daily lives

BALTIMORE, MD (December 16, 2014) – The Maryland Department of the Environment is marking the 40th anniversary of the landmark Safe Drinking Water Act by reminding Marylanders of the value of drinking water in our daily lives and urging everyone to take steps to protect and preserve this valuable, but finite, resource.

Governor Martin O’Malley has proclaimed December 16, 2014, Safe Drinking Water Day in Maryland.

More Information:

December 16, 2014, is the 40th Anniversary of the passage by the U.S. Congress of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The SDWA was passed to protect public health by regulating the nation’s public drinking water supply. The SDWA requires states and water supply providers to implement measures to protect the quality of drinking water from source to tap.

Drinking water is vital to our public health and the economy in Maryland. MDE is responsible for ensuring that public drinking water systems provide safe and adequate water to all present and future users in Maryland and that appropriate usage, planning and conservation policies are implemented for our water resources.

MDE reminds Marylanders that our water resources are finite, and the Department urges everyone to take steps to preserve and protect our water supply

Core Facts:

  • With the enactment of the SDWA and its amendments, the United States created one of the most comprehensive drinking water regulatory programs in the world.
  • The SDWA authorized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set health-based standards for drinking water to protect against both naturally-occurring and man-made contaminants that may be found in drinking water. The EPA, states and water systems work together to make sure that these standards are met. Maryland began implementing the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1976.
  • At the inception of the SWDA, the focus on drinking water quality was on odor, taste and color and contaminants that were relatively easily identified. The number of contaminants for which a health-based standard has been established has grown from 18 to more than 90.
  • More than 5 million Marylanders, or more than 80 percent of the State’s population, receive water from a public water system that is inspected, monitored and regulated by MDE. These Marylanders are served daily by more than 3,400 public drinking water systems. These systems range in size from a drinking fountain at a roadside rest area to large metropolitan drinking water systems.
  • The availability of safe and adequate drinking water is accomplished through proper planning for water withdrawal, protection of water sources that are used for public water supplies, oversight and enforcement of routine water quality monitoring at public water systems, regular onsite inspections of water systems and prompt responses to water supply emergencies.
  • More than 70 percent of our planet is covered with water, but only about 1 percent of Earth’s water is usable for consumption.
  • The SDWA requires actions to protect drinking water and its sources, which include rivers, lakes, reservoirs and groundwater.
  • In Maryland, the future of our water resources is at risk from increasing demand, population growth, overuse, man-made contaminants and an aging infrastructure. The potential for additional droughts caused by climate change presents more uncertainty in the future.
  • Maryland currently uses about 1.4 billion gallons of fresh water every day – and MDE estimates that demand will increase by 230 million gallons per day by 2030. The biggest water users are public water systems, power plants and agricultural users.
  • Maryland continues to study water resource management issues. The Department also administers the Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund, which provides financial assistance for a wide variety of projects to facilitate compliance with national primary drinking water standards that protect or improve the quality of Maryland’s drinking water resources.

What You Can Do:

Our daily actions can directly affect the quality of our drinking water. Spreading fertilizer on our lawns, spilling gasoline and chemicals on the ground or in storm drains and flushing unwanted medicine down the toilet can contaminate our water supply. Take care to protect our drinking water.

You can reduce water use inside and outside the home by:

  • Fixing leaks.
  • Installing low-flow shower heads.
  • Running your washing machine with full loads of laundry instead of many small loads.
  • Limiting grass areas and instead landscaping with trees, shrubs and native plants, which require less water.
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean decks and sidewalks and other paved areas.

MDE’s website provides additional tips for water conservation for business industry, households and water utilities.


“Water is our most essential natural resource. Over the past 40 years, we have made tremendous progress toward ensuring that Marylanders have safe and adequate drinking water. It’s easy to forget the value of drinking water in our daily lives and to assume that it will always be there when we turn on the faucet, but water is a finite resource and we cannot afford to be complacent. We must all work together to protect and conserve our groundwater, streams, rivers and reservoirs so that future generations have access to the same high-quality drinking water that we enjoy today.”

— Robert M. Summers, Secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment

Additional Information:

Agency Information:

MDE’s mission is to protect and restore the quality of Maryland’s air, water and land resources while fostering smart growth, a thriving and sustainable economy and healthy communities.

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