Priority Area: Healthy Environment - Public Water Supply

Protecting Public Water Supplies

Drinking water is essential to life and maintaining high quality drinking water that meets standards is essential to protection of public health. The New York State Department of Health is committed to continually improving the methods and standards applied to the protection of high quality drinking water. Many of the state's standards follow those established by the federal government under the Safe Drinking Water Act which are then implemented by the State and its local partners in county and district offices. In practice, this means that drinking water is monitored more than any other consumer product with more than a million samples taken annually. Results of this monitoring effort are reported to consumers - every household that receives public drinking water also receives an Annual Water Quality Report characterizing water delivered to their homes.

Program Objectives

  • By the year 2013, reduce New York’s health risks associated with consumption of public drinking water so that:
    1. Adoption of more stringent public health based standards does not result in an increase in the number of public health hazards.

      Baseline: 96 percent of public water systems had no public health hazards in 2006. (Annual Compliance Report, 2006).

    2. Adoption of more stringent public health based standards does not result in an increase in health-based violations (treatment technique and maximum contaminant level exceedances).

Baseline: 94 percent of public water systems had no violations due to treatment technique or maximum contaminant level exceedances.

Each public water system’s operational and treatment performance and resulting water quality will be tracked so that consumers can determine health risks relative to these drinking water objectives. The strategy employed is to maintain the current level of compliance while significantly increasing the standards that water systems must meet under the federal SDWA amendments.

Data and Statistics

The Evidence Base for Effective Interventions

Evidence-based and promising strategies to promote a healthy environment and reduce risks from environmental exposures are summarized in the following reports:

Return on investment

Each rule implemented under amendments to the SDWA is based on a detailed analysis and comparison between cost of compliance with the rule and benefits associated with prevented disease, especially as expressed in avoided cancer deaths. Rules are initially implemented by conducting comprehensive or customized monitoring, determining levels of contaminants found, and evaluating and implementing options for addressing contaminant levels such as improving treatment or changing water sources. Subsequent monitoring is customized to match sampling effort to the likelihood of finding the contaminant of concern at that specific water system in order to minimize costs and seek a higher return on investment.

In some instances, the calculation of benefits becomes skewed when national statistics are applied on a state level. For example, the return on investment for implementation of new standards for arsenic and radionuclides is likely lower than the national benefits as these contaminants are not common in New York. The costs become higher when an extensive sampling effort is carried out to find a relatively few number of instances where the contaminant can be found. The regulatory effort remains worthwhile, however, when those few water systems with elevated levels are found and the consumers of those systems benefit. In New York, the benefits associated with addressing volatile organic compounds, disinfection byproducts, microbial contaminants and nitrates accrue higher returns on investment as these can be common contaminants.



Annual Compliance Report

DOH Pubic Health Tracking Web site

Environmental Public Health Tracking

Health Disparities

Capacity Development – systems without capability to provide public water (administrative, fiscal, technical) especially as related to small systems capacity.

Infrastructure needs – not only is it a matter of addressing new regulations, but being able to maintain operational infrastructure (reference capital needs report).

More Information

Bureau of Water Supply Protection
New York State Department of Health
Corning Tower - Room 1110
Empire State Plaza
Albany, NY 12237
Environmental Health Information Line 1-800-458-1158