The virus that causes the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease is highly susceptible to standard treatment and disinfectant processes practiced by the nation’s public water systems. All current evidence suggests that these standard disinfection processes can remove and/or inactivate the COVID-19 virus before it contaminates drinking water. As a result, “[the US Environmental Protection Agency] recommends that Americans continue to use and drink tap water as usual.”
Closures, cancellations, and curfews. Shoppers wearing surgical masks, stuffing bottled water into their carefully distanced carts. As the virus that causes the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease continues to spread—bringing with it uncertainty and panic—many companies and individuals have voiced concerns about the security of the nation’s public water supply. To address these concerns, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently posted guidance and recommendations on water-system security.
In the United States, EPA regulations establish treatment requirements for the more than 151,000 public water systems. These regulations aim to prevent waterborne pathogens from contaminating public drinking water. EPA also periodically issues memoranda to clarify its drinking-water regulations, which are compiled into a water supply guidance manual to help water supply systems implement the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Pub. L. 93-523. The SDWA is the principal federal statute enacted to ensure safe drinking water for the public.
According to EPA’s recently released guidance, the virus that causes COVID-19 has not yet been detected in drinking-water systems. The threat to public water systems remains low. EPA’s determination is consistent with the World Health Organization’s guidance regarding the impact of COVID-19 on drinking-water systems. Further, according to EPA, its current regulations should effectively combat the COVID-19 threat going forward. The virus is highly susceptible to standard treatment and disinfectant processes practiced by the nation’s public water systems. All current evidence suggests that these standard disinfection processes can remove and/or inactivate the COVID-19 coronavirus before it contaminates drinking water. As a result, “EPA recommends that Americans continue to use and drink tap water as usual.”
Consistent with EPA’s recommendation, moreover, the agency is not advising Americans to boil drinking water. Nor does EPA recommend reliance on bottled water to protect against the COVID-19 coronavirus at this time. Public water remains safe for drinking, handwashing, and day-to-day activities.
Importantly, despite EPA’s confidence in the security of the nation’s public water system, other federal agencies recommend that Americans practice general emergency preparedness during the COVID-19 outbreak. Specific recommendations include maintenance of a two-week supply of essential supplies like bottled water in the event of a supply disruption.
EPA has pledged to provide ongoing technical assistance and support on the public water system during the COVID-19 outbreak. We will continue to monitor and report on these developments.
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