Potable Water

Volume 30 of the series The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry pp 1-36


Potable Water Quality Standards and Regulations: A Historical and World Overview

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Since ancient times humans have understood the importance of clean drinking water and have used various techniques to improve its quality. In modern times, municipal and public water treatment systems began providing water to consumers worldwide, and safe drinking water became first a public health issue and then a human rights issue. Many countries have drinking water regulations and have set standards for maximum allowable levels of contaminants in drinking water. In wealthier nations, people have been living for nearly a century in a “water paradise,” with inexpensive and safe drinking water readily available in most places. In many developing countries, people lack access to safe water; waterborne disease is a major cause of death, especially among children under 5; and countries that have set drinking water standards often lack the resources to implement or enforce them. The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a set of standards and guidelines for implementation to help countries lacking regulations and, along with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has set goals aimed at providing all people with safe drinking water, especially focused on the poor and disadvantaged of the world. This chapter provides an overview of drinking water in ancient times, the development of water treatment systems, the evolution of water analysis and drinking water standards, examples of current standards and regulations around the world, emerging standards and regulatory challenges, and global drinking water goals.


Drinking water Historical perspectives on drinking water History of water treatment Evolution of drinking water standards and regulations Emerging challenges Global drinking water goals