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More than 1,500 tap water providers from every corner of the nation gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol last week to demonstrate support for safe and clean drinking water. Gov. Christie Whitman, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, joined with five congressional leaders on safe drinking water issues to take part in the American Water Works Association's (AWWA) "Water Matters!" rally, convened to enlist support for promoting safe drinking water issues with government leaders.
"Today's rally demonstrates the great importance of safe and clean water to all Americans," said Gov. Whitman. "I am committed to working with AWWA in a partnership to protect this vital resource and ensure that Americans continue to have the best drinking water in the world."
Gov. Whitman was joined at the AWWA rally by Senator Bob Smith (R-NH), Rep. Paul Gillmor (R-OH), Rep. John Duncan (R-TN), Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), and Rep. Robert Borski (D-NJ). The congressional leaders focused their remarks on the drinking water profession's great success in improving the quality of drinking water in America, and their views on how government can support the nation's tap water providers in overcoming the problems inherent in providing hundreds of millions of Americans with an ample supply of safe, affordable drinking water. The rally came at the close of AWWA's annual conference, the world's largest conference dedicated to the promotion of safe drinking water.
"Tap water providers are committed to ensuring all Americans have access to a safe, affordable supply of drinking water," said AWWA Executive Director Jack Hoffbuhr. "Gov. Whitman and these congressional leaders are in a position to help us do so. We are grateful for their support of our efforts today."
In the past century, tap water suppliers have made great strides in improving the quality of American drinking water, making the U.S. supply one of the safest supplies in the world. In 1999, the Centers for Disease Control recognized the disinfection of public water supplies one of the ten greatest public health achievements of the 20th century. A year later, the National Academy of Engineering commemorated the disinfection of public water supplies as one of the four greatest engineering feats of the past 100 years.
As drinking water quality standards have continued to tighten, water utilities have urged Congress to become more involved in protecting source water from pollution and to assist their efforts to refurbish the nation's huge drinking water infrastructure network, comprising over 700,000 miles of pipe. Water utilities have also created partnerships with USEPA to protect against contamination of community water supplies by the lethal parasite Cryptosporidium and to make water utilities and their infrastructure more secure from terrorist attack.
"There can be no question that the work of tap water providers and federal regulators is intertwined," concluded Hoffbuhr. "Today's Water Matters! rally demonstrates the commitment of AWWA and the rest of the drinking water community to working with the federal government to ensure America's public health is always protected."