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Sierra Club Water Sentinels

Safe Drinking Water

Our very survival depends on drinking water. In adults, water is the principal component and makes up about 60 percent of our body weight. In newborn infants, water makes up about 75 percent of body weight. Every system in our body depends on water: Blood is mostly water (92 percent); water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells, and provides a moist environment for ear, nose, and throat tissues.

Not only must we drink water to survive, but that water must also be clean. There are scientific standards that define clean drinking water, but in general terms, drinking water must be of sufficiently high quality that it can be consumed or used with low risk of immediate or long-term harm.

Unfortunately, more than 20 percent of the nation's water treatment systems have violated key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act over the past five years, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data. Some of these violations are related directly to the operation of treatment facilities, but many others are because the source of the drinking water is contaminated. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 39 percent of rivers and streams, 45 percent of lakes and reservoirs, and 51 percent of estuaries do not meet water-quality standards.

Scientific research indicates that as many as 19.5 million Americans become ill each year from microbiological water contamination (bacteria, parasites, and viruses). An untold number of people suffer both acute and chronic illnesses from water pollution caused by nitrogen and phosphorus and by toxic chemicals. It is essential that we work together to ensure that we meet and improve water-quality standards in the United States.

We hope you will join us as we work to ensure that all Americans have safe drinking water.

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