Drinking Water Regulation

The EPA's philosophy in setting drinking water regulation is to initially assess the potential for harm and determine the feasibility of attainment (57 FR pt. 219 [13 November 1985] 46936). Regulatory actions must be scientifically, legally, defensibly, technically, and economically feasible. This feasibility requires careful study and analysis and extensive communication with those affected by the regulations (i.e., state agencies, public water supplies, and the scientific community), as well as other interested parties in the public sector.

Terms such as regulations, standards, goals, guidelines, criteria, advisories, limits, levels, and objectives describe numerical or narrative qualities of drinking water that protect public health. Distinctions between these terms generally fall into either (1) legally enforceable concentrations (regulations or standards) or (2) concentrations that represent desirable water quality but are not enforceable (goals or criteria). In addition, both regulations and goals usually represent either (1) a health-related NOAEL or (2) a level representing a balance between health risks and the feasibility of achieving these levels.

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