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Burning Waters to Crystal Springs? U.S. Water Pollution Regulation over the Last Half Century

CATO 2020.01.31
The Cuyahoga has not burned since 1969 and is now home to 40 species of fish. But water pollution issues are not just a part of history. Today, more than half of U.S. rivers and lakes violate environmental standards, and 4?28 percent of Americans in a typical year receive drinking water from systems that violate health­?based standards. Flint, Michigan, recently exposed 100,000 residents to dangerous levels of lead in drinking water. Contaminated drinking water leads an estimated 16 million Americans to suffer from gastrointestinal illnesses annually. Polls also suggest that water pollution has been Americans’ top environmental concern for at least 30 years. Sixty percent of Americans today list drinking­?water pollution and also river and lake pollution as great concerns. In every survey since 1989, the share concerned about these issues has substantially exceeded the share expressing concern about air pollution, climate change, or other environmental problems.

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