Safe Drinking Water

Having a safe and healthy home means having safe drinking water. However, in many states and communities, programs that address housing quality are siloed from those with responsibility for assuring clean and safe drinking water. This occurs even when there is a common contaminant of interest (e.g., programs that address lead in paint and soil often do not have the capacity, expertise or authority to address lead in drinking water), but this division does not reflect how residents experience their home environments and can lead to unintended consequences and can even create a false sense of safety that hazards have been addressed.

Contaminants in drinking water, including lead and PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), are a public health issue of paramount importance, and the resulting adverse effects on our health are serious. The National Center for Healthy Housing understands that only by addressing these issues holistically, through focus on drinking water alongside and in coordination with other home environmental hazards, can we secure healthy housing for all.

This page collects information on the health impacts of contaminants in drinking water, opportunities to address these hazards, and how NCHH is supporting our partners in their work to ensure everyone has access to safe drinking water.

NCHH Projects, Resources, and Publications

NOW OPEN: Public Health and Water Utility Matchmaking Survey
To facilitate communications and collaboration, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and NCHH have created a survey to match local water utilities with public health professionals to initiate discussions on collaborative efforts to prevent lead exposure in drinking water, such as through full lead service line replacement, to support the mission of the Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative. Participants who complete the survey and consent to share information may be connect with a water utility/public health agency in your area. We will also provide guides and tools for cross-sector collaboration on lead poisoning prevention. Take the survey.

Lead-Safe Toolkit for Home-Based Child Care: Lead in Drinking Water
The “Lead in Drinking Water” section of the Lead-Safe Toolkit for Home-Based Child Care (and the counterpart toolkit for center-based care) provides resources and policies for child care providers. The toolkits are a project by Eco-Healthy Child Care® (a national program of the Children’s Environmental Health Network), the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC), and NCHH, with funding from the JPB Foundation. [url, NCHH, 2019]

Predictors of Water Lead Levels in Drinking Water of Homes with Domestic Wells in Three Illinois Counties
NCHH’s Chief Scientist, Dr. David Jacobs, coauthored this research article, published in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice.[pdf; JPHMP, 2020]

A Shower of Benefits: Drinking Water and Healthy Housing
NCHH’s Chief Scientist, Dr. David Jacobs, wrote this popular blog about the “appalling” state of water systems in the United States and what must be done to correct it. [url; NCHH, 2017]

Partner Initiatives, Resources, and Publications

The Biden-Harris Get the Lead Out Partnership 
The Biden-Harris Administration announced a partnership in January 2023 to leverage existing efforts and funding to accelerate the replacement of lead pipes by the end of the decade. The Biden-Harris Get the Lead Out Partnership is a coalition of federal government, states, local and tribal communities, water utilities, labor unions, private companies, and nongovernmental organizations” who’ve pledged to work together to “identify new opportunities, resources, and actions” fulfill the administration’s goal of replacing every lead service line in the nation over the next decade. NCHH was announced as an inaugural member of this initiative. [url; White House, 2023]

Rhode Island’s Largest Drinking Water Utility Faces Civil Rights Complaint over Lead Contamination
The Childhood Lead Action Project, Direct Action for Rights and Equality, South Providence Neighborhood Association, the Environmental Defense Fund, and NCHH filed an administrative complaint in January 2022 against Providence Water for violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, due to their practices of conducting partial replacement of lead service lines. [url; NCHH, 2022]

Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative 
The Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative works to accelerate voluntary LSL replacement in communities across the United States. The collaborative, of which NCHH is a member, hosts a variety of resources about all of the steps involved in replacement of lead service lines. [url; LSLRC]

National Environmental Health Partnership Council 
Sponsored by the American Public Health Association (APHA), the National Environmental Health Partnership Council strives to support healthy people by working for healthier environments, including through drinking water. Resources include the Environmental Health Playbook, which features a chapter on safe drinking water. NCHH is a member of this council. [url; APHA]

Paints and Pipes: A Comprehensive Approach to Lead Poisoning Prevention
The first installment in a three-part series for public health professionals, the Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN) hosted this town hall in March 2021 “on the importance of addressing lead exposure from all sources, including drinking water, featuring speakers from diverse perspectives, including local health officials, NGO health, equity, and environmental advocates.” NCHH’s Amanda Reddy participated in the discussion. [url; YouTube, 2021]

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) and Your Health
CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) provides this informative overview of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). [url; CDC/ATSDR, 2022]

Sources of Lead in Drinking Water 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed this infographic outlining sources of lead in drinking water. [pdf; EPA, 2017]


Latest page update: April 13, 2023.