Drinking Water Intake Zones to End Pollution of Water Supplies - RiverU Propossal by Jacob Land and Julie Merritt

An act to amend the Clean Water Act to allow the creation of Drinking Water Intake Zones where the discharge of pollutants will be eliminated.

Jacob Land and Julie Merritt

Jacob Land and Julie Merritt


  • Create Safe Drinking Water Zones — zones within watersheds that influence the quality of municipality water supplies
  • Strengthen standards for treatment for of wastewater effluent into Safe Drinking Water Zones to achieve zero discharge of pollutants so the quality of the discharge will be equal to the expected naturally occurring quality of water in the Zones
  • Phase out existing wastewater treatment facilities with modern sustainable wastewater treatment facilities.
  • New municipal treatment facilities will be designed at 150% maximum capacity to ensure their ability to adequately treat future wastes, allow for significant expansion of the municipality being served, and provide increased longevity of the plant itself.
  • Basic water conservation initiatives will be required to reduce the amount of wastewater requiring treatment.
  • Industries will be required to maintain the same increased standards of wastewater treatment as municipal facilities. Industries found to be noncompliant by the deadline for adoption of these regulations will face the same penalties as any industry found to be noncompliant with the Clean Water Act.
  • Incentives in the form of tax breaks will be offered to industries that adopt the regulations early, in advance of the deadline for adoption.
  • Ensure the separation of wastewater and storm water runoff in municipalities within the Zone.
  • Require commercial enterprises to follow the same standards as wastewater treatment facilities under this law.
  • Utilize revenue from fines levied against commercial enterprises to reduce costs of wastewater and storm water management infrastructure


19.5 million Americans are diagnosed annually with waterborne illnesses due to viruses, bacteria and parasites. “Boil water alerts” have become commonplace throughout the nation. Rivers like New York’s Hudson River are not only municipal water supplies but also the receiving waters for municipal and industrial wastes, non-point source pollution, and urban storm water, and are also waters routes for commercial vessels such as oil tankers, and recreational waters for craft such as fishing boats. The creation of Safe Drinking Water Zones (Zone) will ensure a higher standard for treatment and elimination of discharges under the Clean Water Act into the bodies of water that have the greatest impacts on human health

Arguments and Counterarguments:

Who will pay for the this?

The project will be paid for through taxes in the region as well as State grants and regular infrastructure funding programs. Some revenue may come from fines of noncompliant industries in the region.

Why should the new facilities be built?

The new facilities will be able to maintain a much higher standard of wastewater treatment, will have a much lower maintenance cost, and may be used as a potential source of revenue in the near future. The existing facilities are already at or near design capacity and will require expensive retrofitting or complete rebuilding to be able to properly treat the volume of wastewater to be expected in the near future of the facilities

Isn’t this overregulation?

Regulation is the only way to protect the public water supply: one of the best applications of regulations is for public health. Reservoirs and water supplies that are already protected from pollutant discharges will not be affected by these new regulations.

Aren’t existing regulations sufficient?

Existing regulations are applied randomly. Already pristine and near pristine supplies are protected from degradation while water supplies on most rivers are subject to impacts that would never be allowed in the typical reservoir. The Hudson river near Poughkeepsie is a perfect example: Poughkeepsie draws drinking water from the river, trains travel along both sides of the river, tug boats, oil tankers, barges and recreational vessels travel up and down the river. All of them have influence on the water being used for Poughkeepsie’s drinking water.

Doesn’t this change the rules for certain industries?

In some cases it will. But public water supplies should not be subject to the potential consequences of accumulated industrial wastes, accidental spills, or the additional impacts of uncontrolled runoff.