In the United States of America, they have the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) empowered by various federal statutes including the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The website of EPA provide the much needed information for the guidance of their citizens.
The difference between what exists in the US and what exists in India is glaringly visible when you do an honest comparison. In India, there is no law that makes it mandatory for any one to ensure safe drinking water to the citizens. What exist are a set of half-cooked or impractical guidelines apparently worked out by several agencies without due understanding of the technical or practical issues involved!
Thus even the best water treatment plants in India that existed a couple of decades ago with reasonably good operation and maintenance practices are increasingly getting neglected over the years. There is a drastic reduction in the technical competence of the people who manage the existing water or waste water treatment facilities. Most water and waste water treatment facilities do not have any competent water analysts or the necessary water quality testing laboratories. What existed as some best facilities some decades ago have mostly become dilapidated or practically non-functional. The contradictory or vague or impractical guidelines and protocols have made the situation to slip from bad to the worst. Lack of awareness in the public coupled with administrative apathy has caused further damage.
Water treatment facilities in India used to be considered as prime installations of national importance during the initial few decades after India's independence from the British rule. The British legacy was to consider these facilities with due diligence. Even in the 1980 when I joined my professional career, water treatment and public health engineering used to be an area of prime importance to the top managements of not only the municipalities but also of the large scale industries.
But things deteriorated in later years. I do not say that this situation is worrisome everywhere in India. But, in general things have deteriorated much. Water and waste water management technologies have advanced much in the recent years in many countries. Though some progressive private sector companies in India are making advantage of such technologies to a greater extent, this is not so in the case of the government departments and public sector industries due to either lack of awareness or on account of competency vacuums that has developed in recent years.
The general deterioration of piped drinking water supply quality has caused the proliferation of bottled mineral water companies. Packed mineral water in plastic bottles and pouches are now causing serious land pollution problems due to the empty bottles and pouches.
Health conscious and well-to-do city dwellers no more consider their piped water supply as safe. Domestic water purifiers are doing roaring business now! How safely these provide good quality water can only be guessed as there is no facility available to the users to check the quality of water!
In my opinion consumers of water need to enhance their general awareness in these areas. In the present times, even the sick people no more take their medical doctors for granted. Therefore it is a good idea to gain some knowledge about the manner in which the drinking water comes to you and also the manner in which it is finally disposed.
Those interested to get some basic ideas about water, the US-EPA site is a good educator.
As far as India is concerned, I earnestly hope that our new government would initiate some better systems to address the various issues involved with drinking water treatment, distribution, sanitation, waste water treatment, disposal and re-use, in the days to come.
Let us hope that our democratic local governments and other such authorities responsible for providing safe drinking water to the people, take these things seriously and initiate actions for Swacch Pani (clean, safe water) in order to make the recently started Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign) a remarkable and sustainable success!
Let us also hope that our environmental authorities of the central and state levels too wake up to learn some lessons from the developed nations!