Water Quality

NEHA’s Policy Priorities on Water

Environmental health is profoundly local and environmental health professionals mediate some of the most intimate parts of our lives: the food we place in our baby’s mouths, the control of insects like mosquitos, and the water that rehydrates children after play time. Environmental health professionals save money, saves lives and protect the future

Only 28 states currently require a credential that is an impartial, third-party endorsement of an individual’s professional knowledge and experience.


Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems

Onsite wastewater treatment systems, frequently called decentralized systems, refers to any system used to treat and dispose of/recycle wastewater from homes, businesses, industrial facilities, and sometimes entire communities. Septic systems usually serve up to 20 people, oftentimes individual households or small businesses, and include a septic tank and soil absorption field. The frequency of septic systems varies by region, ranging from ten to over fifty percent of homes in some states. Larger, more complex systems use advanced treatment units which treat and discharge to surface waters or the soil. When used properly, onsite systems protect public health and the environment by reducing disease transmission and removing pollution from surface and groundwater. Individual onsite systems are typically regulated by states, tribes and local governments, while large capacity septic systems are regulated by the EPA.

Environmental Health professionals play an important role in managing onsite wastewater treatment systems. Septic system professionals are involved in installing, operating, maintaining, and repairing onsite systems. Professionals with local or state health departments evaluate potential sites for onsite systems, issue permits or licenses for technicians, conduct inspections, and enforce local regulations. Additionally, environmental health professionals partner with industries involved in developing land containing buildings using onsite systems to ensure that these treatment systems continue to discharge clean and usable water.  


Septic Smart Week: September 17-21, 2018

In partnership with US Environmental Protection Agency, NEHA is raising awareness for SepticSmart Week from September 17 - 21, 2018. SepticSmart Week is focused on getting homeowners and communities to care for and maintain their septic systems. Find out more about the tools and resources that have been created - many allow for jurisdictions to add their own information to the resource.


A select group of national organizations that signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with US EPA

Recent Updates

NEHA renews the Decentralized Wastewater Management Memorandum of Understanding Partnership

NEHA is part of a select group of national organizations that signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with US EPA to improve the quality and quantity of resources and education available to professionals in the wastewater field, state and local regulatory agencies, and those whose work involves building on or buying/selling land with dwellings that will use an onsite system. This past month NEHA participated in a renewal meeting and signing ceremony to continue collaboration between the EPA and other decentralized system partners. NEHA is excited to be a part of improving decentralized wastewater management by aiding consumers and professionals in the field. 


Available Wastewater Resources & Programs


The Flooding Preparedness and Response for Private Water Systems page includes a range of resources to assist private well and septic system users before, during, and after a hurricane or mass flooding disaster.

The How Your Septic System Can Impact Nearby Water Sources tool is a newly published set of interactive diagrams which illustrate the relationship between septic systems and drinking water, septic systems and surface water, and ways to improve septic systems and better protect nearby water sources. These resources provide homeowner outreach and education to improve use and maintenance of residential septic systems. An example of the diagrams can be found to the left.   

EPA Septic Wiki

EPA Decentralized MOU Partnership




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Groundwater and Environmental Health

"Groundwater is the water found underground in the cracks and spaces in soil, sand and rock. It is stored in and moves slowly through geologic formations of soil, sand and rocks called aquifers." The Groundwater Foundation

According to estimates from the CDC, over 103 million Americans get their drinking water from groundwater sources. For some people that source is tapped by their local water district and is part of a larger water distribution system. For others, it means that the water comes from their private wells directly into their homes. Groundwater is also vital to US food supplies- currently 64% of crops in the United States are irrigated by groundwater.

While groundwater is generally a safe and healthy source of water, its supply is not endless. A number of factors have significant implications on groundwater quantity and quality. Some examples are:

  • Drought
  • Over-plumbing
  • Chemical spills
  • Feedlot run-off
  • Pesticide overuse
  • Leaking sewage systems
  • Pharmaceuticals  

In recent years, drought, especially in the southwest US, has had the biggest impact on groundwater supplies and quality.

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NEHA Resources:

Updated! Private Well Class

The popular Private Well Class series has been updated and moved to a new location. Please use the link below to access this updated, no-cost, online education opportunity!

The Private Well Class is being provided to NEHA at no-charge by the Illinois State Water Survey and the Illinois Water Resources Center at the University of Illinois. The funding for the Private Well Class program comes from the USEPA through a cooperative agreement with the Rural Community Assistance Partnership. Originally intended for well owners, this course has proven to be a resource for EH professionals for basic well and groundwater understanding. The class consists of 10 lessons that can be taken in sequence or individually and are eligible for one (1) CE each from NEHA.



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Recreational Water

Healthy Swimming and Recreational Waters

Pools, water parks, and other water-related venues are great sources of fun and exercise, however, with aquatic activities there are risks of waterborne illness and injury. 

Pools and similar facilities can harbor pathogens that make us sick, and sometimes the chemicals intended to inactivate these pathogens can irritate our skin, eyes and lungs.  Fortunately, most of these risks are preventable.  Environmental health professionals can work with aquatic-industry leaders and the public to minimize these risks so we can all enjoy the benefits of recreational water safely.


CDC's Healthy and Safe Swimming Week May 22 - 28, 2018  

According to the US Census, there are over 30 million swimmer visits each year in the United states. CDC's Healthy and Safe Swimming (HSS) week helps create awareness around potential illness and injuries that can occur when enjoying recational waters. The 2017 HSS Week toolkit contains a cover letter, community outreach suggestions, list of resources, sample press release, sample op-ed, sample proclamation, and suggested social media messages that are available and free to use.

Health and Safe Swimming Week Toolkit

Aquatic Healthy and Safety Infographic

NEHA Aquatic health and safety infographic

Download Aquatic Healthy and Safety InfographiC (PDF) 

NEW! CDC Updates the MAHC

The updated MAHC incorporates revisions that were suggested at the bi-annual Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code (CMAHC). The suggestions were categorized, opened for discussion to the CMAHC membership, reviewed again and accepted revisions are added to the MAHC. The CDC website offers a variety of ways to review the changes made as well as PDF versions of the revised code.

The Model Aquatic Health Code

Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC)

MAHC is a collaborative effort of public health, academia, and industry. By providing a model code based on the latest science, the MAHC strives to keep swimming healthy and protect individuals, families, and communities from preventable waterborne diseases and injuries. The MAHC encourages stakeholder involvement, so please make your swimming pool program aware of the following resources and opportunities to get involved.

Updated Model Code Now Available! 
CDC has released an updated 2016 version of the MAHC. The review process is organized by the Council for the Model Aquatic and will be done bi-annually.

To learn more about the MAHC, view the 2015 AEC presentation:


Meet the CMAHC

The Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code (CMAHC) will serve as a key CDC partner by serving as a national clearinghouse for gathering stakeholder input and advice on needed improvements to the MAHC. Consider joining today.

Questions? Email mahc@cdc.gov

EH20 Recreational Water Virtual ConferenceEH2O Recreational Water Virtual Conference Logo Beach Ball and Water Drop

TThe conference was designed to enhance the knowledge of environmental health professionals in order to help them respond to environmental events of public health concern as well as to provide an opportunity to network and learn about the latest in indoor and outdoor treated recreational waters. If you were unable to attend the conference, you can still view and download presentation slides below. 


Health and Safety

Recommendations for Reducing Cryptosporidium Infection Risk in Swimming Pools ; Transcript

Opportunities for Preventing Mass Chlorine Exposures at Recreational Swimming Pools ; Transcript 

Evaluation of Swimming Pool Treatment Chemical Health Effects Under NSF/ANSI Standard 50 ; Transcript

Dangerous Underwater Breath-Holding Behavior-Related Drownings in NY, 1988-2011 ; Transcript

Lifeguarding and the Model Aquatic Health Code ; Transcript

Innovation and Technology

Introducing Aquatic Inspector: A CDC iPad App to Streamline Pool Inspections ; Transcript

Advanced Chemistry and Its Impact on Disinfection ; Transcript

Swimming Pool Technologies: Are These the Answer? ; Transcript

Floatation Systems in the State of Washington ; Transcript

Inspections and Training

Reducing Drownings Through Epidemiology and Interventions ; Transcript

Network for Aquatic Facility Inspection Surveillance Data on Immediate Closures and Violations ; Transcript

Expanding Swimming Pool Educational Outreach ; Transcript

Understanding and Applying Lifeguard/Bather Supervision and Operational Entries in the MAHC ; Transcript

Questions? Contact programs@neha.org or 303-756-9090 x 335.



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