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Notice to Readers: National Drinking Water Week --- May 4--10, 2008

This year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the most significant public health advances in U.S. history, the disinfection of drinking water. To highlight the importance of safe tap water and the need to reinvest in water infrastructure, the American Water Works Association and an alliance of other organizations are sponsoring National Drinking Water Week (1).

Safe drinking water is one of the most valuable resources of the United States. During the past century, many improvements in the health of the U.S. population, such as preventing tooth decay through community fluoridation and controlling infectious diseases, can be attributed to improvements in drinking water quality (2). Disinfection has played a critical role in the provision of safe drinking water in the United States since 1908 (3). During 1900--1920, the incidence of typhoid fever in the United States decreased substantially, from 100.0 to 33.8 cases per 100,000 population (4,5). By 2006, incidence of typhoid fever had decreased to 0.1 per 100,000 population (only 353 cases), and approximately 75% of these cases occurred among persons returning from international travel (6,7). This decrease in waterborne illness can be credited to advances in public health, including implementation of drinking water disinfection in community water systems.

The United States has one of the safest public water supplies in the world. Nonetheless, an estimated 4--33 million cases of gastrointestinal illness associated with public drinking water systems occur annually in the United States (8). These estimates do not include illnesses that occur in the estimated 45 million persons served by small or individual water systems (9) or illnesses other than gastrointestinal illness. The continued occurrence of drinking water--associated disease highlights the importance of maintaining and improving the nation's water infrastructure.

CDC activities related to National Drinking Water Week include promoting waterborne disease prevention, reducing the adverse health effects from contaminated drinking water, improving access to safe water internationally, addressing terrorism concerns related to waterborne pathogens, strengthening waterborne disease outbreak surveillance and investigations, and supporting water-related programs at local and state health departments. Additional information regarding CDC activities is available at,,,,, and Additional information about National Drinking Water Week is available at


  1. American Water Works Association. Only tap water delivers: Drinking Water Week 2007. Available at
  2. CDC. Achievements in public health, 1900--1999: changes in the public health system. MMWR 1999;48:1141--7.
  3. Haas CN. Disinfection. In: American Water Works Association. Water quality and treatment: a handbook of community water supplies. 5th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 1999:14.22--14.30.
  4. US Environmental Protection Agency. The history of drinking water treatment. Available at
  5. CDC. Achievements in public health, 1900--1999: safer and healthier foods. MMWR 1999;48:905.
  6. CDC. Summary of notifiable diseases---United States, 2006. MMWR 2008;55:17.
  7. US Census Bureau. Annual estimates of the population for the United States, regions, and states and for Puerto Rico: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2007 (NST-EST2007-01). Available at
  8. CDC. 2006 national estimate of waterborne disease associated with public drinking water. Available at
  9. US Environmental Protection Agency. Private drinking water wells. Available at

Use of trade names and commercial sources is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

References to non-CDC sites on the Internet are provided as a service to MMWR readers and do not constitute or imply endorsement of these organizations or their programs by CDC or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. CDC is not responsible for the content of pages found at these sites. URL addresses listed in MMWR were current as of the date of publication.

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Date last reviewed: 5/1/2008


Safer, Healthier People

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
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