Twentieth-century approaches to protecting drinking water supplies cannot keep pace with the ever-expanding set of chemicals that humans emit into the environment. However, with recent advances in bioassays, the measurement of complex chemical mixtures, and artificial intelligence, we are on the cusp of developing a radically different approach to keeping our drinking water safe. In contrast to the reactive and piecemeal status quo approach, this new approach is proactive and evaluates drinking water quality more holistically by focusing on complex mixtures instead of a small set of regulated, well-known chemicals that have been studied for decades.
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We thank W. Arnold, W. Ball, T. Burke, D. Knappe, K. Nachman, J. Goddard and K. Rowles for their comments on earlier versions of this manuscript, and S. Grant for ideas related to precision health. We acknowledge internal funding from Johns Hopkins University.
P.J.F. declares no competing interests. C.P. serves as scientific advisor of SimpleLab.
Peer review information Nature Sustainability thanks Johan Lundqvist and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Ferraro, P.J., Prasse, C. Reimagining safe drinking water on the basis of twenty-first-century science. Nat Sustain (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-021-00760-0