Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Michael Lynch, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lyndsay Boggess, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Matenus Santos, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kim Lersch, Ph.D.


Discrimination, Environmental Justice, Green Crime, Segregation, Spatial Cluster


Drinking water systems in the United States confront several challenges such as aging infrastructure, polluted source water, and fragmented systems. The burdens, however, are not equally distributed across the nation. Disadvantaged communities such as communities of color are disproportionately affected by drinking water-related problems.

This study focuses on drinking water quality violations and slow enforcement actions of Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) during 2016 to 2018. The EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) was used to obtain violation records and characteristics of community water systems. The data set in this study contains 21,845 community water systems. Based on the political-economic perspective, it examines three main hypotheses: 1) whether SDWA violations are distributed randomly across geographic locations; 2) whether compositions of a community including race/ethnicity, poverty, and civic engagement are related to the exposure to contaminated drinking water; 3) and whether these factors are also associated with unequal enforcement of drinking water quality regulations.

The main findings are indicated: first, SDWA violations are concentrated in California’s Central Valley, the Texas colonias and rural South; second, water systems serving communities with a larger proportion of Hispanic residents tend to have a higher frequency of SDWA violations; third, while the average length of water system’s noncompliance appears longer in communities with higher proportion of Black and Hispanic residents, out-of-compliance water systems return to comply the standard quickly as communities have a higher capacity of civic engagement. The empirical findings in this study strengthens the environmental justice demand that US drinking water policies should be reformed at structural level for all, free from discrimination, bias, or inequality. It also contributes to the importance of infrastructure reparations that particularly focuses on disadvantaged communities that were historically shaped by segregation.