Deficiencies in knowledge about water quality prevent or obscure progress on a panoply of public health problems globally. Specifically, such lack of information frustrates effective and efficient government regulation to protect the public from contaminated drinking water. In this Practical Paper, we lay out how recent scientific innovations in synthetic biology mean that rapid, at-home tests based on biosensor technology could be used to improve water quality monitoring and regulation using the example of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Lead and Copper Rule currently under revision. Biosensor tests can be used by non-scientists and the information that biosensor tests generate is relatively cheaper and faster than standard laboratory techniques. As such, they have the potential to make it possible to increase the number and frequency of samples tested. This, in turn, could facilitate more accurate compliance monitoring, justify more protective substantive standards, and more efficiently identify infrastructure priorities. Biosensors can also empower historically underrepresented communities by facilitating the visibility of inequities in lead exposure, help utilities to ensure safe water delivery, and guide policy for identifying and replacing lead-bearing water infrastructure, thereby improving public health. As the technology matures, biosensors have great potential to reveal water quality issues, thereby reducing public health burdens.

  • At-home biosensor tests have recently been developed for use by the general public to rapidly detect drinking water contaminants.

  • They are relatively simpler, cheaper, and faster than conventional lab techniques, permitting widespread use and thereby democratizing water safety knowledge.

  • At-home lead biosensor data could improve the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Lead and Copper Rule, which is currently being revised.

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