The incidence of acute gastrointestinal illness (AGI) attributable to public drinking water systems in the United States cannot be directly measured but must be estimated based on epidemiologic studies and other information. The randomized trial is one study design used to evaluate risks attributable to drinking water. In this paper, we review all published randomized trials of drinking water interventions in industrialized countries conducted among general immunocompetent populations. We then present an approach to estimating the incidence (number of cases) of AGI attributable annually to drinking water. To develop a national estimate, we integrate trial results with the estimated incidence of AGI using necessary assumptions about the estimated number of residents consuming different sources of drinking water and the relative quality of the water sources under different scenarios. Using this approach we estimate there to be 4.26–11.69 million cases of AGI annually attributable to public drinking water systems in the United States. We believe this preliminary estimate should be updated as new data become available.

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