Lead (Pb) in public drinking water supplies has garnered much attention since the outset of the Flint water crisis. Pb is a known hazard in multiple environmental matrices, exposure from which results in long-term deleterious health effects in humans. This discussion paper aims to provide a succinct account of environmental Pb exposures with a focus on water Pb levels (WLLs) in the United States. It is understood that there is a strong correlation between WLLs and blood Pb levels (BLLs), and the associated health effects. However, within the Flint water crisis, more than water chemistry and Pb exposure occurred. A cascade of regulatory and bureaucratic failures culminated in the Flint water crisis. This paper will discuss pertinent regulations and responses including their limitations after an overview of the public health effects from Pb exposure as well as discussion on our limitations on monitoring and mitigating Pb in tap water. As the Flint water crisis also included increased Legionnares' disease, caused by Legionella pneumophila, this paper will discuss factors influencing L. pneumophila growth. This will highlight the systemic nature of changes to water chemistry and public health impacts. As we critically analyze these important aspects of water research, we offer discussions to stimulate future water quality research from a new and systemic perspective to inform and guide public health decision-making.