Category Archives: Drinking Water

Autumn: When Leaves Fall, So Can Water Quality

autumnNow that summer is over—and hopefully the record-setting 2017 hurricane season—many of us can turn our attention to the cooler temperatures, shorter days and the colorful splendor of autumn leaves. Of course, all of those red, orange, and yellow leaves are short-lived and fall to the ground, forming truly massive amounts of organic debris. But did you know that this yearly spectacle, and all that leaf litter, can have a negative effect on water quality?

Leaf Litter, Nutrients and Stormwater Research

Prior to the 1970s, most “urban leaves” were burned in yards and provided the unmistakeable smell of autumn … to the marked disadvantage of air quality. Beginning in the early 1970s, many cities banned the open burning of leaves and some eventually began collecting leaves at curbside. In 1972, the National Science Foundation funded a group of 12 students (myself included) to consider alternatives to burning leaves in … READ MORE >>

If Nothing Changes, It Will Happen Again: New Zealand’s Untreated Drinking Water

New Zealand Drinking WaterJust over a year ago, in August 2016, I wrote about how more than 5,000 of the 14,000 residents of Havelock North—a suburb of the City of Hastings on the North Island of New Zealand—became sickened after drinking untreated groundwater contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria, a common food- and waterborne disease-causing microorganism that is transmitted in the feces of infected persons and animals. It was New Zealand’s largest and most costly drinking water outbreak. Last February, I provided an update on a government inquiry into the avoidable outbreak, which may have contributed to the loss of three lives. Now I will comment on the current national discussion in New Zealand about whether or not to require treatment of drinking water, which believe it or not, is still going on.

Government Inquiry and What the Experts Have to Say

The first stage of the inquiry, which included extensive public … READ MORE >>

Stockholm Junior Water Prize Winners Propose Novel Approach to Expanding Safe Water Resources

New York high school students Ryan Thorpe and Rachel Chang, receive the 2017 Stockholm Junior Water Prize from H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden in Stockholm Photo credit: The Stockholm International Water Institute

New York high school students Ryan Thorpe and Rachel Chang, receive the 2017 Stockholm Junior Water Prize from H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden in Stockholm

Photo credit: The Stockholm International Water Institute

 

Striving for a better world by 2030, countries around the globe are beginning to incorporate the new, ambitious UN Sustainable Development Goals into their national agendas. Among the 17 bold goals, which include ending poverty and hunger, is the goal of universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation. This goal was front and center at last week’s Stockholm International Water Institute’s (SIWI) World Water Week meeting, the world’s biggest annual global meeting focused on water and development. SIWI Executive Director, Torgny Holmgren noted, “… it is here that we come together and make sure that the very best ideas are brought forward”.

One of those ideas originated with two Long Island, New York, high … READ MORE >>

Touring Orange County’s Groundwater Replenishment System and Celebrating World Water Week 2017

gwrsThe theme of this year’s World Water Week, which runs from August 27 to September 1, is “Water and Waste: Reduce and Reuse.” World Water Week was established in 1991 and is organized each year by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).

To mark World Water Week, we thought it only fitting to share a highlight of our July 2017 summer meeting—a tour of the unique Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) of the Orange County Water District and the Orange County Sanitation District (OCWD/OCSD) in California.

World Water Week 2017

SIWI promotes sustainable development in water governance and transboundary water management. In 2016, SIWI named WQ&HC’s Dr. Joan Rose winner of their prestigious Stockholm Water Prize. As described in their program, World Water Week 2017 will focus on United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) and 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production). OCWD and OCSD … READ MORE >>

Climbing the Rungs of the Safe Water and Sanitation Service Ladders

Workers in Haiti install chlorinator equipment to disinfect a community water supply a measure that will help prevent waterborne illness

Workers in Haiti install chlorinator equipment to disinfect a community water supply a measure that will help prevent waterborne illness

The humble ladder can be a symbol of progress toward lofty goals. The lyrics of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young,” for example, include a moving wish for the singer’s newborn son: “May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung…” Symbolic ladders are also used by the Joint Monitoring Program of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to communicate progress toward the goal of universal safe drinking water and sanitation.

In “UN-speak,” that ambitious goal is Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goal #6, which includes specific targets and indicators that will help track progress toward a world in which waterborne illnesses are rare and sanitation is safely managed.

Ladders to a Better Life for All

Clean water and safely managed sanitation are … READ MORE >>

Keeping Your Reusable Water Bottle Clean

Louisville Water Company promotes filling reusable water bottles with tap water

Louisville Water Company promotes filling reusable water bottles with tap water

The reusable water bottle is one of those “grab and go” items that travel with many of us on a daily basis. The filled water bottle provides a handy means of hydrating on the spot. As we’ve noted, many water fountains now conveniently include water bottle-filling features. There’s just one caveat to deriving the maximum health benefit from reusable water bottles: They should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized on a regular basis to avoid contamination.

Germs Love Moist Environments

Germs thrive in moist environments such as parts of the cap and interior of your water bottle. As Dr. Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona notes, if you use your fingers to open and close the water bottle cap, there is a good chance that bacteria will be introduced into the cap, where moisture will support its … READ MORE >>

The Once and Future Water Fountain

water fountainIn the years since we last wrote on this topic, drinking water fountains—a once ubiquitous feature of the U.S. public health landscape—continue to decline in diversity, maintenance and numbers.1 Yet because many people, including commuters, tourists and the homeless, often rely on fountains for (usually) free and safe municipal water, they should not be taken for granted.

Concerns over drinking water quality, particularly lead and other metals associated with aging infrastructure but also waterborne diseases, continue to make headlines. But are these concerns well-founded? And if so, what can be done to reinvent public drinking water fountains in the era of the smart city and smart phone?

READ MORE >>

Three Tips to Help You Prepare for a Home Water Emergency

Water flows into your home on a daily basis for essential uses, but how much do you know about your water supply and its circulation through your living space? Are you ready for a household water emergency? These tips can help you prepare for the unexpected.

  1. Main Shut-Off ValveKnow how to turn it off: In the event of a plumbing failure in the home, the first order of business is to turn off the water at its point of entry. This is done at the “main water shut-off valve.” Locate and label this valve. Make sure the valve is easily accessible at a moment’s notice (e.g., don’t store items in front of it).
If your house is to be evacuated and left unheated during cold weather, the water supply should be turned off at the main shut-off valve and pipes drained. This will help prevent water freezing and bursting the pipes, leading to extensive water damage. Remember that water expands at 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit), a phenomenon that keeps plumbers busy in winter!
 
  1. Know how to drain the pipes: Once the shut-off valve is closed, drain valves should be opened to drain the water remaining in the pipes. Drain valves are usually located on the downstream side of the shut off valve; sometimes they are separate valves. Draining water can be collected in a bucket. When draining water pipes, it is a good idea to open all faucets.
READ MORE >>

Finished Drinking Water and Treatment Fundamentals

Finished Drinking WaterDrinking water has been called the 2nd most essential human need (after the air we breathe). Every day, over 50,000 community drinking water systems serve over 300 million Americans, with just 3 percent of these systems serving almost 80 percent of the US population.1,2 Regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, and supported by the work of federal, state, tribal and local governments and utilities, the US drinking water system has been recognized as one of the nation’s most significant advances in public health.3

Raw and Finished Drinking Water

About two-thirds of Americans served by community drinking water systems obtain their raw (i.e., untreated) water from surface water sources, such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs.4 The remaining third are served by municipal groundwater systems using wells, while some systems use both sources. In addition to source water protection, transforming raw surface water or groundwater into … READ MORE >>

Sticker Shock and the Nation’s Drinking Water Infrastructure Challenges

WaterMainBreak

Water main break
Photo credit: EPA.gov

Over five years have passed since I wrote a 2-part series of articles titled “Pain at the Pipe.” Part 1 focused on why the US should respond to systemic drinking water infrastructure needs, while Part 2 addressed the consequences of failing to address those needs. Since then, drinking water infrastructure-related needs, as well as public health failures like Flint, Michigan, continue to make the news nationally and regionally, and have been highlighted in recent WQ&HC perspectives. In this article, I would like to focus on recent estimates of the magnitude and cost of the problem, and share some ideas regarding the need to establish realistic priorities, keeping in mind the axiom: If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.

Size of the Problem

There are over 150,000 active public drinking water systems in the US that collectively deliver treated water … READ MORE >>

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