Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – August 31st, 2001

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

August 31, 2001

UN Warns of Future Water Crisis

The United Nations reports that approximately 450 million people in 29 countries currently face water shortages. The UN expects the crisis to worsen in the future. Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia are expected to endure the most severe problems. The UN World Water Forum, a coalition of ten international organizations (including the UN Environment Program, the World Health Organization and the World Wide Fund for Nature), warned that by 2025, a global water crisis could threaten as many as one in three people. The Forum intends to adopt a policy based on the recommendations of both environmentalists and agricultural scientists who offer various solutions to stave off the impending water crisis. Many environmentalists advocate a ten percent reduction in water use to protect natural water resources though this affects millions of jobs worldwide. At the same time, many scientists support a 15-20 percent increase in farm water use to secure food supplies for the potential famines.

For more information, visit

AJPH Cites Increased Rainfall as Cause for Concern

As the climate changes, the United States is expected to receive an increase in rainfall. This is cause for concern as a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health reports a link between waterborne disease outbreaks with high levels of precipitation. Using the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) waterborne disease data and National Climatic Data Center precipitation records, the research team concluded that fifty-one percent of waterborne disease outbreaks were preceded by the highest levels of rainfall. The report advises public health officials, risk assessors and water managers to prepare for and heavy rains, and treat such occurrences as potential disasters and harbingers of disease.

To read the report, visit

EPA Releases Microbial Strategy

In order to consolidate efforts at attaining a comprehensive, unified plan for safe water, the EPA has integrated the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and Clean Water Act (CWA) programs seeking to control waterborne microbial contaminants. In its strategy report, the EPA identified the top four approaches to water protection: establishing monitoring and treatment standards or discharge criteria for reused water and currently unregulated industrial wastes; setting CWA ambient water guidelines; managing contamination sources; and developing an EPA-generated microbial risk-assessment model.

For more information on the EPA draft strategy, visit

DC Declared Federal Disaster Area

Due to flooding caused by heavy rains two weeks ago, President Bush declared the District of Columbia a federal disaster area. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has employed 100 workers to assess the damages at many of the 3,200 homes damaged during the floods. Health workers are warning District residents that the heavy downpour, an estimated one billion gallons of rain, can cause rats to seek new lodgings in homes and provide new breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Officials also are recommending that residents remove remaining water with a wet-dry vac, air out houses, and wash moldy walls with a solution of household bleach and water.

For more information, visit

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