Maintaining high standards regarding water quality is always a topic of conversation in the hallways I walk each day, but it’s especially so when we’re celebrating August as National Water Quality Month. The month is all about reminding businesses and individuals about the activities and standards that support the preservation of quality water. But quality can mean different things to different people.
To the scientist, quality can be measured by analysis of the chemical, physical, and microbial characteristics of water – compared to federal and state standards. Twenty years ago, there were no standards for Cryptosporidium, a tiny water-borne parasite. Today, through the research and efforts of many scientists, there are standards and testing and treatment for Cryptosporidium. The result is that there have been no waterborne outbreaks in properly treated drinking water for more than 10 years! From source to tap, every drop of water goes through the “big five” treatment steps. We are also constantly researching and developing additional methods to protect and preserve the quality of the water we treat and deliver.
However, to the everyday person on the street, this sophisticated analytical testing often takes a back seat to what you taste, smell, and CAN see. There is always some variation in how water will taste based on its source. Water from the ground will be affected by the types of natural minerals in the rocks and soils. In fact, pure distilled water tastes bad because there are no minerals present to give it a taste! Water from lakes and rivers can also be affected by the environment, rainfall, soils, and plants along the way. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires that water utilities maintain a detectable level of disinfectant in the water system to protect consumers from disease-causing microbes. Depending on the location in the water system and the type and level of disinfectant, consumers may notice its taste or smell. For many it is the assurance that the water has been properly treated.
From protection of the source waters, to the treatment, distribution, planning, engineering, and testing of water systems, there are many industry colleagues working every day to ensure reliable, safe, high-quality water. Did you know that 2015 marks the end of the United Nation’s International Decade for Action “Water for Life?” For the past 10 years, numerous national and international organizations have focused on bringing safe drinking water to the billion people who lacked access to this most basic necessity.
So National Quality Water month provides an opportunity to build awareness and take actions to help maintain and increase water quality. This fact sheet points out several simple steps that individuals, households and businesses can take to become more aware and better protect water supplies. So whether you are a scientist chasing that elusive Cryptosporidium, or just somebody that enjoys a cold glass of water on a hot summer day, we all can celebrate National Water Quality Month by working together to make sure our water is the best that can be delivered.