By now, most of you are familiar with the “journey” of filtration, treatment and rigorous testing water takes from the source to the tap. But what I’d like to do today is give you a look beyond the basics to what I find truly exciting about water science, research and technological developments.
While teams at our facilities are hard at work treating source and wastewater to meet the daily water needs of our customers, another team of scientists and engineers is hard at work to meet the short-term and long-term future needs of the communities we serve—and beyond.
It’s funny how people tend to think of water as something that doesn’t change a great deal—that is, outside of its states of solid, liquid and gas. Water is and always has been good old H2O. In reality, water interacts with its environment and often reflects what’s happening in the communities around it.
Consequently, treatment methods have needed to evolve and expand in response to external factors over the years. Whether it’s related to natural or man-made circumstances, the water industry has always risen to the challenge. For example, for the majority of the 1900’s, chemical clarification, granular media filtration, and chlorination were the predominant treatment processes used in municipal water treatment. However, the past 40 years have seen significant change in the water industry’s approach to treatment, including advanced membrane filtration, ultraviolet irradiation technology, biological filtration, and more.
The environmental influences on our water are never constant. We must continually look for ways to stay one step ahead of the curve—to not only manage current contaminants but evaluate current treatment practices to gain a better understanding of how they will work with emerging contaminants. At the same time, we look to raise the bar on water quality for the current day. That is, to use new technologies in order to improve and refine our methods in order to take top-quality water to even higher levels… oftentimes before specific federal regulations are in place. My colleague, Ben Stanford does an excellent job here, explaining a related concept known as water polishing, which is very much what it sounds like.
These are the types of exciting things happening at American Water, so exciting that, I am proud to say, the EPA frequently takes note of our labs, researchers, and testing and analysis capabilities to help develop new federal drinking water standards based on what water is, or will soon be, “reflecting” from its environment. It’s exciting not because we have something to boast about, but because it demonstrates an ongoing collaboration that allows us to better serve our customers while contributing to the greater water good.