Canadian Municipal Water eBulletin
 

DRINKING WATER AND HEALTH IN AN ERA OF AGING DISTRIBUTION INFRASTRUCTURE

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The Water Research Foundation (WRF) along with research partners such as the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, have funded many projects dealing with water treatment. These projects are intended to optimize water treatment processes for elimination of human pathogens and reduction of chemical contaminants that may pose a health risk to consumers. Many other projects have been funded to provide water utilities with "tools" to assess the condition of buried infrastructure. These tools will provide utilities with cost-effective options for renovating or replacement of aging water mains, and long- and short-term strategies for addressing their buried infrastructure components that are nearing their effective life-times.
 
While many projects have been completed, management practices by utilities may change slowly to adapt to new findings and regulatory controls. The result could be a failure to implement practices that are most likely to protect public health, even while standard practices for operations and monitoring are used. An effective multiple barrier approach to protecting public health will incorporate realistic and proven methods and avoid practices that may appear effective but in reality, are not. This white paper entitled Drinking Water and Health in an Era of Aging Distribution Infrastructure" addresses proven and problematic practices. It discusses the following: 
  • Completed and verified research that shows which water treatment processes are able to eliminate all human pathogens;
  • Microbial monitoring of drinking water per regulations that cannot be relied upon to determine health risk to consumers;
  • How increased health risks from fully treated drinking water can occur during distribution from aging water pipes, abrupt pressure changes (water main breaks), and prolong residence times in premise plumbing (business buildings, residences, hospitals, etc.), and absence of disinfectant residuals among other factors;
  • How research and policy studies by multiple academic and water- related professional organizations indicate an increasing need to address the deteriorating infrastructure by investments based on full-cost water rates and investment funds from federal and state governments.   
Hopefully this paper helps provides the knowledge-base to better justify investing resources in the Nation’s drinking water systems.  
 
You can find the complete paper at:

 

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