Drought and water quality are issues that affect every one of us and many of us just have blind faith that the water we are drinking from our tap will always be there and always be safe. We need to conserve water and we need to understand where our water is coming from, where it travels to get to your tap, and how you protect what you are drinking, inhaling, and reusing. It can be a matter of life or death.
Having the inconvenience of having your water shut off for a days and weeks, is nothing compared to the long term effects of what can and is happening in almost every US city. The municipal pipe that burst at UCLA is 93 years old. There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States. That’s 27 water main breaks every hour.
California is facing one of the worst drought conditions in history. The water break came amid a severe drought in California, where under new regulations residents are subject to fines up to $500 a day for wasting water. That water main break has dumped approximately 1/5 of the water LA would use for an entire day onto the streets and surrounding areas. It is not unusual. 34 percent of the contiguous United States was in at least a moderate drought as of July 22, 2014. The National Drought Mitigation Center defines moderate drought as: some damage to crops, pastures; streams, reservoirs, or wells low, some water shortages developing or imminent; voluntary water-use restrictions requested.
One of the most costliest droughts destroyed at least half the crops on the Great Plains in 1988 and is considered a natural disaster. Who knows how much the final cost of this main break will be considering other factors such as UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion’s new wood gym floor is now under at least two inches of water – a recent renovation cost $132 million. At a higher potential cost, some people had to be rescued from underground parking. According to the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the cost of replacing antiquated pipes could reach more than $1 trillion dollars in the next decades. Where will that money come from?
As homeowners, even apartment owners, we need to be proactive. We need to understand and think how old are the pipes going into your home? In fact, how old are the pipes in your home? What is in those pipes and what are you drinking? We really need to take the health of our drinking water into our own hands and do the due diligence to keep our families safe. Do you know what’s in your water? Do you know where your water comes from and how water traverses to your tap? Do you know how your water is treated, if there is anything added to it, or do you prefer to think it magically appears when you turn on your tap? Have you had your water tested? What about if you have aging parents, young children, immune compromised guests - what provisions have you put in place?
Anything can happen anywhere. Nearly half the population was ill and eight people died in the Walkerton Crisis where the water system became contaminated with a highly dangerous strain of E. coli bacteria, O157:H7. The CDC estimates that 265,000 STEC infections occur each year in the United States. E. coli O157:H7 causes over 36% of these infections. The types of E. coli that can cause illness can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or people.
Walkerton is a big story, but there are so many more that don’t make it past local news like this sampling of recent water-based eColi incidents (eColi is only one dangerous microorganism):
- July 26, 2014: E. coli found in raw water supply at joint Base San Antonio
- July 28, 2014: Agency says E-coli found in Oklahoma middle school’s water supply
- July 24, 2014: Colonial Beach, Va. residents told E.coli found in water weeks ago
- July 21, 2014: Boil order issued for Ogden after E-coli detected
- July 17, 2014: At least 2 sent to hospital due to E. coli contamination in Cromwell
- July 11, 2014: Boil-water advisory in effect for Bloomfield after E. coli discovered in samples
- July 3, 2014: E. coli violations dog Wildcat plant
As North American’s we’ve always just had faith that our drinking water is safe and that’s not just municipally. A study covering much of the USA by VIQUA researcher, Diane Arnott shows that 28% of people do not test their well water regularly (and 10% do not test at all) but according to the USGS 33% of wells show a presence of coliforms. Those are scary statistics and carrying a Steripen with you while visiting rural homes looks rude and if you’re eating or showering there a Steripen can’t protect you from digesting or inhaling pathogens in the shower, or while helping with dishes.
The takeaway here is there is a larger picture about your water. There are strange things happening environmentally that will affect your available water consumption, your pocketbook, your health and so much more. It is time we all look at our own water and take t impetus to research how we can protect our family. In basic terms, UV water disinfection is a UV lamp appliance that passes water through ultraviolet light without adding chemicals to inactivate 99.99% of microorganisms in water including eColi, giardia, and cryptosporidium.