One Fine Mess…It’s National Drinking Water Week

This is national drinking water week and I’m wondering what that means to you.  Probably not much.  The American Water Works Association is suggesting that we focus this week on our drinking water infrastructure.

“There is nothing more essential to a community’s health and vitality than reliable access to safe drinking water,” said AWWA Executive Director David LaFrance. “Drinking Water Week provides an excellent moment to focus on the importance of caring for our water supplies and systems.”

But there are problems with the water supply system in the United States.  One big problem is the fact that while some cities discharge sewage into our rivers other cities withdraw that water downstream and use it as their drinking water supply.  This contributes to the presence of contaminants that are unregulated in the drinking water of 43 million Americans.  These contaminants are dangerous and may be contributing to serious health problems.  The good news is that the rest of you don’t have these chemicals in your water so don’t immediately assume that you do.

Another problem is the use of pesticides on farm land with known carcinogenic impacts on people.  These pesticides end up in our rivers and lakes after a rain and also contribute to health problems for people who bathe in or drink this water.  Breast and blood cancers have been linked to pesticides throughout the Midwest and other farming areas.

These problems are not going to be easy to solve.  Local governments can’t afford the improvements to water treatment infrastructure to remove these contaminants. It’s clear that the federal government can’t afford to fund these either. And if you listen to the debates in Washington, some elected officials want to cut EPA funding of contaminant regulation. EPA has made great strides in reducing industrial waste in our rivers but the remaining contaminants are much more elusive. What these people who want to cut EPA’s funding are not saying is that with less regulation you will ingest even more poisons.  So, you pay one way or another.

Our drinking water quality is not going to improve any time soon.  And many of these currently unregulated contaminants can’t be controlled at the source.  Pain killers and hormones enter the water system after you’ve consumed them and then urinate.  That urine carries them into the water system and downstream to other people.  While public water systems do treat to remove the actual human waste by digesting it, there’s no way, given current technology, to remove the accompanying trace levels of unregulated contaminants.  The very structure of our water system, using water to dispose of waste, means that some people downstream will always be consuming contaminated water.

This same contaminated water is affecting fish populations in rivers and eventually makes its way to the ocean where it can also affect ocean ecology.  While this may not seem important to you the point is that we are severely, though subtlety, changing the chemical constitution of the planet by spreading these trace levels of chemical compounds.  As they affect fish, they will then enter our food supply and in turn affect us once again in ways that cannot now be predicted.

The good news is that your utility delivers relatively safe, clear, disease free water to your home.  Our water in the United States is much better than many other countries.  Still, if you want to maintain optimum health your water needs to be treated. Learn more here:  Which Water Filter Is The Best?

So while the American Water Works Association celebrates National Drinking Water week I am writing this and wondering how we’re going to get out of this mess.

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About James McMahon

Studied ecology at the University of Illinois, mountain survival at Eastern Washing University, Deep Ecology at Naropa, River Ecology with The Nature Conservancy and Luna Leopold
This entry was posted in Exposure to Toxins, Healthy Drinking Water. Bookmark the permalink.

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