In the past few weeks, I’ve been focusing a lot on international water resource management and the problems of global water scarcity. But if you think it’s all smooth sailing in our own backyard, think again. Many of the problems being experienced in the developing world (and many industrialized nations) can be found lurking not just in our rural byways and backwaters, but in major metropolitan areas as well.
For example, did you know that 117 million US citizens currently lack access to safe drinking water (www.nytimes.com/2011/11/29/opinion/keep-the-clean-water-act-strong.html?_r=1)? Another 3.5 million residents get sick each after exposure to bacteria found in inadequately treated wastewater (www.nrdc.org/water/oceans/ttw/overview.pdf). In fact, our crumbling water infrastructure is not just resulting in water waste and exponential water loss—it’s also becoming a major source of public health alerts and bacterial outbreaks. As various watchdog groups highlight with their regular monitoring of national bodies of water—from rivers to lakes to beachfronts—across the nation, bacterial outbreaks are becoming increasingly common.
A sampling of more scary facts and figures:
* According to Riverkeeper, the water in New York’s Hudson River exceeds federal safe swimming guidelines over 20% of the time. . . . After it rains, that number jumps up to 56%.
* About 25% of New York City’s sewage systems are “decades overdue for replacement and rehabilitation” (www.dec.ny.gov/docs/water_pdf/infrastructurerpt.pdf).
* The American Society of Civil Engineers assigned our water treatment plants a grade of “D-“ in 2009.
* About 20% of untreated water samples from public, private, and monitoring wells across the nation contain concentrations of at least one trace element, such as arsenic, manganese, and uranium, at levels of potential health concern (www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=2914).
There are many reasons for the deteriorating state of our potable water supply. Certainly, lack of investment in our infrastructure—including public wastewater treatment systems—has triggered what many call an “epic decline’ in conditions” at many of our water treatment plants (www.nrdc.org/water/pollution/sewage/sewage.pdf). Unfortunately, it seems like every time the budget bludgeoning begins, it’s the water infrastructure and safety programs and protocols that suffer the deepest cuts. It’s also worth noting that inconsistent enforcement of drinking water standards is equally to blame. According to the New York Times in 2009 more than 20% of water treatment systems in the US have violated key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act over the previous five years.
Adding another level of complexity the high levels of toxic chemicals currently being recorded by the USGS in many of the nation’s water systems and sources can be traced back to land use and climate conditions. Of specific concern, according to the USGS findings drier regions—like those experiencing prolonged drought—“saw high concentrations of trace elements in groundwater than humid regions.” And while that same news release acknowledges that agricultural areas often have more concentrated pollutants than urban areas, “wells in urban areas contained concentrations of trace elements that more often exceeded human health benchmarks” (www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=2914).
So what do you think? Are these statistics scary enough to provoke action? Or will it take a catastrophic event on par with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (www.waterefficiency.net/WE/Blogs/Pollution_and_Source_Protection_634.aspx) to really spur change? And what can we do to end the country’s “35-year drought in clean water investment” (www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-gallay/answering-the-call-on-cle_b_1475807.html)?
Upcoming Forester University Webinars
May 9th, 2012
Making Erosion Control BMPs Work on Construction Sites
Your erosion control BMPs meet regulation, but are they practical? Join Jerald S. Fifield, Ph.D., PH, CISEC, CPESC andTina R. Evans, PE, CISEC for the fourth installment of our advanced ediment and Erosion Control Master Class Series, Making Erosion Control BMPs Work on Construction Sites, exploring the available erosion control methods and diversion structures, as well as how to develop seed mixtures, calculate fertilizer rates, and evaluate TRMs in drainage channels.
May 17th, 2012
Effective LID Stormwater Reduction
Improve your stormwater reduction through effective low impact design (LID). Join Douglas Beyerlein, P.E., P.H., D.WRE to explore the different types of LID (e.g., green roofs, rain gardens / bioretention, impervious runoff dispersion, etc.), how they work
May 31st, 2012
How to Calculate Water Audit Payback Periods and Write Water Audit Reports
Maximize your payback! Join Troy Aichele, LEED AP (O+M) of Aichele and Associates LLC for How to Calculate Water Audit Payback Periods and Write Audit Reports on Thurs., May 31st addressing the most essential skill in water auditing: how to calculate payback period and incorporate it effectively in your water audit report. Within this discussion, Aichele will explore how to calculate water audit improvement periods using a custom-built payback spreadsheet calculator; how to calculate use rates; how to incorporate savings, rebates and utility increases into your payback calculations; and how to write a water audit report letter incorporating water audit results and payback periods.
April 18th, - May 25th, 2012
Sediment and Erosion Control
Master Class Series
Join industry expert and bestselling author Jerald S. Fifield, Ph.D., CISEC, CPESC and Tina R. Evans, PE, CISEC for a comprehensive 6-part online master class and workshop series (0.9 CEUs / 9 PDHs) exploring the ins and outs of effective sediment and erosion control plan design and review based on Fifield’s recently released 3rd edition of the bestselling manual Designing and Reviewing Effective Sediment and Erosion Control Plans (included in your Master Class Series package).
April – May 2012
Water Auditing Master Series
Learn the ins-and-outs of water auditing! Join 2010’s Speaker of the Year, Troy Aichele, LEED AP (O+M) of Aichele and Associates LLC for the Water Auditing Master Series, a 3-part webinar/webcast series focusing on getting you up-to-speed on the key attributes, uses, and opportunities in water auditing, as demonstrating step-by-step how to conduct a water audit, avoid the pitfalls, calculate payback periods, and incorporate these into your reports.
* Water Auditing 101: Introduction to Water Auditing
* How to Conduct a Water Audit and Avoid the Pitfalls
* How to Calculate Water Audit Payback Periods and Write Water Audit Reports