It is unsettling to realize that in our high-tech world there are still large segments of the population that lack access to the drinking water and sanitation services most of us take for granted. The theme of this year’s World Water Week, Water for Society: Including All, seems particularly apt in light of this observation. Meanwhile, a new report by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (image at right) provides a “special focus” on global “WASH” (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) inequalities. A product of the Joint Monitoring Program, the report concludes that while significant progress has been made toward achieving universal access to water, sanitation, and hygiene, progress is uneven. And although there is a laudable commitment at the heart of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda to “leave no one behind,” the reality is there are many groups potentially in that precarious position.
Americans consume over one billion glasses of drinking water each day from over 151,000 U.S. community water systems. But natural and man-made disasters, including wildfires, can impact the provision of safe drinking water. Thankfully rare, wildfires sometimes damage or destroy the treatment plants, storage tanks, pump stations, and pipes that are needed to provide drinking water to our homes, schools, and businesses.
As much of the United States swelters in the midst of a very hot summer (even in northern Minnesota), it seemed again like a good idea to write about the importance of hydration. After all, humans are carbon- and water-based organisms. My previous perspective focused on staying hydrated year-round, but this article addresses some of the current science and persistent misconceptions about hot weather- and exercise-associated dehydration and over-hydration, called hyponatremia. (So yes, you can drink too much water). Although both conditions can be serious, for most of us most of the time, drinking the right amount of water is not that difficult—even during vigorous exercise and in hot and humid conditions. The key is simply to “drink to quench thirst,” but as I noted in my previous article, thirst may become less effective an indicator as we age.
We’ve written about antibiotic (antimicrobial) resistance and “superbugs” several times in recent years, and based on what we continue to learn, there is likely more to come. Antibiotics are used widely in animal agriculture and aquaculture and are also found in wastewater. These pharmaceuticals are excreted by animals and people who are taking antibiotics and when unused pills and liquids are flushed down the toilet or poured into the drain. All of these actions result in antibiotics entering the water environment and our wastewater systems, and have contributed to antibiotic resistant bacteria known as ARB. I wrote in 2015 that “Responsible use and disposal of antibiotics will go a long
way toward reducing the unintended consequences of their entering the waste stream.”
It’s hard to believe that an article I wrote almost a decade ago, Chlorine in Tap Water Is Safe to Drink, remains the most popular of our now over 350 perspectives by the Water Quality & Health Council (WQ&HC). An update seemed in order, but based on its long-established (over 110 years) efficacy and safety: chlorinated tap water is still safe to drink.
Next week, May 5–11, is the American Water Works Association’s (AWWA) Drinking Water Week—a time when water professionals and the communities they serve join together to recognize the essential public health role of safe drinking water. With just the turn of a tap, most Americans have unlimited access to safe, high quality, and inexpensive (pennies
Every day, Americans consume more than one billion glasses of tap water, the majority of which is provided by over 50,000 community water systems. Conventional water treatment transforms raw water into safe (finished) drinking water for pennies per gallon, thanks to widespread treatment, disinfection, and protection of water as it travels to your home. The
As we have done for the past several years, the WQ&HC highlights the United Nations’ (UN) World Water Day, which is held annually on March 22nd and affirms the importance of safe water in our lives. This year’s theme, “Water for All: Leaving No One Behind” is fundamentally tied to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6), “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” by 2030.
As much of America endures a particularly cold winter—especially for those of us in the polar vortex-targeted tundra of northern Minnesota—our aging drinking water infrastructure is under tremendous pressure. Cold temperatures, snow, and ice can challenge large metropolitan water treatment facilities and privately-owned household wells alike. Fortunately, there are many proactive steps that experienced public water system operators, as well as savvy homeowners, can take each year before temperatures fall to help ensure that safe drinking water is available during even the coldest winter. That way, everyone can focus more on enjoying the wintry weather (and ice fishing) and less on responding to water-related crises.
Flying while thirsty? Every year, millions of Americans travel on thousands of commercial airplanes visiting friends and family, taking well-deserved vacations, or conducting business. While many travelers are concerned about their checked baggage arriving, chances are few think about the quality and safety of the drinking water or ice on their flight. But according to