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Recreational Water Illness and Injury (RWII) Prevention Week

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The week before Memorial Day has been designated National Recreational Water Illness and Injury (RWII) Prevention Week. RWII Prevention Week 2011 will take place May 23-29, 2011, marking the seventh anniversary of this observance.

Each year, RWII Prevention Week focuses on simple steps swimmers and pool operators can take to ensure a healthy and safe swimming experience for everyone.

The theme of RWII Prevention Week 2011 is swimmer’s ear (otitis externa). Swimmer’s ear is a common problem for swimmers of all ages and can cause severe pain and discomfort. During RWII Prevention Week 2011, CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program and its partners will provide the public with new information and recommendations on how to prevent swimmer’s ear.

What are RWIs?

Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols of, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, water play areas, interactive fountains, lakes, rivers, or oceans. RWIs can also be caused by chemicals in the water or chemicals that evaporate from the water and cause indoor air quality problems. Diarrhea is the most common RWI, and it is often caused by germs like Crypto (short for Cryptosporidium), Giardia, norovirus, Shigella, and E. coli O157:H7. Other common RWIs include skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and wound infections. Children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk for RWIs.

CDC

Clean Water for All Through the Work of Ryan’s Well Foundation

Green Talk Radio host Sean Daily speaks with Ryan Hreljac, of Ryan’s Well. At the age of 6, he began his active life of advocacy for water-poor communities in 1998 when he determinedly focused his sights on building a single well for a dry village in Africa. The story touched hearts and launched an avalanche of media reports, films, inspirational book chapters, and speaking requests that resulted in more donations and attention to water issues than he could have imagined. In 2001, with support of family and other volunteers, Ryan established the Ryan’s Well Foundation, a registered Canadian charity that helps build wells, educates children about water and sanitation, and motivates people of all ages and backgrounds to perform their own “power of one” miracles. Blue Living Ideas

Children Serving a Bigger Cause: Feed the Children

Update:

Tonight is the last night of VBS and I just wanted to drop a quick update.  Doing this week the children have learned to serve others and they have done this by doing various service projects.  The children have made trail mix for emergency personnel, potted plants, made bookmarks for prison ministry,  made shirts, soccer jerseys and personal pillow cases for the children at Faith Home in Honduras.  Also, we have had a penny war each night with the girls winning two nights and the boys only winning one night so far.  If the boys win tonight, then it will be a draw. However, the money raised will go to Feed the Children and the total amount raised will be match by an anonymous giver.  So, I'm asking you to please help the boys be victorious tonight by going to the bottom of this post and donating you pennies or by Twittering this "P $1 @H2OKITS".    Please help us reach our goal of feeding 300 children for 1 month.  God bless.

Original Post:

I'm going to switch gears today and talk about something beside "water" and something that is dear to my heart.  We all know that clean, safe drinking water is the must important substance to sustain life and the second most important element would be - food! Most of us are spoiled, in that we get three or more meals per day.  Americans are so spoiled that a majority of us are over weight.  Unfortunately, there are children that will die of starvation before you can read this entire post and just $10.00 would have fed that child for one month - 30 plus days! Think about the cost of your last meal.

My wife and I are very involved with Vacation Bible School (VBS) at our church ( First Baptist Church of Williamstown) and each year we have a service project that the kids raise money for.  This year the service project is Feed the Children.  At VBS, we teach the children a very simple core principal, to serve others like Jesus did.  The children raise money be have a penny war, boys versus the girls, to see which group brings in the most pennies each night of VBS.  The winner is determined by the most weight of pennies.  Also, the children are given more information pertaining to the cause they are supporting and each night they will do an activity that will positively impact someone else, ultimately learning to love others as they love themselves and to have a servant heart.

So, in order to help the boys win the penny war (I have 3 boys) and to help Feed the Children, I'm asking all my twitter followers to tip me $1.00 before June 18, 2009.  At the time of writing this post, I had 297 followers on Twitter.  So, if each follower tipped $1.00 that would equal $297.00 which would feed over 29 children for one month.  That also would be 29,700 pennies which would greatly help the boys smoke the girls.  What's a dollar - but when 297 or 500 or even 1,000 people give a dollar - now that's making a difference.  Help me to show these kiddos how two or more influences have a greater impact.

How Green was Your Earth Day?

Earth Day has come and gone, but the issues that have brought us this wonderful day are still unresolved. It was nice to see everyone being so environmentally conscious on this particular day but I don’t understand why the general public can't be greener everyday? The earth and all the resources was given to us as a gift and we are the stewards of this great planet, so why are so many people numb to the issues that directly impact the very essentials that sustain life?

Anyhow, I want to focus more on the positive impacts that are being done by individuals, groups, and companies to make our environment a little greener.

Please share with us what you did this Earth Day, because sharing may inspire someone else to act!

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Fluoride, Are You Getting Too Much? Fluoride in Drinking Water May Be a Mistake!

Fluoride is added to drinking water and toothpaste to prevent tooth decay. Since fluoride was first introduced into drinking water, our consumption of fluoride has increased considerably. You and your children may be ingesting more fluoride than you realize.

The jury is still weighing the benefits of fluoride against its risks. No one questions that fluoride has significantly reduced tooth decay. No one questions that too much fluoride is a health risk. The concern today is whether the risks of fluoride use are completely known, and whether those risks justify the benefits of reduced tooth decay. Some researchers say, “Fluoridation could turn out to be one of the top 10 mistakes of the 20th century.” On the other hand, the Center for Disease control said that the fluoridation of community water was one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century.

Fluoride is a Poison

Did you know that only 2/3 of U.S. cities and towns add fluoride to their drinking water. The other 1/3 of all cities and towns oppose the use of fluoride. About 60% of all public drinking water is fluoridated.

There are serious health risks from water fluoridation. Too much fluoride can actually damage tooth enamel and cause dental fluorosis, which is the yellowing and mottling of tooth enamel. Excessive use of fluoride has also been linked to bone cancer, lower IQ and osteoporosis. Adverse thyroid functioning is also linked to fluoride.

Have you read the warning label on every tube of fluoridated toothpaste? It says: "Keep out of reach of children under 6 years of age. If more than is used for brushing is accidentally swallowed, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away." If you use fluoride toothpaste, teach your children to use only a pea-sized amount and never to swallow it.

Fluoride is a poison.In high concentration, forms of fluoride are used to kill rats and crop-eating insects. City employees who work with water fluoridation must wear protective clothing and respirators. Long-term exposure to fluoride causes bone disease, skin lesions and death.

Most cities do not use pharmaceutical grade sodium fluoride in their drinking water. They use instead hydrofluorosilicic acid (or its salt). This is concentrated directly from the smokestack scrubbers during the production of phosphate fertilizer. It is shipped to water treatment plants and trickled directly into the drinking water. It is an industrial grade fluoride and it is contaminated with trace amounts of heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and radium. Many scientist feel that these heavy metals are also harmful to humans at the levels that are being added to fluoridate the drinking water. In addition, using hydrofluorosilicic acid has an added risk of increasing lead accumulation in children.

Which works better: fluoride in drinking water or fluoride in toothpaste?

Fluoride in drinking water was successful in reducing cavities, often by 70% over a span of 15 years. However, when the decision was made to add fluoride to drinking water, fluoride toothpaste was not available. Scientists now know that fluoride does not have to be ingested to prevent cavities. They believe that fluoride works as well when it is applied directly to the teeth, as in toothpaste. The use of fluoride in drinking water is only slightly more successful than use of fluoridated toothpaste alone. In the drinking water, it accounts for 18% less tooth decay in children, which represents ½ of a cavity. Fluoride serves no known nutritional purpose and is not required for human growth.

The EPA Sets Standards for Fluoride Exposure

The Environmental Protection Agency says that the maximum limit for safe exposure to fluoride is 4 mg/L, which is 4 parts per million. The recommended use of fluoride in water depends on the climate. In warm weather the fluoride limit is lower, because people drink more water. The fluoride limit averages about 1mg/L, which is 1 part per million. Does your drinking water exceed that standard of 1 part per million? Check your city at the Center for Disease Controls My Waters Fluoride.  If the fluoride in your city drinking water is more than 2 parts per million, it is recommended that you find an alternate source of water for your children. Distilled water contains no fluoride. Reverse-osmosis water filters will remove most of the fluoride from your tap water. However, many other household water filters do not remove fluoride.

Are your children getting too much fluoride?

There are many sources of fluoride in our diet. Fruits and vegetables naturally contain some fluoride, depending on the level in the soil where they grow. Because fruits and vegetables are also processed with fluoridated water, their fluoride levels have increased. Fluoride is in the teeth and bones of fish and animals. Processed food containing fish bones and chicken bones is high in fluoride. The chicken in baby food that has been mechanically boned contains bone dust and is thus high in fluoride. A single serving of chicken sticks alone would provide about half of a child's upper limit of safety for fluoride. Baby food made from chicken has over 4ppm of fluoride.

Beverages, such as soda pop, fruit juice, beer and wine, also contain fluoride. Grape juice, for example, has 2.4ppm fluoride. Some instant tea contains 6.5ppm of fluoride, well over the 4.0ppm recommended maximum. You can find more data on Fluoride Concentrations of Foods & Beverages table. Pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables contain fluoride. However, organic fruits and vegetables are grown with a minimum of such pesticides. Whenever possible, use organic fruits and vegetables to reduce fluoride intake. It is important to prepare powdered baby formula with non-fluoridated water. Fluoride pills and drops are generally felt to be an unnecessary risk, although they are often prescribed for children who live in communities with non-fluoridated water. In conclusion, there are valid concerns that the fluoridation of drinking water is more harmful than beneficial. Surfer Sam

Residents of Several Mingo County Communities are Suing Massey Energy: All They Wanted was Water!

Residents of several Mingo County communities are suing Massey Energy. They’ve been trying to push the lawsuit through for four years and could soon get their day in court. They say the coal company knowingly polluted their water with coal sludge, causing a multitude of health problems.  Residents of several Mingo County communities are suing Massey Energy. They’ve been trying to push the lawsuit through for four years and could soon get their day in court. They say the coal company knowingly polluted their water with coal sludge, causing a multitude of health problems.  After years of drawing clear water from their wells, families in the small communities clustered along the hill between Matewan and Williamson saw their good water turn bad. Sometimes it would be red, orange or coal-black. Even when it was clear, it often left a bad smell or a burning sensation on their skin.  “It burned little places in your skin,” said Ernie Brown, who has lived with his wife, Carmelita, in a house in Rawl since 1979. “Matter of fact, I’ve got places on my face right now where it burnt. You’d get out and you’d start to dry, and when the towel would hit it, it would strip your skin. Your skin would feel like it’d been stripped with acid.”  The Brown’s house is near the Rawl Sales and Coal Processing Plant. From a large picture window in the living room, they can see Massey CEO Don Blankenship’s house perched on a neighboring mountain.  The communities near the plant now have city water thanks to a Small City Block Grant. But they spent a decade lobbying for it. The Browns and their surrounding neighbors say their wells were contaminated from coal slurry. Coal slurry is a toxic liquid produced when coal is washed with chemicals to prepare it for sale.  The Rawl Sales and Coal Processing Plant had a permit from 1977 to 1986, allowing it to inject coal slurry into an underground abandoned mine nearby.  Ernie Brown thinks the slurry leaked out.  “And just imagine somebody drinking off of that. And bathe and cook and brush your teeth,” he said.  “And just imagine, for us here in these areas, our wells were actually in that. We were actually using off of the raw sludge. Not treated, but raw sludge. Every chemical they use, we were exposed to.”  Wheeling Jesuit University biology professor Ben Stout tested wells near the processing plant. The water contained lead, arsenic, manganese and iron. He says many of the heavy metals found in the water could have a negative impact on health but manganese may be the worst.  “Manganese is probably one that scares me more than any just because of the unique symptoms within these communities,” Stout said. “There’s several different potential consequences regarding dental care and also potentially dementia and I don’t think that much is well known about it.  “But those are really high levels of manganese down there in Williamson in those wells.”  The health problems throughout the Mingo County communities vary. Carmelita Brown had chronic kidney infections and kidney stones for years. Ernie Brown had a tumor removed from his sinuses. Both say they’ve developed memory problems.  The Browns say the water ruined more than their health. The water corroded their pipes and appliances. It filled their home with hydrogen sulfide gas, which smells like rotten eggs and carries with it its own health risks.  Carmelita Brown says more than two decades of living in a home filled with gas and polluted water was unbearable at times.  “Oh I tell you, if it was any day that I wanted to pack my stuff and leave, it was that day,” she said, remembering a day when the corrosion ate through yet another kitchen faucet. “I wanted to leave. I wanted to get away from the state of West Virginia and away from this problem.  “I sit now and I think about it. No one knows what I went through unless they’ve lived here and went through this. There were days I wished I could not even live. I was so sick. My kidneys, I thought they were actually going to fail me. I would never wish this on my worst enemy. But to think that the coal company would do something like this.”  The lawsuit alleges the coal company knowingly polluted the water. The plaintiffs are hoping to collect damages to monitor and treat health problems that they say stemmed from the pollution. Donetta Blankenship lives down the road from the Browns. The 40-year-old suffered liver disease twice over a two-year period. She says she’s never a touched a drink of alcohol in her life. She says financial compensation for her illness would be nice, but she hopes at the very least the lawsuit raises awareness.  “But the way that I feel about it, if it’s one of the biggest lawsuits you know in newspapers and everything, it’s going to get out all over the United States,” she said. “And if other people can see what’s going on, maybe they’ll start looking into their water and stuff.”  Blankenship, no relation to Massey CEO Don Blankenship, says to prevent similar problems in the future, coal companies will have to change their priorities.  “We just need to start looking out more for each other,” she said.  “And the coal companies…it’s not right that they can get by with letting the sludge go down in our wells and stuff. They need to start fessing up and pay out a little more money to do it right and consider people’s feelings, consider people’s health.”  The citizens filed their lawsuit in Mingo County Circuit Court. Jury selection begins February 17. Multiple requests to interview someone from Massey Energy Company for this story were not returned. After years of drawing clear water from their wells, families in the small communities clustered along the hill between Matewan and Williamson saw their good water turn bad. Sometimes it would be red, orange or coal-black. Even when it was clear, it often left a bad smell or a burning sensation on their skin.  “It burned little places in your skin,” said Ernie Brown, who has lived with his wife, Carmelita, in a house in Rawl since 1979. “Matter of fact, I’ve got places on my face right now where it burnt. You’d get out and you’d start to dry, and when the towel would hit it, it would strip your skin. Your skin would feel like it’d been stripped with acid.”  The Brown’s house is near the Rawl Sales and Coal Processing Plant. From a large picture window in the living room, they can see Massey CEO Don Blankenship’s house perched on a neighboring mountain.  The communities near the plant now have city water thanks to a Small City Block Grant. But they spent a decade lobbying for it. The Browns and their surrounding neighbors say their wells were contaminated from coal slurry. Coal slurry is a toxic liquid produced when coal is washed with chemicals to prepare it for sale.  The Rawl Sales and Coal Processing Plant had a permit from 1977 to 1986, allowing it to inject coal slurry into an underground abandoned mine nearby.  Ernie Brown thinks the slurry leaked out.  “And just imagine somebody drinking off of that. And bathe and cook and brush your teeth,” he said.  “And just imagine, for us here in these areas, our wells were actually in that. We were actually using off of the raw sludge. Not treated, but raw sludge. Every chemical they use, we were exposed to.”  Wheeling Jesuit University biology professor Ben Stout tested wells near the processing plant. The water contained lead, arsenic, manganese and iron. He says many of the heavy metals found in the water could have a negative impact on health but manganese may be the worst.  “Manganese is probably one that scares me more than any just because of the unique symptoms within these communities,” Stout said. “There’s several different potential consequences regarding dental care and also potentially dementia and I don’t think that much is well known about it.  “But those are really high levels of manganese down there in Williamson in those wells.”  The health problems throughout the Mingo County communities vary. Carmelita Brown had chronic kidney infections and kidney stones for years. Ernie Brown had a tumor removed from his sinuses. Both say they’ve developed memory problems.  The Browns say the water ruined more than their health. The water corroded their pipes and appliances. It filled their home with hydrogen sulfide gas, which smells like rotten eggs and carries with it its own health risks.  Carmelita Brown says more than two decades of living in a home filled with gas and polluted water was unbearable at times.  “Oh I tell you, if it was any day that I wanted to pack my stuff and leave, it was that day,” she said, remembering a day when the corrosion ate through yet another kitchen faucet. “I wanted to leave. I wanted to get away from the state of West Virginia and away from this problem.  “I sit now and I think about it. No one knows what I went through unless they’ve lived here and went through this. There were days I wished I could not even live. I was so sick. My kidneys, I thought they were actually going to fail me. I would never wish this on my worst enemy. But to think that the coal company would do something like this.”  The lawsuit alleges the coal company knowingly polluted the water. The plaintiffs are hoping to collect damages to monitor and treat health problems that they say stemmed from the pollution.  Donetta Blankenship lives down the road from the Browns. The 40-year-old suffered liver disease twice over a two-year period. She says she’s never a touched a drink of alcohol in her life. She says financial compensation for her illness would be nice, but she hopes at the very least the lawsuit raises awareness.  “But the way that I feel about it, if it’s one of the biggest lawsuits you know in newspapers and everything, it’s going to get out all over the United States,” she said. “And if other people can see what’s going on, maybe they’ll start looking into their water and stuff.”  Blankenship, no relation to Massey CEO Don Blankenship, says to prevent similar problems in the future, coal companies will have to change their priorities.  “We just need to start looking out more for each other,” she said.  “And the coal companies…it’s not right that they can get by with letting the sludge go down in our wells and stuff. They need to start fessing up and pay out a little more money to do it right and consider people’s feelings, consider people’s health.” The citizens filed their lawsuit in Mingo County Circuit Court. Jury selection begins February 17. Multiple requests to interview someone from Massey Energy Company for this story were not returned. WV Pubcast News January 24, 2009

A Shoe-Shiner Brings Hope for Children and Families Through Clean Water

Leon McLaughlin is a businessman of many talents. He has sold coffee machines in Canada, earned a real-estate license in California, and now owns and runs a shoe-shine stand in central Seattle. He recently had an experience that changed his life and unexpectedly led him to start another business.

How it began

While traveling on a vacation to Mexico, a local woman told Leon a story that changed his life. She had a get-together at her home earlier that week. A well-meaning American visitor asked to use her bathroom. When he came out, he explained that he helped her out by draining the extra water that was stored in her bathtub. The woman broke down into tears. "You see, that was my water for the entire month," she explained to her American guest. Not only did it bring Leon's Mexican friend to tears, but it also brought him to action. He immediately knew what had to be done: find a way to bring clean water to the world's poor, especially children.

Where to start

But where to begin? His experience was in local business and sales, not international relief work. After some investigation and enrollment in water systems repair and maintenance classes, Leon decided to establish another business. This time he would start a non-profit, to bring his clean water equipment to the developing world. LAM, LLC — or Leon A. McLaughlin — was founded with one mission: to address the critical need of the world's clean water shortage by buying and sending purification equipment to where it is most needed. With the need for clean water in so many countries around the world, Leon sought the advice of an organization with some experience: World Vision. "When I initially called World Vision to share my clean water vision with them, to my surprise, they listened with open minds and open hearts," he explains.

The solution

As a World Vision donor, Leon now ensures that his equipment will reach its destination safely. World Vision has the staff and humanitarian development infrastructure to work alongside the communities where his water filtration equipment is located. The first water filtration machine was donated to World Vision and sent to Bolivia shortly after floods ravaged the country in February 2008. As his non-profit gained momentum, so did his publicity. After a series of articles were written about him in Seattle newspapers and NBC Nightly News noticed the story, they interviewed Leon for a feature in their "Making a Difference" segment, which aired on Jan. 9.

'A desperate need for clean water'

During his December trip to Bolivia with World Vision to see his filtration systems at work in several communities, and meet with local officials, Leon was touched even more deeply. "It's almost like seeing another Hurricane Katrina in the U.S., when you see how the children and their families are displaced," he said. "You could see that there was a desperate need for clean water. "The children had hope in their eyes, and need help. I'm glad that I'm part of this mission with World Vision, to be able to bring these children and their families clean drinking water." World Vision

Declining Male Fertility Linked To Water Pollution

New research strengthens the link between water pollution and rising male fertility problems. The study, by Brunel University, the Universities of Exeter and Reading and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, shows for the first time how a group of testosterone-blocking chemicals is finding its way into UK rivers, affecting wildlife and potentially humans.   The study identified a new group of chemicals that act as ‘anti-androgens’. This means that they inhibit the function of the male hormone, testosterone, reducing male fertility. Some of these are contained in medicines, including cancer treatments, pharmaceutical treatments, and pesticides used in agriculture. The research suggests that when they get into the water system, these chemicals may play a pivotal role in causing feminising effects in male fish. Earlier research by Brunel University and the University of Exeter has shown how female sex hormones (estrogens), and chemicals that mimic estrogens, are leading to ‘feminisation’ of male fish. Found in some industrial chemicals and the contraceptive pill, they enter rivers via sewage treatment works. This causes reproductive problems by reducing fish breeding capability and in some cases can lead to male fish changing sex. Other studies have also suggested that there may be a link between this phenomenon and the increase in human male fertility problems caused by testicular dysgenesis syndrome. Until now, this link lacked credence because the list of suspects causing effects in fish was limited to estrogenic chemicals whilst testicular dysgenesis is known to be caused by exposure to a range of anti-androgens. Lead author on the research paper, Dr Susan Jobling at Brunel University’s Institute for the Environment, said: “We have been working intensively in this field for over ten years. The new research findings illustrate the complexities in unravelling chemical causation of adverse health effects in wildlife populations and re-open the possibility of a human – wildlife connection in which effects seen in wild fish and in humans are caused by similar combinations of chemicals. We have identified a new group of chemicals in our study on fish, but do not know where they are coming from. A principal aim of our work is now to identify the source of these pollutants and work with regulators and relevant industry to test the effects of a mixture of these chemicals and the already known environmental estrogens and help protect environmental health.” Senior author Professor Charles Tyler of the University of Exeter said: ”Our research shows that a much wider range of chemicals than we previously thought is leading to hormone disruption in fish. This means that the pollutants causing these problems are likely to be coming from a wide variety of sources. Our findings also strengthen the argument for the cocktail of chemicals in our water leading to hormone disruption in fish, and contributing to the rise in male reproductive problems. There are likely to be many reasons behind the rise in male fertility problems in humans, but these findings could reveal one, previously unknown, factor.” Bob Burn, Principal Statistician in the Statistical Services Centre at the University of Reading, said: ”State-of- the- art statistical hierarchical modelling has allowed us to explore the complex associations between the exposure and potential effects seen in over 1000 fish sampled from 30 rivers in various parts of England.” The research took more than three years to complete and was conducted by the University of Exeter, Brunel University, University of Reading and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. Statistical modelling was supported by Beyond the Basics Ltd. The research team is now focusing on identifying the source of anti-androgenic chemicals, as well as continuing to study their impact on reproductive health in wildlife and humans. Science Daily

Top 11 Compounds in US Drinking Water

Rowan Hooper New Scientist Mon, 12 Jan 2009
Tap water is not as pure as it looks.
A comprehensive survey of the drinking water for more than 28 million Americans has detected the widespread but low-level presence of pharmaceuticals and hormonally active chemicals. Little was known about people’s exposure to such compounds from drinking water, so Shane Snyder and colleagues at the Southern Nevada Water Authority in Las Vegas screened tap water from 19 US water utilities for 51 different compounds. The surveys were carried out between 2006 and 2007. The 11 most frequently detected compounds - all found at extremely low concentrations - were: - Atenolol, a beta-blocker used to treat cardiovascular disease - Atrazine, an organic herbicide banned in the European Union, but still used in the US, which has been implicated in the decline of fish stocks and in changes in animal behaviour - Carbamazepine, a mood-stabilising drug used to treat bipolar disorder, amongst other things - Estrone, an oestrogen hormone secreted by the ovaries and blamed for causing gender-bending changes in fish - Gemfibrozil, an anti-cholesterol drug - Meprobamate, a tranquiliser widely used in psychiatric treatment - Naproxen, a painkiller and anti-inflammatory linked to increases in asthma incidence - Phenytoin, an anticonvulsant that has been used to treat epilepsy - Sulfamethoxazole, an antibiotic used against the Streptococcus bacteria, which is responsible for tonsillitis and other diseases - TCEP, a reducing agent used in molecular biology - Trimethoprim, another antibiotic The concentrations of pharmaceuticals in drinking water were millions of times lower than in a medical dose, and Snyder emphasises that they pose no public health threat. He cautions, though, that “if a person has a unique health condition, or is concerned about particular contaminants in public water systems, I strongly recommend they consult their physician”. Christian Daughton of the EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory says that neither this nor other recent water assessments give cause for health concern. “But several point to the potential for risk - especially for the fetus and those with severely compromised health.” Daughton says the contamination surveys help people realise how they are intimately and inseparably connected with their environment. “The occurrence of pharmaceuticals in the environment also serves to make us acutely aware of the chemical sea that surrounds us,” he says. Modern life While the US government regulates the levels of pathogens in US drinking water, there are no rules for pharmaceuticals and other compounds, apart from one: the herbicide atrazine. The atrazine levels measured by Snyder and colleagues were well within federal limits. Snyder says water utilities could make drinking water purer. But the costs of “extreme purification” - far beyond what is needed for safety alone - are huge in terms of increased energy usage and carbon footprint. Ultra-pure water might not even be safe, adds Snyder. The widespread occurrence of pharmaceuticals and endocrine disruptors reflects improved detection techniques, rather than greater pollution, says Snyder. Contamination is a fact of modern life, he adds. “As we continue to populate and aggregate, our wastes will certainly accumulate where we live,” he says. “We as a species have decided to live a modern life, with pharmaceuticals, plastics, transportation - therefore we must accept that there will be a certain degree of contamination.”

A Water Strategy for the United States

By Jim Thebaut and Erik Webb

Those Americans even aware of Zimbabwe’s recent fight against the disruption and death caused by cholera, a highly treatable water-borne disease, carry an unfounded confidence that clean, abundant water will always be available and a similar water-borne disease epidemic could never occur here. However, many areas of our nation aren’t far from the conditions facing third-world countries in ensuring adequate, clean drinking water for their people. Various regions of our country face problems including dwindling surface and groundwater supplies, non-existent water and sanitation infrastructure, closely packed septic systems, inadequate reinvestment in existing water treatment infrastructure, and expanding contamination of surface water including both biological and new chemicals (including pharmaceuticals) that all increase our risk of water-borne illness outbreaks. 

Like the proverbial frog in slowly heated water, we are rapidly reaching crisis levels without truly being aware of the risks.  This crisis is curable if the United States chooses to establish a modern, integrated, national water policy framework, implements sustainable water use planning, invests in the changes needed to pursue water resource sustainability, and provides leadership to assist the rest of the world meet similar goals.

The region of the country closest to the breaking point is the Colorado River basin, which provides drinking water for 30 million people in the American Southwest. Although most of the region’s residents still have adequate, untainted water, portions of the Navajo and Hopi reservation communities of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado – about 80,000 people – live with inadequate plumbing and sanitation and regularly drink untreated water. This portion of the Native American population suffers from birth defects and skin diseases out of proportion to the rest of the country. Additionally, it is anticipated that as climate change causes rising water temperatures greater disease risk will occur.

Creating plentiful, clean water for the Southwest’s Native Americans is one small part of a bigger picture. Similar water supply and sanitation challenges are emerging throughout the nation.  Over two thirds of state’s chief water managers anticipate drought and other water crisis in the near future. Infrastructure investment is grossly inadequate to maintain current systems, let alone meet the demand anticipated by another 100 million people over the next 3-4 decades.

We’ve faced these issues before and started down a path of coordinated policies.  In the post-World War II era, the nation faced a decade of drought that triggered intense national pressure to coordinate expansion of water supplies.  Congressional committees and White House offices were coordinated in order to address water supply issues allowing water development to proceed at an accelerated pace. We then realized and began to face the environmental consequences of expansion with greater national emphasis on protection of natural resources.  Unfortunately, while addressing environmental issues our over-reaction to development allowed us to sweep away the essential coordination functions embodied in the White House Water Resources Council. The consequence is that our nation’s water policy has devolved into a tangled mess of competing initiatives and policies intended to govern increasing demands, managing runoff, pollution abatement, improving quality, using reservoirs and underground water storage, conservation and efficiency improvements, all overseen by a complex infrastructure of federal, state and local bureaus, departments and agencies with overlapping and competing responsibilities. As a result, we have a hodgepodge of laws and regulations that benefit some at the expense of others. At best, our nation’s water use and planning structure is fractured and inefficient. At worst, it’s headed for complete breakdown.

Presently, at the federal level alone, 20 agencies and bureaus, under six cabinet departments, directed by 13 congressional committees with 23 subcommittees and five appropriations subcommittees are responsible for water-resource management. Consolidation of these responsibilities would make the job of managing water resources easier, but such consolidation of power and control is unlikely. A more likely approach might involve White House coordination of partnerships between federal agencies and coordination with state and local agencies to create integrated water policies as part of a national framework.

Additionally, decision-makers at every level must learn to embrace the principles of integrated water resources management, the concept of considering multiple viewpoints before making decisions. While this practice is gaining acceptance and application, it is woefully under-used in our highly fractionated U.S. water management system.

Integrated management would be based on clear principles.  For example, as a nation, we must begin to treat water as we would any other scarce resource and learn to live within our means. This requires efficiency and planning for sustainable use in the face of increasing demands for water, particularly in agriculture, industry and power production.

One of the best ways to promote sustainability is to make consumers aware of the true cost of water. What we pay to the water company each month only reflects the price to bring clean water to our taps and does not reflect the value of the resource in each of its various uses. Water management, resource expansion, environmental protection, and infrastructure maintenance is expensive, and much of the cost is redistributed through state and federal taxes and local and regional bond measures. Transparency about the real cost of water should be a fundamental principle, irrespective of the source of funds that underwrite the supply.

The good news is that the United States has experience with integrating national water policy. The Water Resources Planning Act of 1965 created the Water Resources Council, empowered to assess the adequacy of the nation’s water supplies, to establish principles and standards for federal participants in water projects, and to review agricultural, urban, energy, industrial, recreational and fish and wildlife water needs. The Act also established a grant program to assist state development of comprehensive water and land use plans.  This law was passed in an era before we understood the full environmental impact of our water resource management actions, and therefore needs to be strengthened to be effective. Nevertheless, the law creating the Council was never repealed.

It is now time that we re-empower and revise the Act to coordinate the nation’s efforts toward sustainable water resources development. 

This revision could benefit by incorporating the much stronger policy framework for international water policy objectives embodied in the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, signed into law in late 2005, which establishes access to safe water and sanitation as a major U.S. foreign policy objective. Merging our domestic and international water policy framework, and placing its operation directly under the umbrella of the White House, would unite and organize our national and international efforts and help solve both domestic and international water problems.

When it comes to drinking water, our nation and the planet are clearly at a crossroads.  Ensuring each member of our nation and the world community access to clean water is a humanitarian mission that will assure a safer world and avoid environmental calamity. Population growth, increased demands and changes in our hydrological systems caused by climate change make addressing the water crisis an imperative.  The United States can assume global leadership by setting a viable example in solving our own drinking water and sanitation issues, finding a viable way to coordinate our national water policy, and coupling our domestic efforts with our international policy.