Foundation Tackles Emerging
Laying the Groundwork for a Paradigm Shift
in Water Management
Three years ago, 3 million San Diego
residents and thousands of farmers awoke
to a difficult new reality. In 2007, a court
order stopped Bay-Delta water system from
pumping billions of gallons south across
the state, effectively forcing the city into
emergency conservation. Water supplies to
orange growers fell 30 percent.
On the other side of the country, Tampa Bay
Water, facing dwindling supplies of fresh
water, was forced to adopt desalination
to turn seawater into drinking water.
While this will provide the utility with a
new drinking water source, desalination
plants use many times more energy than
conventional water treatment plants,
bringing high costs and carbon emissions.
In the Midwest, state officials are discussing
the health risks of trace amounts of
pharmaceuticals and EDCs in drinking
water. Federal regulators also increased
their scrutiny of atrazine, a common
herbicide, due in large part to its endocrine-disrupting properties.
Every town, in every state, is facing drinking
Taken for granted for years, drinking water
lies at the convergence of important policy
conundrums, the tradeoffs between energy
use and water scarcity, agriculture and
affordable drinking water, public health,
and the perception of risk.
And while these tradeoffs have been quietly
discussed in water utility boardrooms, we
expect in coming years for them to gain
increased visibility, highlighting the need
for research into solutions.
“Our research addresses the problems
our water suppliers face, saves money by
pooling resources collectively, and provides
credible information on controversial
issues,” said Robert C. Renner, executive
director of the Water Research Foundation.
“The trust the customer puts in our industry
is phenomenal,” added David E. Rager,
director of the Greater Cincinnati Water
Works and chair of the Foundation board.
“The Water Research Foundation helps
us identify what health issues we need to
address and technologies we can use so we
can uphold the public’s trust in us day after
day, year after year.”
Water Treatment and Public Health
Most customers take clean, affordable
drinking water for granted. But once in a
while, they are reminded of its value. In 2008,
people in a small Colorado town learned
firsthand about its value when salmonella
contaminated their drinking water.
For three weeks, Alamosa residents were
restricted to one gallon of water a day.
Bottled water was stripped off grocery store
shelves, while families ate off paper plates
and bathed in their one gallon.