Drinking Water in the News 2010
Shannon Diederich, Water Research Foundation writer
The media in 2010 shined a spotlight on
global drinking water challenges, from new
regulatory standards to ongoing water quality
and supply concerns. Articles on dwindling
fresh water supplies, hexavalent chromium,
algal toxins, and degrading infrastructure
alarmed utility managers, customers, and
oversight agencies, underscoring the need
for swift, research-based solutions. The
following round-up of 2010’s top drinking
water stories will help utility managers stay
abreast of current events and be prepared
for 2011’s headlines.
Delivering safe drinking water has been a
global challenge for centuries and certainly
remained a concern in 2010. Stories about
lead, hexavalent chromium, and other
drinking water contaminants permeated
mainstream and trade media alike.
In May, the USEPA announced it would
overhaul drinking water regulations to
better monitor dozens of contaminants
Perhaps one of the year’s most contentious
water quality articles—the Washington Post’s,
“Drinking water debacle deals a blow to CDC
and EPA,”—focused on a U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention study on lead
exposure. The study found exposure risks to
lead from pipes and other water fixtures were
greater than previously believed.
These findings countered a USEPA directive
in 1991 that partial pipe replacement was
effective in reducing lead exposure. Lead
pipes remain in an estimated 3 million to
6 million households nationwide.
USA Today was one of several news agencies
that reported about the prevalence of
hexavalent chromium in drinking water.
While the federal government currently
restricts the amount of total chromium in
drinking water, the USEPA is considering
setting a limit for hexavalent chromium
(or chromium- 6) in tap water.
Late last year, California proposed a public
health goal of 0.02 parts per billion, which
was more stringent than anticipated by many
industry insiders. The goal was lowered from
the 2009 proposal of 0.06 parts per billion due
to potential health risks.
Unwanted blue-green algae blooms made
several appearances in water bodies last
year, sparking health advisories and closing
recreational areas in California, Ohio,
Australia, and even Cape Town, South Africa—
among other locales. The naturally occurring
blooms contained cyanobacteria, which can