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  • Puerto Rico's Water Crisis Highlights Need to be Prepared

    After Hurricane Maria smashed into Puerto Rico last month, pummeling the island with winds of up to 155 miles per hour and dumping a deluge of rain, most of the island has been reduced to rubble. As a result, the majority of the island's 3.4 million inhabitants have been left without power and nearly half the population without water, and it will likely take months before either are restored.

    The category 4 storm has left 16 people dead, with those that survived the initial brunt of the storm now trying to survive in "near-death conditions", according to Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan.

    Note:  We have been making system donations to charities involved in relief efforts.  Pls contact us if you are part of a organization looking for donations.

    Puerto Rico's drinking water quality has always been questionable. Mother Jones reported that in 2015 99.5% of the population was served by water systems that did not meet Drinking Water Safety Standards. This devastation left by Hurricane Maria is testing the islands already strained water infrastructure, leaving around 1.5 million residents without access to safe drinking water and thus dependent on bottled water for drinking, cooking and cleaning. FEMA has delivered around 6 million liters of bottled water to residents affected by hurricane damage in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (following Hurricane Irma). But as humans require at least two liters of water a day just for drinking, these water rations are not going to go far, especially considering that safe drinking water supplies are not likely to be restored anytime soon.

    A Puerto Rico National Guard soldier helps transport food and water to Jayuya, Puerto Rico, Sept. 27, 2017, while supporting Hurricane Maria relief efforts. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. José Ahiram Díaz-Ramos A Puerto Rico National Guard soldier helps transport food and water to Jayuya, Puerto Rico, Sept. 27, 2017, while supporting Hurricane Maria relief efforts. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. José Ahiram Díaz-Ramos

    The power outages caused by Hurricane Maria caused water pumps at treatment facilities throughout the island to fail. The resulting reduction in water pressure makes the water supply vulnerable to contamination by bacteria as well as other contaminants, which can easily seep into the water supply lines, especially given the fact that they are old and leaky. Furthermore, drinking water sources may become contaminated with floodwater and raw sewage, and because officials are not able to effectively treat the drinking water, this poses a potential health hazard to inhabitants. In many of the affected areas, residents won't have access to safe drinking water until power is restored, which may only be in six months time.

    While they wait for assistance, residents are dependent on bottled water as their only safe supply. FEMA is doing their best to deliver water that has been shipped into the country to those in need, but with roads blocked with debris and bridges badly damaged, they cannot get to some communities who are running out of water.

    Some grocery stores have reopened and are rationing limited supplies of food and bottled water. But residents who can't get to a grocery store that is open have been forced to collect water from leaking or broken pipes — a source that has the risk of being contaminated.

    Now that President Trump has finally waived the Jones Act, loosening shipping regulations for Puerto Rico for 10 days, neighboring countries, such as the Dominican Republic and Cuba who are willing to help but have been hindered by red tape, can provide assistance such as much needed supplies of bottled water of drinking water filters to the desperate residents of Puerto Rico.

    But environmental experts warn that residents may still not be safe once water services are restored, as the water supply will most like contain a concoction of pollutants and toxins.

    According to Erik Olson, a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council: "You don't have to have a huge water upset to create a very serious problem. In 1993, Milwaukee's water supply was compromised after the system's filters stopped working properly. More than 400,000 people were sickened and 69 people died. This is the kind of thing that happens when a source water becomes contaminated," warns Olson.

  • Water Contamination Symptoms

    Freshwater is our most precious resource, yet surface waters and groundwater are both vulnerable to contamination from various sources. The severity of the health impact on humans varies according to the pollutants involved, with some contaminants only having a relatively mild health impact, while others can pose a more severe health hazard.

    While consumers who receive their drinking water from a municipal water supply will have their water tested for them, people who get their drinking water from a private well will need to take their own measures to ensure their drinking water is safe, as it is their responsibility alone.
    Consequently, private well owners should be aware of common water contamination issues and their symptoms to enable them to quickly detect and respond to any sign of well pollution before they pose any risk to human health. But, how can you tell if your drinking water is contaminated — what common symptoms should alert you that your water may be contaminated?faucet-686958_960_720

    There are typically three clues that indicate your drinking water may be contaminated — if any one of these symptoms are present, there is a chance that your water may be suspect.

    1. Cloudy or Discolored Water

    When water is cloudy, murky or discolored, there could potentially be foreign particles such as silt or rust present. While many foreign particles are usually harmless themselves, their presence may indicate a failure within the water treatment or water supply system that could mean there are other more harmful contaminants, such as disease causing bacteria, present. Similarly, water that comes out the tap cloudy and then clears a few minutes after being poured may indicate a fault in the water filtration system. If water stains toilet bowls, baths, sinks or laundry, your water may be contaminated — green tinged stains are a good indicator that water is highly acidic, while brown or rust stains are a good indicator that your drinking water has high concentrations of dissolved iron present.

    2. Strange Tasting Water

    If your drinking water tastes brackish or salty it's likely that sodium levels will be high, while water that has a distinctive chemical taste is most likely polluted with chemical contaminants. Extremely alkaline or acidic water will also taste strange, with highly alkaline water typically tasting soapy, while highly acidic water and water with high levels of dissolved iron tend to leave a metallic aftertaste in the mouth.

    2. Foul Smelling Water

    If your water smells bad, it is a good indicator that something is amiss. One common symptom of water contamination is water that smells of rotten eggs. This foul odor is either caused by bacteria present in the water or by dissolved hydrogen sulfide. If the foul odor is only given off by hot water, it may be coming from your hot-water cylinder. Water that has a strong smell of chlorine has likely been treated with large amounts of chlorine at the water treatment plant. Water that smells dank and musty indicates there is most likely rotting vegetation held in suspension. If you drinking water is foamy and smells like washing detergent it may have been polluted by seepage from a cracked septic tank. Water that smells like fuel or oil has most likely been contaminated with petroleum products that have leaked out of a damaged fuel tank.

    The above symptoms are physical indications that your drinking water may be contaminated, however, many other contaminants that pose a health risk to humans are not so easily detected unless you have the water tested. A good quality drinking water filter will be able to remove many of the contaminants that cause the symptoms above, plus many other drinking water contaminants that are not readily detectable by sight, taste or smell.

  • Industrial Chemicals found in American Alligators & African Crocodiles

    Two pioneering new studies examined perfluorinated alkyl acid (PFAA) concentrations in 'sentinel' reptiles, and could prove to be particularly useful for assessing the long-term impact of environmentally persistent chemicals.

    While alligators in American waterways and crocodiles in South African aquatic systems inhabit freshwater systems on separate continents, thousands of miles apart, two new studies conducted by scientists from Hollings Marine Laboratory, Charleston, South Carolina, have found that both species have persistent industrial chemicals used for non-stick coatings at detectable levels in their blood.

    perfluorinated compounds berkey filter PFAA perfluorinated compounds berkey filter PFAA

    Some of the compounds included in this environmentally persistent group of chemicals — which have been associated with reduced fertility, liver toxicity, and a wide range of other health issues in both animals and humans — are no longer in use in the US and many other countries. Yet, blood samples taken from 125 American alligators at 12 different sites across South Carolina and Florida, showed that all had at least 6 out of 15 PFAAs being tracked for the study.

    The study, together with a similar study on South African crocodiles conducted by colleagues, is the first to examine PFAA levels in indicator reptile species, which are particularly useful for studying the affects of persistent chemicals that linger in the environment. PFAA compounds were historically used in common industrial and household products, including non-stick frying pans, fire-fighting foam, household and industrial waxes, stain repellents and water-resistant clothing.

    Implications for Drinking Water

    The blood levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) in the alligators ranged between 1,360 - 452,000 ppt (parts per trillion). The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a health advisory for PFOS and other PFAAs in drinking water early this year, recommending a drinking water standard of 70 ppt as the maximum combined exposure level for the two PFAAs in question. The researchers suggest that the high blood concentrations of PFOS found in alligators across several sites is concerning, and may imply that drinking water needs to be tested at those sites to limit human exposure to these hazardous chemicals.

    "Alligators and crocodiles play a dominant role in their ecosystems," said Jacqueline Bangma, of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. "Similar to humans, they are long-lived top predators. They stay in a select territory--waterways where runoff from human activities accumulates-- and their PFAA burden increases through the consumption of fish."

    Contamination Hot Spots

    Both the US and South African study revealed "hot spots," where alligators and/or crocodiles had significantly higher levels of PFAA compared to animals at other locations. In the US, these tended to be on Florida's Merrit Island and on Kiaway Island situated in the Atlantic Ocean to the southwest of Charleston, SC. The high PFAA levels in these areas may be due to historical use of fire-fighting foams containing PFAAs, as high levels have been found in the environment around fire-training and manufacturing sites.

    Exposure to Other Environmental Contaminants

    By comparison, alligators in the Florida Everglades had the lowest concentrations of two of the most prevalent PFAAs found in all of the US alligators sampled. This came as a bit of a surprise to the researchers, as compared to other alligators in Florida, alligators in the Everglades have been found to have the highest concentrations of mercury.

    The Black Berkey elements that come standard with our Berkey systems do reduce Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFOA, PFOS, PFAA contaminates).  Berkey water filter Perfluorinated Chemical test results can be found here.

    Journal Reference/s

    J.T. Bangma, J.A. Bowden, A.M. Brunell, I. Christie, B. Finnell, M.P. Guillette, M. Jones, R.H. Lowers, T.R. Rainwater, J.L. Reiner, P.M. Wilkinson and L.J. Guillette, Jr. Perfluorinated alkyl acids in plasma of American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) from Florida and South Carolina. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. Accepted manuscript online: August 20, 2016. doi:10.1002/etc.3600

    I. Christie, J.L. Reiner, J.A. Bowden, H. Botha, T.M. Cantu, D. Govender, M.P. Guillettee, R.H. Lowers, W.J. Luus-Powell, D. Pienaar, W.J. Smit and L.J. Guillette Jr. Perfluorinated alkyl acids in the plasma of South African crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus). Chemosphere. Published: July 2016. DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2016.03.072.

    Suggested Images
    https://pixabay.com/en/alligator-head-wildlife-mouth-1378625/
    https://pixabay.com/en/alligator-american-alligator-gator-439889

  • Groundwater Contamination: When Water's Not Fit to Drink

    Contamination of groundwater sources poses serious consequences in the future, especially in light of increasing droughts, which is placing more pressure on dwindling water resources that we direly need to protect at all costs. A recent report titled 'Alternatives for Managing the Nation's Complex Contaminated Groundwater Sites', commissioned by the National Research Council, revealed that groundwater at more than 126,000 sites around the U.S. is contaminated.  These sites are all in need of remediation, with 10% of the contaminated sites being classified as ''complex'', and which were unlikely to be remediated for at least another 50 to 100 years.

    The estimated cost of remediating these contaminated sites is over $110 billion, according to the report, and does not take technical problems associated with rehabilitation of ''complex'' sites into account, or the rehabilitation of groundwater at sites that may become contaminated in the future.

    The U.S. Government has initiated a series of groundwater cleanup programs at both state and national level focusing on reducing the environmental and health risks associated with groundwater contamination. Some of the areas that have been addressed include cleanup of Superfund sites; environmental remediation of sites where hazardous waste is stored, treated, or disposed of; remediation of areas contaminated by leaks from damaged underground storage tanks; as well as remediation of government and military facilities, and industrial operations.

    credit: Ryan Griffis - https://www.flickr.com/photos/grifray/3623554655/ credit: Ryan Griffis - https://www.flickr.com/photos/grifray/3623554655/

    It is estimated that about 3.4% of the active cleanup sites are sites that fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Defense, who have already spent $30 billion to remediate their sites of hazardous waste. However, many of their sites pose the highest challenges both in terms of technology needed and costs associated with successful cleanup operations and remediation efforts.

    "The complete removal of contaminants from groundwater at possibly thousands of complex sites in the U.S. is unlikely, and no technology innovations appear in the near time horizon that could overcome the challenges of restoring contaminated groundwater to drinking water standards," said Michael Kavanaugh, from Geosyntec Consultants, Inc. and chair of the committee that produced the report. "At many of these complex sites, a point of diminishing returns will often occur as contaminants in groundwater remain stalled at levels above drinking water standards despite continued active remedial efforts. We are recommending a formal evaluation be made at the appropriate time in the life cycle of a site to decide whether to transition the sites to active or passive long-term management."

    Taxpayers will foot a large portion of the cleanup bill, as many of the sites that are considered ''complex'' are on public land, or fall under the jurisdiction of government agencies.
    The terminology used in cleanup operations is often misleading, as very often closed sites still have levels of contamination that require monitoring and management well into the future, as well as funding to do so. Half of the Superfund sites that have been removed from the list still require ongoing monitoring, evaluation and management of contaminated groundwater according to the report, which recommends that the different phases in the cleanup process together with progress reports should be clearly defined to increase public and stakeholder awareness.

    According to Kavanaugh:

    "The central theme of this report is how the nation should deal with those sites where residual contamination will remain above levels needed to achieve restoration. In the opinion of the committee, this finding needs to inform decision making at these complex sites, including a more comprehensive use of risk assessment methods, and support for a national research and development program that leads to innovative tools to ensure protectiveness where residual contamination persists. In all cases, the final end state of these sites has to be protective of human health and the environment consistent with the existing legal framework, but a more rapid transition will reduce life-cycle costs. Some residual contamination will persist at these sites and future national strategies need to account for this fact."

    In the event of a major storm or natural disaster, this can lead to further problems. For example, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy affected residents were not only exposed to flaking paint from damaged homes, putting them and especially their children at risk of lead poisoning; lead dust from contaminated Superfund sites was washed off site by storm surge or blown off site by strong winds. When disturbed, these highly toxic contaminants pose a risk wherever they settle, both on the soil surface, and to groundwater sources below the soil. This clearly illustrates the importance of remediating contaminated sites to prevent the contaminants from migrating offsite, where they are far more difficult, if not impossible, to manage.

    If you know or suspect your are being exposed to such water, a system like a Berkey water filter can filter out contaminants from these affected sources.

    Further Reading:
    National Research Council. Alternatives for Managing the Nation's Complex Contaminated Groundwater Sites. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2013. doi:10.17226/14668.

  • Insecticides Threaten US Freshwater Systems and Every Living Thing That Depends on Them

    While many people are aware of the devastating impact that pesticides are having on bees and other insect pollinators, there is far less awareness regarding the use of highly toxic insecticides (a form of pesticide) consisting largely of neonics, that are particularly persistent in the environment and poses perhaps the greatest threat to our freshwater systems and all forms of life that depend on these water bodies for their survival.

    A report titled: Water Hazard: Aquatic Contamination by Neonicotinoid Insecticides in the United States, that was recently published by the Center for Food Safety (CFS), reveals that freshwater systems throughout the US are contaminated with neonicotinoid insecticides, posing a hazard to freshwater invertebrates such as insects and crabs, as well as migratory birds and other wildlife that depend on them for a food source. The report particularly focus on the incorporation of neonicotinoid insecticides in seed coatings, of which as much as 95% can end up in the environment rather than on the crop it was intended to protect.

    photo by Shawn Caza: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7953357@N06/ photo by Shawn Caza: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7953357@N06/

    Neonicotinoids are a type of insecticide that are known to have both an acute and chronic effect on honey bees and other insect pollinators, and are thought to play a primary role in the deterioration of bee health and the rapid decline in bee populations.

    Every year, neonicotinoid insecticides are applied to crops covering over 150 million acres of land, with seed coatings being the most widely used type of application. Once the nemonic insecticide has been applied, any remaining residues are washed off with runoff or leach through soils to contaminate soil and water sources offsite. Since these contaminants are highly mobile and are readily transported offsite, they are carried to areas such as wetlands and other sensitive aquatic systems where they were not intended to be used, with dire environmental consequences. Because neonic insecticides break down very slowly, they rapidly accumulate in the environment, especially in freshwater systems, endangering a variety of wildlife species — ranging from butterflies and bees to ladybugs, aquatic invertebrates and birds.

    The CFS report analyses case studies representative of California, Iowa and Maryland — all of which are experiencing far ranging neonicotinoid insecticide contamination that exceeds the recommended standard set the leading aquatic toxicology experts. It also draws attention to contamination other areas, such as New York, Wisconsin, Texas and South Dakota. The report discusses the key role that irrigation and field drainage play in transporting these contaminants to freshwater systems, and highlights the growing risk this poses to underground water sources and sensitive wetlands systems, and the valuable wildlife species that inhabit these ecosystems, including fish and migratory birds.

    This poses a very serious long-term risk to environment health, wildlife biodiversity, and to human health and well being. If not addressed urgently, we will very soon witness an ecological crisis akin to Silent Spring. Considering the extreme negative impacts that neonicotinoid pesticides have on insect pollinators, aquatic fauna and the greater environment, it is imperative that the use of these extremely hazardous toxins is suspended if we wish to prevent any further ecological damage.

    What you can do:

    1) Sign a petition demanding the EPA take immediate action to prevent further contamination of our freshwater systems to ensure environmental integrity and that our drinking water sources are pesticide free.

    2) Take measures to remove any pesticides that may be contaminating your drinking water and posing a health risk to you and your family by filtering your drinking water with a good quality home water filter like a Berkey that is capable of removing pesticides.

    Reference

    Water Hazard: Aquatic Contamination by Neonicotinoid Insecticides in the United States. Center for Food Safety (CFS), September 2015.

  • Water Testing Made Simple Using Pills

    A research team from McMaster University, Ontario, Canada, has come up with an ingenious solution that allows water to be tested on-site rather than having samples collected and sent to a lab for analysis, which is not only a painfully slow process but also laborious and expensive. So instead of collecting and sending water samples to a lab, the lab can in effect be taken to the water source, empowering people from all walks of life to literally test the waters before they drink, which could potentially save lives.

    water testing

    By adapting the technology used in dissolving breath strips, the researchers have condensed the complex chemistry that is required to test water quality into a pill form. Now, if you need to know whether the water in your well is safe to drink, simply pop a pill into a vial filled with water from your well, give it a good shake; if the water changes color you have your answer – instantly, on the spot.

    This development could potentially provide access to a quick, simple and cost affective method of testing water quality to people all over the world. The technology could have significant public health benefits by offering a simple solution for testing drinking water in remote areas and in developing countries where water testing infrastructure is lacking.

    “We got the inspiration from the supermarket,” says Carlos Filipe, a professor of chemical engineering who worked on the project. Fellow team member, Sana Jahanshahi-Anbuhi, a PhD student in Chemical Engineering, got his 'Eureka!' moment when he came across some dissolving breath strips whilst shopping at his local store, realizing that the material used in the breath strips could be used in other applications.

    The scientists have created a method of storing precise amounts of active ingredients and enzymes into pills consisting of the same natural substance used in dissolving breath strips, which now makes lab-quality water testing technology easily accessible to people who need to know whether their drinking water source is contaminated or safe to drink.

    “This is regular chemistry that we know works but is now in pill form,” says John Brennan, director of McMaster's Biointerfaces Institute, where the technology was developed. “The user can be anybody in a village somewhere who can take a pill out of a bottle and drop it in water.”

    The substance, known as pullulan, turns into a solid form when dry, protecting sensitive chemical agents from exposure to oxygen and changes in temperature that can destroy them within hours. Previously, these sensitive agents had to preserved by keeping them in cold storage and shipping them in vials surrounded by large blocks of dry ice, which was not only costly, but also very inconvenient.

    This newly developed method, which is described in a paper published online in the European chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie, also has the potential to be used in other applications, such as food packaging that could change color if the contents become spoiled.

    “Can you modify packaging so it has a sensor to tell you if your chicken has gone off?” Brennan asks. “The reason that doesn't exist today is because there's no way you can keep these agents stable enough.”

    This newly developed method allow us to store the same substances practically anywhere in pill form for long periods of time without the need for complex refrigeration and cooling. The pills are cheap to produce and can be used by anyone who needs to test the water in their well for contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals or e.coli, for example. With this simple water testing solution, people will be empowered to test their drinking water themselves and if contaminants are detected, they can implement measures such as using a water filter to remove the contaminants to ensure that their water is safe to drink.

    Journal Reference:

    Sana Jahanshahi-Anbuhi, Kevin Pennings, Vincent Leung, Meng Liu, Carmen Carrasquilla, Balamurali Kannan, Yingfu Li, Robert Pelton, John D. Brennan, Carlos D. M. Filipe. Pullulan Encapsulation of Labile Biomolecules to Give Stable Bioassay Tablets. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/anie.201403222

  • Using Blue, Green and Gray Water to Improve Water Security

    In last weeks post we looked at the problem of dwindling water resources in light of climate change. Water security is an issue, not just because there is likely to be less water available in a warmer, drier climate, but also because as the world population grows, so too does the demand for water. A growing world population also requires food resources – it is estimated that food production will have to increase by approximately 70% by 2050 to satisfy the needs of the growing global population. In order to meet this demand, agriculture will also place increasing pressure on our dwindling water resources, which will also be in demand from urban areas, industrial users, and for recreation.

    With more and more people depending on a limited supply of water, it is imperative that we manage our water resources prudently, looking at innovative ways to utilize the resource more efficiently. The implementation of integrated water management plans that make use of  'blue,' 'green', and 'gray' water can go a long way to improving water security.

    Irrigation fields

    Let's take a look at what these different colors mean, the role that each of these types of water play in the grand scheme of things, and why they are all vital to water security.

    Blue Water

    Blue water refers to water that is present in rivers, lakes, underground aquifers and reservoirs. This water is used for a multitude of purposes including drinking water, water supplied to domestic households and businesses, and it is also used in agriculture to irrigate crops. Because our freshwater reserves are limited, it is essential that we protect and conserve these resources and use them sparingly.

    Green Water

    Green water refers to water that is held within the soil which is available for plants and microorganisms within the soil to utilize. This water can be absorbed by plant roots, then used by plants for growth before being released back into the atmosphere. Green water is a resource that is frequently overlooked in terms of crop growth, and this is an area that can more optimally utilized in future water management planning.

    Gray Water

    Gray water refers to wastewater that has been used for some other purpose and has typically been degraded or fouled as a result. Gray water can originate from domestic household use, commercial/business use, or industrial use, and while it is generally treated to remove hazardous contaminants before it is discharged, it may still harbor some impurities. Reusing gray water to irrigate agricultural crops will not only reduce the amount of blue water that is drawn from freshwater reserves, but also increase the amount of green water that is available in soils for plants to utilize.

    These three types of water sources will be the topic of discussion during a symposium  “Blue Waves, Green Dreams, and Shades of Gray: Perspectives On Water” that is going to be held on Tuesday, 5th November as part of the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America, which is taking place from 3-5 November in Tampa, Florida. The theme of this year's conference is “Water, Food, Energy, & Innovation for a Sustainable World”.

    All three of these water sources – blue, green, and gray –  have to be protected and optimized in order for agriculture to rise to the challenge of feeding more than 9 billion people by 2050 while still leaving sufficient water for other uses. Rattan Lal, presider of the symposium, sums it up aptly when he states “There is no substitute for water.”

  • Interagency Report on Short-term Water Management Decision Making

    According to a newly released report, “Short-Term Water Management Decisions: User Needs for Improved Climate, Weather, and Hydrologic Information,” published by the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in order for us to adapt to the impacts of climate change, managers need to have the capacity to make short-term water management decisions based on their understanding of hydroclimate monitoring, short-term prediction, and how this information supports future water management decision making. Consequently, agencies responsible for water management need to have the capacity to address these issues.

    water management

    The report highlights the need for NGO's, local and tribal agencies and organizations, together with state and Federal agencies, to work side by side to support those responsible for managing water resources in the wake of changing climatic conditions. The report identifies four key areas:  1) Monitoring Product Needs, 2) Forecasting Product Needs, 3) Understanding and Using Information Products in Water Management, and 4) Information Services Enterprise.

    “Climate change is adding to the challenges we face in managing a multitude of issues, including water supply, water quality, flood risk, wastewater, aquatic ecosystems, and energy production,” explains Reclamation Commissioner, Michael L. Connor. “Meeting these challenges requires close collaboration among water resource management agencies, operational information service providers, stakeholders and the scientific community.”

    “This document describes the short-term needs of the water management community for monitoring and forecast information and tools to support operational decisions,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Director of Civil Works Steven L. Stockton. “Large water resources systems with water supply goals have very different needs from smaller systems that primarily service flood control purposes. Because of those differences, having a unified report such as this one communicates not only the national-level water resource needs but the local interactions between the water resource management agencies and the weather, climate and hydrologic service and information providers.”

    The report aims to identify areas where water resource management can be improved by communicating the needs of water resource managers to researchers and information providers so that water management agencies can be provided with the information they need to improve planning and management of water resources.

    The report, the second in a series, was compiled by a team from the Climate Change and Water Working Group, made up of technical specialists from the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation with NOAA's National Weather Service. The first report, “Addressing Climate Change in Long-Term Water Resources Planning and Management,” which was released in January 2011, addressed the need for long-term water management and planning in the face of climate change, particularly the need for information and tools to aid planning and decision making with regards to long-term water resource management.

  • America's Aging Sewer System Threatens Beachgoers and Swimmers

    Your Berkey water filter has been shown to effectively purify even untreated water. But unfortunately, your water filter can’t protect you from water contamination if you swim in it.

    Water Quality State and county authorities issued 24,091 beach closing and advisory days in 2010 due to pollution, primarily from sewage and animal waste, which could expose swimmers to a host of waterborne illnesses.

    Sewage Contamination From Cities and Farms

    According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the advocacy organization that calculated the beach-closing statistic, pollution from leaky sewer pipes or overflows during heavy rains are a primary source of human sewage pollution in waterways.

    In many urban areas, rain runoff from roofs and roads is directed into the same pipes that carry household sewage to the local water treatment plant. During very heavy storms, the system can be overwhelmed and rainwater and untreated sewage simply overflows into local waterways. In more rural areas, poorly contained animal agriculture operations allow rain to wash waste into waterways.

    Surfers and Swimmers Get Sick from Contaminated Beach Water

    The latest issue of Surfer magazine reports: “Most official county advisories warn to avoid contact with the water for 72 hours after a heavy rain, a three-day buffer to allow the collective runoff to thin to healthy levels.”

    Many surfers don’t wait that long, either because they don’t realize they should or they think they tougher than the bacteria in the water. “Surfers sometimes believe that they are immune to ocean-related illness, because they have been surfing that same spot for years, or that the water quality is not as bad as it is hyped up to be,” explains Paloma Aguirre, spokesperson for the San Diego-based environmental organization WiLDCOAST.

    Even Sandcastles Can Harbor Beach Bacteria

    According to NRDC, it’s not just surfers who are at risk. Swimmers and other beach-goers, especially pregnant women, children, the elderly and those with a weakened immune system need to heed warnings and stay out of the water when bacteria levels rise. Not only that, minimizing exposure to beach sand after an advisory is issued may be just as important.

    “Bacteria concentrate in sand as water rises and recedes with the tides, leaving both the wet sand and the dry sand just beyond it more heavily contaminated than the water. Because of this, it is most important to keep beach sand out of the mouths of toddlers. Keeping your hands out of it or washing them after playing in the sand is also a good idea,” explains the NRDC website.

    Pollution Illnesses on The Rise

    Pollution at U.S. beaches exposes swimmers to a range of waterborne illnesses and may cause stomach flu, skin rashes, pinkeye, ear, nose and throat problems, dysentery, hepatitis, respiratory ailments, neurological disorders and other serious health problems.

    It is hard to determine the number of gastroenteritis cases or other diseases caused by swimming in polluted water. There is no national reporting system in the United States to help epidemiologists track national trends, but the Centers for Disease Control estimate that illness from contaminated beach water is on the rise. One study conducted by the agency concluded that 10 percent of Great Lakes beachgoers get sick after swimming.

    Fixing Sewers and Protecting the Public from Pollution

    RDC and other public health advocates are calling for a variety of reforms that include increased funding for sewer treatment plant upgrades and sewage system repair. The public could also be better protected by improving water quality testing speed, accuracy, and public notification systems.

    Read more:

    Fixing Leaky Pipes Could Triple U.S. Water Bills
    Green Infrastructure Protects Rivers Around the United States
    E. Coli Contamination of Drinking Water

  • America's Top Snowboarders Want You To Drink Water

    Energy drinks such as Red Bull, Monster Energy and Rockstar have become popular among fans of snowboarding in the United States, with drink companies advertising at events and sponsoring athletes. After professional snowboarders Bryan Fox and Austin Smith were approached by a company about promoting their product, the duo decided to do something about their concerns that the added sugar, stimulants and other ingredients in those drinks weren't just a bad substitute for water but might actually be dangerous.

    Drink Water Gives Voice to Energy Drink Wary Snowboarders

    Fox and Smith began sporting their own "drink water" logo on their boards and apparel. Before long, they found themselves leading a campaign. “It’s been crazy to see the overwhelming support since we started this, that we’re not the only ones,” Smith told the New York Times.

    The Drink Water campaign now sells t-shirts, stickers and hoodies with the following explanation: "Drink Water is a friendly reminder to drink water."

    "If you love snowboarding or some other healthy activity that defines many decisions in your life, you are likely a choice target-consumer for companies that sell ‘energy drinks.’ Maybe you, like us, started to feel uncomfortable about how effective these companies have become at encouraging young people to consume their product: beverages of caffeine, sodium, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and even some mystery chemicals about which little is known."

     Drink Water Campaign

    Energy Drinks Marketed to Kids

    Fox and Smith are not the only ones raising concerns about energy drinks. Parents and doctors around the country have raised the alarm about the host of sugary drinks marketed to kids that contribute to obesity, diabetes, even ailments like kidney stones, once unheard of in kids. According to SugaryDrinkFacts.org, “from 2008 to 2010 ad exposure for regular soda doubled for children and teens, and energy drink exposure increased by 20 to 50%.”

    The New York Times last year reported on an emerging trend of kidney stones showing up in in kindergarteners, in part because they were drinking high-sodium sports drinks instead of water. Sports drinks were designed to replenish nutrients lost by top athletes during hard exercise, but they are now marketed in lunch-box size packages and found as an alternative to soda in school vending machines.

    The big difference between sodas or sports drinks and the kind of energy drinks that inspired the Drink Water campaign is that, by labeling energy drinks as dietary supplements instead of food, companies avoid a host of Food & Drug Administration regulations about truth in advertising. The companies are not required to substantiate the claims on its packaging.

    Drink Water Campaign Touches a Nerve

    SugaryDrinkFacts.org reports that 5 Hour Energy ranked among the top 3 beverages most advertised to kids and the #1 most advertised to teens. While energy drinks are considered safe in reasonable quantities by the generally healthy adult population, Fox and Smith are hearing anecdotal evidence that overdoses are more and more common. On their blog they recount a conversation with a fellow postal customer after explaining their campaign:

    "Lady: Oh my God, thank God! I work at the county Poison Control Center, and for years, when we got calls on caffeine overdoses, we never asked a follow up question for specifics. Now, we have a separate option for “Energy Drink Overdoses.” I just had a mom call in last week, and her 8 year old had drunk a 6 pack of *******. She called because the kid was light headed, was sick to his stomach and his heart was racing, and you know what I told her? Give him a lots of water to flush out his system. We get calls every week on this stuff. Crazy."

    The campaign donates 10 percent of their profits to Water.org, a nonprofit co-founded by the actor Matt Damon that provides clean water and sanitation in Africa, southern Asia and Central America. (BigBerkeyWaterFilters.com also supports and donates to Water.Org)

    If you are looking for a water filtration solution while you are on the go, we encourage you to check out the Sport Berkey.

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