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Big Berkey Water Filters

  • Exposure to Herbicide Evident in Pregnant Women

    A study conducted on a cohort of pregnant women living in Central Indiana has detected glyphosate — the chemical toxin used in Roundup and other herbicides — in over 90% of the mothers-to-be.

    In a report that was recently published in the scientific journal Environmental Health, the authors suggest that glyphosate levels are linked to shorter pregnancy terms, which can have negative lifelong impacts on the offspring.

    "There is growing evidence that even a slight reduction in gestational length can lead to lifelong adverse consequences," said Shahid Parvez, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Science at Indiana University and lead author of the study.

    This is the first US study of its kind to analyze urine samples of pregnant women to directly assess their exposure to the chemical glyphosate.

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    According to Parvez, the study's primary finding was that of the 71 moms-to-be that made up the study cohort, 93% were found to have glyphosate at detectable levels in their urine. Glyphosate levels were higher in women living in rural areas, and in women who drank more caffeinated drinks.

    While glyphosate exposure in pregnant women cannot be denied, Parvez says that the primary source of this exposure may not necessarily be drinking water, as they initially thought. None of the drinking water samples they tested had any trace of glyphosate present, indicating that glyphosate is most likely removed during the water treatment process. However, consumption of genetically modified foods, as well as caffeinated drinks are suspected of being two primary sources of glyphosate.

    pregnant_woman_pregnancy_belly_mother_big_belly_waiting_baby_maternity_test-1361393

    Glyphosate is used extensively in the American Midwest as a result of soybean and corn production. Residues of the herbicide can be found contaminating the environment, as well as major crops, including food items that people across the country consume daily.

    "Although our study cohort was small and regional and had limited racial or ethnic diversity, it provides direct evidence of maternal glyphosate exposure and a significant correlation with shortened pregnancy," Parvez said.

    Parvez notes that the extent of glyphosate exposure in mothers-to-be and the link between exposure and shorter gestation terms are cause for concern and warrant further investigation. Parvez hopes to expand this study to include more diversity, both ethnically and geographically, in the next cohort of pregnant women examined to determine whether the outcome will be the same.

    To reduce the likelihood of exposure to toxic pesticides such as glyphosate, it is recommended that you filter your drinking water with a good quality drinking water filter that is capable of removing pesticide contaminants, and choose healthy organically grown fresh produce and food products wherever possible.

    Journal Reference

    S. Parvez, R. R. Gerona, C. Proctor, M. Friesen, J. L. Ashby, J. L. Reiter, Z. Lui, P. D. Winchester. Glyphosate exposure in pregnancy and shortened gestational length: a prospective Indiana birth cohort study. Environmental Health, 2018; 17 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12940-018-0367-0

  • Berkey Water Filter Contaminants Removal Guide

    It's no secret that a secure, clean source of drinking water is critical for any household. And if you're reading this article, you're probably already familiar with the general concept behind Berkey water filters: Durable, high-performing, gravity filters, built for a variety of sizes and use cases.

    But just how "high-performing" are they? Well, if you take the time to study the packaging on a Berkey filter, you will see a list of no less than 203 toxins that Black Berkeys eliminate. That's nothing to shake a stick at! When you look at the list however, you'll see things like "Dibromochloromethane" and "Hexachlorocyclopentadiene." Since these aren't exactly household names, it can be difficult to know exactly what they are, and how they affect us.

    Well, in an effort to clear up a little bit of the confusion, our friend Dan at Homestead Launch put together a handy graphic reference guide, that explains where water contaminants come from. As you can see, water contamination comes from a variety of sources: biological, industrial, agricultural, medical facilities, and even water treatment plants.

    Fortunately, Berkey filters eliminate them all, and this guide provides a really easy and visual way to show that. Take a look!

    Homestead Launch Self Sufficient Guide

    Hopefully that helps explain the contaminants that are in our water supply (and that Berkey eliminates them!). If you have a friend that might be on the fence about getting a Berkey, this would be a great resource to share with them.

    (p.s. If interested, Homestead Launch is a partner of ours and helps people plan, purchase, and develop self-sufficient homesteads. You can learn more about their great services here: https://HomesteadLaunch.com)

  • Commercial Pesticides More Toxic Than We're Led to Believe

    There is very little information with regard to the health and environmental effects of some ingredients in pesticides, and as a result, they are made out to be safer than what they really are.

    A comprehensive risk assessment of pesticide adjuvants — additives used to enhance the active ingredient or function of pesticides — has revealed that new regulations need to be put in place to protect both the environment and people from harmful, yet unregulated pesticide ingredients. The review, which was recently published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Public Health, cautions that ignoring the potentially harmful effects of commonly used pesticide additives can result in pesticides being labeled as safe, when in fact they are not, and can also cause confusion with regard to scientific reporting of the effects of pesticides.

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    According to Dr Robin Mesnage, from King's College London and lead author of the review, exposure to some of these pesticide additives at levels they are found in the environment can affect non-target species, and can even have chronic health impacts on humans. Yet, despite this, there are no safety regulations or advisories for these additives, and no limitations regarding their acceptable daily intake or the health risk associated with exposure to pesticide residues through consumption of contaminated food or water.

    Pesticides include a concoction of chemicals, comprised of the active ingredient that repels or kills the targeted pest, together with several other chemicals such as surfactants, dyes, and anti-foaming agents, collectively referred to as adjuvants, that are added to improve the application of the pesticide or the functioning of the key active ingredient.

    However, current safety regulations only require the main active ingredient to be tested for safety, assuming that other chemical additives included in pesticide formulations have no ill effects. Consequently, the true toxicity of pesticides currently used in both domestic gardens and on agricultural crops is not clearly shown on the label.

    "Currently, the health risk assessment of pesticides in the European Union and in the United States focuses almost exclusively on the active ingredient," explains Dr Mesnage. "Despite the known toxicity of adjuvants, they are regulated differently from active principles, with their toxic effects being generally ignored."

    After reviewing the current scientific literature on pesticides, the authors suggest that the unregulated chemicals used in commercial pesticides could explain negative effects observed after exposure to presumably 'safe' pesticides.

    The review focused largely on herbicides that contain the active ingredient glyphosate, the world's most commonly used pesticide found in products such as Round-Up. The authors note that weed killer formulations containing this herbicide are comprised of so many different chemical additives that safety tests for one such weed killer does not mean another glyphosate-based weed killer is safe. The berkey water filter systems will remove glysophate from the water.

    "Studies comparing the toxicity of commercial weed-killer formulations to that of glyphosate alone have shown that several formulations are up to 1,000 times more toxic than glyphosate on human cells. We believe that the adjuvants are responsible for this additional toxic effect," says Dr Mesnage.

    The researchers also point out that neonicotinoid insecticides — whose widespread use is thought to be associated with bee colony collapse — could also be due to the toxicity of pesticide additives that are having a negative effect on non-target species. It has been shown that an additive used to help the active ingredient in these insecticides penetrate their targeted pests can have a toxic effect on bees. To compound this, traces of this toxin have been found in pollen, honey and beeswax originating from contaminated bees.

    The researchers hope this review will draw attention to the toxicity of widely used pesticides and the need for more stringent safety regulations with regard to their chemical additives.

    "Testing of whole pesticide formulations instead of just active ingredients alone would create a precautionary approach, ensuring that the guidance value for the pesticide is valid for the worst-case exposure scenario," says Dr Mesnage.

    The researchers findings are already having an impact. The European Food Safety Authority is currently reviewing the validity of pesticide safety assessment for EU countries, and the researchers hope that this will be extended to include all commercial pesticide formulations and their chemical additives.

    Journal Reference

    Robin Mesnage, Michael N. Antoniou. Ignoring Adjuvant Toxicity Falsifies the Safety Profile of Commercial Pesticides. Frontiers in Public Health, 2018; 5 DOI:10.3389/fpubh.2017.00361

  • 'Rock Moisture' Could Protect Forests from Drought

    Water trapped within layers of rock may offer forest trees a lifeline during extended periods of drought, a new study has found.

    In a report that was recently published in the scientific journal PNAS, a team of researchers examined water stored within a layer of bedrock that is typically found beneath layers of soil in mountainous areas. Sandwiched between soils above and groundwater below, it is a zone that is very often overlooked by hydrologists. But on closer inspection, the research team found that water trapped within the pores and fractures of this rock layer could play a vital role in both the local and global water cycle.

    "There are significant hydrologic dynamics in weathered bedrock environments, but they are not traditionally investigated because they are hard to access," said lead author Daniella Rempe, an assistant professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at the UT Austin Jackson School of Geosciences. "The study was designed to investigate this region directly."

    Research led by The University of Texas at Austin has found that weathered bedrock can store a significant amount of rock moisture inside its fractures and pores. This moisture in the layer of weathered rock that is commonly located beneath soils is an important part of the water cycle on the local and global level. Tree roots tap into the rock moisture and release it back into the atmosphere as water vapor, and water flows through the fractures and becomes part of the seasonal groundwater storage (blue arrows).   Credit: University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences. Research led by The University of Texas at Austin has found that weathered bedrock can store a significant amount of rock moisture inside its fractures and pores. This moisture in the layer of weathered rock that is commonly located beneath soils is an important part of the water cycle on the local and global level. Tree roots tap into the rock moisture and release it back into the atmosphere as water vapor, and water flows through the fractures and becomes part of the seasonal groundwater storage (blue arrows). Credit: University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences.

    The researchers discovered that water trapped within the weathered bedrock is able to sustain forest trees through periods of drought even after the top layers of soil have become parched. Field samples taken from a site in Mendocino County, Northern California revealed that as much as 27% of the region's annual rainfall was stored within the pores and cracks of the bedrock as "rock moisture".

    While the beneficial effects of rock moisture is likely to vary from region to region, and also according to topography, the researchers believe it explains how trees in this area were not affected by the severe drought experienced between 2010 and 2015, which killed over 100 million trees across California.

    "How trees can survive extended periods of severe drought has been a mystery," said Richard Yuretich, director of the National Science Foundation's Critical Zone Observatories program, which funded the research. "This study has revealed a significant reservoir of trapped water that has gone unnoticed in the past. Research of this kind can help greatly in managing natural resources during times of environmental stress."

    For the study, the team monitored rock moisture content of nine well points drilled into the weathered bedrock that were sited on a steeply sloping hillside covered in forest from 2013 to 2016.

    Lead author Daniella Rempe, an assistant professor at the Jackson School of Geosciences, with a deep borehole drill at the research site. The research team used the drill to make wells to monitor rock moisture. Credit: The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences. Lead author Daniella Rempe, an assistant professor at the Jackson School of Geosciences, with a deep borehole drill at the research site. The research team used the drill to make wells to monitor rock moisture. Credit: The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences.

    They discovered that between 4-21 inches of moisture accumulated within the weathered bedrock layer over the winter rainy season, with some variance between wells. They found that the maximum level of moisture within each well remained roughly the same for the duration of the study, including during a year that experienced significant drought. This major finding suggests that the amount of rainfall experienced in the winter dry season is irrelevant, and the total amount of rainfall has little impact on the level of rock moisture that accumulates in the bedrock.

    "It doesn't matter how much it rains in the winter, rock moisture builds up to the same maximum value," Rempe said. "That leads to the same amount of water every summer that's available for use by trees."

    When comparing average moisture levels between bedrock and surrounding soil, the research team found that rock moisture levels in all wells were higher than soil moisture for all locations monitored.

    While Rempe believes that moisture held within soil is important, the underlying bedrock could play a greater role in determining whether an area is going be water stressed during periods of drought.

    Rock moisture that is taken up by trees can potentially be evaporated from tree leaves into the surrounding air, or it can trickle down through cracks in the rock into the groundwater below. Consequently, it could play a wider role in the environment as well as climate. According to Zong-Liang Yang, a colleague of Rempe's who did not take part in the research, this study highlights the need to incorporate rock moisture in hydrological and global climate models.

    Journal Reference

    Daniella M. Rempe el al., "Rock moisture: Direct observations of a hidden component of the hydrologic cycle," PNAS (2018). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1800141115

  • How Energy is Linked to the Water Crisis in Cape Town — and Why American's Should Care

    An article recently published by the Environmental Defense Fund highlights how water and energy are inextricably linked.

    Cape Town, a major South African city, is counting down the days to Day Zero, when the city's taps, which provide 4 million inhabitants with water, are expected to run dry. While extreme water restrictions and water saving measures have pushed the date back from April to November 2018, the fact remains that the city's water supply is still extremely precarious.

    "Yet, while this water crisis has been making headlines worldwide, nobody's talking about the connection between water and energy," says Kate Zerrenner, Senior Manager, Energy-Water Initiatives at the Environmental Defense Fund. "In a rapidly changing climate, we should."

    According to a 2014 study, Cape Town is not the only water-stressed city in the world — the water supply of one out of every four larger cities around the world, including two or more US cities, is under duress. Zerrenner points out that many of these cities also happen to depend on coal — the world's thirstiest source of energy.

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    The supply of water and energy go hand-in-hand, an association referred to as the energy-water nexus. Energy is used during water treatment processes and to pump water across the distribution network, while water is consumed during the production and supply of energy. Consequently, our choice of energy has a direct impact on our freshwater resources.

    Conventional sources of power such as natural gas, coal and nuclear energy use an average of 25 gallons of water for every kilowatt-hour of power produced, with coal being the most water hungry, or in this case thirsty, using between 20-60 gallons to produce a kilowatt hour of electricity, depending on the cooling technology employed at the power plant.

    Back home in the US, the average household uses around 900 kWh of electricity a month, which equates to roughly 23,000 gallons of water every month. That's just to meet the power needs of a typical American household, and doesn't account for water used for drinking, cooking, showering/bathing, dishwashing, laundry, flushing, etc, etc.

    In Cape Town's case, 92% of the country's energy is supplied by coal. So even though residents in Cape Town and further afield have drastically cut back on their water usage during the prolonged drought currently affecting the region, the power plants that supply the country with energy continue to guzzle it up.

    Will US Cities Be Next?

    Climate change is causing unprecedented shifts in temperature and rainfall patterns across the world, including America, where many areas are already becoming hotter and drier. Texas is once again feeling the effects of drought, while California has suffered an extended period of drought that has already severely impacted California's agricultural sector. As these dry conditions extend eastward, more and more areas are becoming water stressed, with Miami considered one of the first US cities that could run out of water, largely due to contamination of it aquifers by saltwater intrusion from the ocean.

    Perhaps now is a good time to reassess the energy-water nexus, and make decisions that could help us save the precious little water remaining.

    Water-efficient Power Sources

    The good news is that there are water-efficient alternatives to water-hungry power sources. These come in the form of clean energy, such as solar and wind power, which both use practically zero water. What's more, they are cleaner, and therefore better for the environment too. By the same token, energy-efficiency uses no water at all.

    In the US, 85% of electricity is still supplied by water-hungry fossil fuels and nuclear. By simply improving energy efficiency and expanding solar and wind energy to meet more of the country's energy needs, while steadily reducing our dependence on more water-hungry sources of power, we can save huge amounts of water at a time when we are going to need it most.

    "This is our opportunity here and around the world as we plan for the reliability and resilience of our energy and water systems. It's no longer possible to ignore the impact our energy sources has on critical water supplies, and vice versa," says Zerrenner. "We have already begun to turn toward a cleaner energy economy. The question now is whether we can ramp things up

  • Exposure to Nitrates in Drinking Water Increases Colorectal Cancer Risk

    Research conducted by a team of scientists from Aarhus University in collaboration with colleagues from the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) shows that the risk of colon and rectal cancer increases with exposure to nitrates in drinking water.

    Nitrate contamination of groundwater resources and drinking water, originating primarily from fertilizers used in crop production, has long been suspected of posing an increased risk of cancer. Now, the largest public health study ever conducted on this issues reveals that there is a link, even when nitrate levels in drinking water are far lower than current safety levels set for drinking water.

    Top dressing winter wheat. Ammonium nitrate fertiliser being applied to a winter wheat crop on the hill above Wakerley. The fertiliser is carried in tiny round ball called prills. The machine (spreader) is calibrated to deliver a set amount over a given width at a constant forward speed. The copyright on this image is owned by Michael Trolove Top dressing winter wheat. Ammonium nitrate fertiliser being applied to a winter wheat crop on the hill above Wakerley. The fertiliser is carried in tiny round ball called prills. The machine (spreader) is calibrated to deliver a set amount over a given width at a constant forward speed. The copyright on this image is owned by Michael Trolove

    For the study, which was recently published in the International Journal of Cancer, the researchers looked at the levels of nitrate that Danish consumers were exposed to in their drinking water and compared this data to cancer diagnoses in the country. The study, which is the largest of its kind in this research area, analyzed nitrate concentrations in drinking water samples collected from over 200,000 locations, and followed the health of 2.7 million Danish consumers between 1978-2011.

    "Each year, approximately 5,000 Danes contract colorectal cancer, which can have many causes. Our study shows that nitrate in drinking water may be one of them," says Jörg Schullehner, PhD from the Department of Public Health at Aarhus University and lead author of the study. "In the study, people who were exposed to the highest concentration of nitrate in drinking water (above 9.3 mg per liter of water) had a 15 per cent greater risk of getting colorectal cancer compared to those who had least exposure (less than 1.3 mg per liter of water). The current drinking water standard is 50 mg nitrate per liter of water, but the increased risk of cancer could already be seen at concentrations greater than approximately 4 mg nitrate per liter of water."

    The drinking water standard for nitrates in Denmark and other countries in the European Union comply with levels recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to prevent 'Blue Baby Syndrome' — which results from nitrite poisoning that prevents oxygen uptake by the body in infants and can be fatal.

    The results of this research confirm suspicions that exposure to nitrate in drinking water increases the risk of colorectal cancer — the third most common form of cancer worldwide, and also very common in Denmark. Once nitrate is absorbed by the body it is converted into carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds, which pose the cancer threat.

    According to Torben Sigsgaard, a professor in the Department of Public Health at Aarhus University and co-author of the study, the results of this study echo those of other international studies that suggest the standard for nitrate in drinking water should be lowered to protect consumers against other chronic health risks rather than just Blue Baby Syndrome alone.

    According to Schullehner, data collected by GEUS surveys suggest that nitrate levels at public water utilities serving the majority of Danish consumers have been reduced over the last few decades and are currently low. The problem areas consist mostly of small private drinking water wells and areas where there is a high rate of nitrate leaching, particularly areas where the geological and soil conditions are conducive to nitrate leaching into the groundwater. These are the areas that we need to focus on, says Schullehner.

    While the berkey water filter does remove nitrites, unfortunately nitrates are very difficult to remove from the water, and they are one of the only contaminants that the Berkey is unable to remove.  We're hoping we can change this in the future.

    Journal Reference:

    Jörg Schullehner, Birgitte Hansen, Malene Thygesen, Carsten B. Pedersen, Torben Sigsgaard. Nitrate in drinking water and colorectal cancer risk: A nationwide population-based cohort study. International Journal of Cancer, 2018; DOI: 10.1002/ijc.31306

  • Water Quality Study Identifies 'Hot Spots' of Water Safety Violations

    While extreme water quality violations such as those experienced in the Flint water crisis seldom occur, ensuring a reliable supply of safe drinking water poses a challenge for communities all around the country, a recent University of California, Irvine study has revealed.

    The results of the study, which were recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that from 1982 to 2015, between 9 million and 45 million people were impacted by water quality issues every year, with low-income rural areas being particularly vulnerable. The study identified certain 'hot spots' in Idaho, Oklahoma and Texas, were water quality infractions occurred more often, implying that these water providers are susceptible to recurring water quality problems.

    “Overall, this study informs a more directed approach to increasing compliance with drinking water quality regulations,” says author Maura Allaire, UCI assistant professor of urban planning & public policy. “Identifying hot spots and vulnerability factors associated with violations can allow public policies to target underperforming water systems.” Steve Zylius / UCI “Overall, this study informs a more directed approach to increasing compliance with drinking water quality regulations,” says author Maura Allaire, UCI assistant professor of urban planning & public policy. “Identifying hot spots and vulnerability factors associated with violations can allow public policies to target under-performing water systems.” Steve Zylius / UCI

    First Nationwide Water Quality Long Term Study

    This is the first national study to assess the quality of drinking water across the nation, spanning several decades. The study evaluated factors that made certain communities more vulnerable to water safety violations, as well as health incidences that could potentially be linked to water contamination events since the Safe Drinking Water Act was passed in 1974. While not every infraction poses an immediate health concern, drinking water contaminants are often responsible for short-term health issues such as stomach upsets that result in vomiting and diarrhea, and can also cause more chronic health issues such as neurological disorders and cancer.

    "We felt that in the aftermath of the Flint lead crisis, there was an urgent need to assess the current state of drinking water in the U.S.," said study author Maura Allaire, UCI assistant professor of urban planning & public policy. "Generally, the country's utilities deliver high-quality water, but every year, about 7 to 8 percent of community systems do not meet health-related standards. Identifying hot spots and vulnerability factors associated with violations indicates the types of communities that can benefit from greater regulatory oversight and assistance to help reduce quality issues, improve compliance and ensure safe drinking water across the nation."

    The study found that in general, rural areas are more likely to struggle to meet federal water safety standards. This is largely attributed to lack of funding needed to maintain water supply systems due to smaller populations, lower household incomes, limited access to financing to fund major maintenance or upgrade infrastructure, and lack of technical expertise.

    Water quality compliance tends to be associated with private ownership and water sources that are purchased. This is because wholesale agencies, who have more resources available to enable them to comply with water quality regulations, supply purchased water, while private water utilities run the risk of losing valuable assets should they be sued, or they risk being taken over by municipal managers if they supply contaminated water.

    According to Allaire, public policies that can assist underperforming water utilities include providing financial support, as well as technical guidance and training, particularly in areas such as protecting source water, and improving monitoring and system maintenance.

  • Water Monitoring Goes High Tech

    As the global human population continues to grow, along with its increasing demand for precious water, it is vital that water resources are appropriately monitored to ensure our continued survival in the future ahead. New technologies could improve the way water resources are monitored, making it easier to identify changes in flow rates of rivers.

    Now, researchers from the Utah State University have come up with a method to do just that. A study that was recently published in the scientific journal Water Resources Research, shows that aerial imagery captured from drones and helicopters offers a cost effective and accurate alternative to conventional field methods typically used to monitor rivers.

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    "We are headed into uncharted territory as climate change alters water supply and population growth increases demand," said lead-author, Tyler King, a PhD candidate at Utah State University. "In the face of these challenges, scientists, engineers and managers around the world are asked to perform the increasingly difficult task of managing water resources with less and less information."

    The number of sites where river discharge is monitored directly from gauging stations is limited and declining. It is both time consuming and expensive to establish and maintain these stations. Consequently, large rivers that are economically and/or socially important are typically given preference. Furthermore, additional remote sensing methods that depend on data collected from satellites have also been developed, however the data provided is less detailed and again tends to focus on larger rivers across the world. Due to the lack of detailed information on the state of smaller rivers, scientist have very limited knowledge of the processes controlling the quality and quantity of river water in these smaller drainage basins.

    The approach presented in this study strives to fill the current data gaps by gathering information from high-res aerial images and using this to estimate flow rates at sites along smaller streams and rivers that would typically be overlooked. The information collected fills in the gaps left by conventional gauging stations that monitor specific sites along larger rivers and satellite remote sensing that scientists use to estimate flow rates of larger rivers.

    The authors new method makes use of a combination of techniques, including image processing and hydraulic modeling, that limits the amount of data needed to estimate river flow. By overlapping aerial images they are able to produce 3-D digital elevation models of the river channels they wish to monitor. The information garnered from these 3-D digital elevation models is then entered into a hydraulic model, which estimates the relationship between river width and river discharge. Once the models have been developed, any observations of river width — including ground observations, satellite imagery and aerial imagery — can be used to estimate river discharge.

    "Remote sensing methods like these can significantly improve our ability to understand hydrologic responses to a changing climate in small, ungauged watersheds around the world," said Bethany Neilson, an associate professor at USU and co-author of the study.

    Journal Reference

    Tyler V. King , Bethany T. Neilson , Mitchell T. Rasmussen. Estimating Discharge in Low‐Order Rivers With High‐Resolution Aerial Imagery. Water Resources Research. (Feb 2018). DOI: 10.1002/2017WR021868

  • Is Organic Raw Water as Healthy as it's Made Out to Be?

    Raw water seems to be the latest organic health food trend for those wishing to pursue a more natural diet. But water treatment officials are more than just a little concerned.

    According to a recent report in the The New York Times, raw water being sold under the brand name 'Live Water' by Rainbow Grocery — a coop based in Mission District, San Fransisco — is so popular it literally flies off the supermarket shelves. When the grocery does have stock, the untreated, unfiltered, unsterilized bottles of raw spring water sell for $36.99 each, while a refill costs $14.99.

    Collecting raw water froma   stream. Collecting raw water from a stream.

    Besides the usual criticisms that bottled water face, such as high prices and the environmental issue of more plastic bottles entering the waste stream, the notion of untreated and unfiltered raw water being sold as a healthy drinking water option poses some potentially serious health risks. Which begs the question: why are consumers choosing to put their health at risk by opting for an unsafe, albeit organic, source of drinking water?

    According to The Verge, "Proponents claim that raw water's health benefits include naturally occurring minerals and microbes. But the reality for any inadequately treated water from the tap or a spring is that those minerals can sometimes include arsenic, and those microbes can be deadly."

    While officials within the water treatment industry, who would consider this to be common sense, no doubt shake their heads in disbelief, the raw water trend seems to have been born as a result of public mistrust of water treatment institutions responsible for supplying drinking water to their homes, as well as a distrust of the companies that sell conventional bottled water, for two reasons: they either remove beneficial constituents from the water or they add harmful ones.

    Consumers are becoming increasing wary of tap water. Contaminants such as fluoride, which many utilities routinely add to drinking water, as well as lead that leaches from water distribution pipes as water flows through, are issues of concern. Adherents of raw water believe that filtration methods employed by water treatment facilities remove components that are beneficial to our health, While companies that supply conventional bottled water use ozone or ultraviolet light to kill algae and then filter it to remove algal cells. They maintain that these processes kill beneficial bacteria, or probiotics.

    A woman drinking raw unfiltered water. A woman drinking raw unfiltered water.

    However, as healthy as this alternative may seem for those seeking a more natural, organic source of water, consumers should seriously think twice before jumping off the conventional water supply bandwagon and simply opting for yet another unregulated, potentially unsafe, money-grabbing scheme. Consumers who have concerns regarding the quality of drinking water supplied to their homes may be better off voicing their concerns to municipalities in an effort to improve water treatment practices, and put pressure on them to supply water that is healthy and safe to drink.

    Another alternative is to simply filter your tap water with drinking water filter like a berkey water filter that is capable of removing fluoride, lead, and any other potentially harmful contaminants you are concerned about. For those that truly believe in the health benefits of raw water — and there arguably are several benefits — it would be advisable to filter raw water with a good quality home drinking water filter to ensure all the nasty naturally occurring elements, such as bacteria, viruses, arsenic, etc are removed, without adding any harmful chemicals in the process.

  • California Wildfires Highlight Threat to Drinking Water Quality

    With California still reeling in the aftermath of devastating fires that forced thousands of residents to flee their homes and destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of land, the threat is still not over. Now that the fires have been quelled, authorities are trying to deal with the impact on local drinking water sources and water supply systems.

    Fires not only contaminate water sources with ash, silt and sediment, they also cause power outages that can affect water treatment plant's ability to treat water properly. This is exacerbated when water pressures drop as large volumes of water are used for fighting the fires. When mountain slopes are left bare after a fire, ash and sediment can be washed or blown into streams where it can clog up reservoirs, smother aquatic life and disrupt local water supplies.

    1920px-La_Tuna_fire_and_cityscape_1

    The latest Californian fires demonstrate just how disruptive forest fires can be to local water supplies. According to a report in High Country News, long after the Californian blaze was extinguished, heavy rainstorms continued to wash silt and other debris downstream, causing disruptions to water treatment facilities that forced local water utilities to stop drawing water.

    In forested watersheds — which provide nearly two-thirds of the West's water — trees, leaf litter and soil act as a sponge, soaking up rainfall and slowly releasing it to underground aquifers and waterways. Wildfires destroy that mechanism by baking the upper layers of soil, forming a compact, water-repellant layer, while at the same time burning plant roots that stabilize the soil. So when rain falls, instead of being absorbed by leaf litter, soil and roots, the water simply runs off, carrying sediment, debris and nutrients along with it, transporting them further downstream. This can result in devastating mudslides that can bury roads and destroy homes. It can also cause river beds, wetlands and reservoirs to become overloaded with silt, often requiring some form of intervention, such as dredging, to fix the problem. This silt and debris can make its way into water supplies, where it can compromise water quality.

    While sediment in drinking water is primarily an aesthetic issue — i.e. murky water — smaller particles can also clog filters. Organic matter can also react with chemicals used in the water treatment process to produce harmful compounds such as chloroform. Spikes in nutrient levels can fuel algal blooms that can affect both the taste and smell of drinking water.

    It is anticipated that huge fires such as these will occur more and more frequently in future, fueled by increasingly hot and dry conditions associated with climate change. While the onus rests on federal regulators and water managers to ensure that these events do not disrupt water services, you can take steps to ensure your family has access to safe drinking water should the authorities fail to do so. By investing in a good quality drinking water filter you will be able to filter out silt, sediment and potentially dangerous nutrients such as nitrates, as well as other common toxins, including bacteria. This will allow you to tap into practically any water source in the event that your water supply is disrupted.

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