Saturday, September 7, 2013


Any visitor to that beckoning continent called America cannot escape getting a feeling about the quality of life the population their enjoy though there are pockets of poverty here and there. Most remarkable is the undisputed quality and safety of water consumed by the people in almost all cities and settlements available through the protected water supply system. Imagine one able consume water even from a toilet tap without fearing about any infectious disease visiting them consequently! Compare this with what goes as protected water supply in a country like India where neither water is supplied regularly nor the safety guaranteed. Most urban areas do not treat raw water and supplies irregularly making people look for ways and means of making it potable and this unenviable situation has spawned an unethical industry that offers bottled water and water treatment gadgets with high price tag. In this context the recent report that the American water supply is not that safe as being touted is shocking indeed. Here is water a "Gorilla" type operation carried out by a group of scientists has brought out. 

"The 53,000 water utilities in the United States deliver some of the safest drinking water in the world — a public health victory of unrivaled success that began in 1908 with chlorination campaigns in Jersey City and Chicago. Still, millions of individual cases of waterborne diseases occur annually and related hospitalization costs approach $1 billion each year. In 2007 and 2008, the most recent years for which figures are available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 164 waterborne disease outbreaks, almost entirely from protozoan cysts of the parasite Cryptosporidium. New rules from the Environmental Protection Agency, instituted after earlier outbreaks, have led New York City and other municipalities with unfiltered surface reservoirs to begin zapping tap water with ultraviolet light to inactivate organisms like Cryptosporidium that resist chlorine-based treatments. The water supply system remains a deteriorating, mostly subterranean infrastructure so complex that in many municipalities officials can't even say where all the pipes are laid. The need for upgrades has never been greater, a report issued this year by the American Academy of Microbiology said, but they first want to understand what's living down there. "We have done the right thing with water treatment," said Joseph O. Falkinham III, a microbiologist at Virginia Tech. "What we have now is an unexpected consequence of doing the right thing."

It is amazing that the gastro system of Americans is so fragile even very minor microbial contamination can make them sick. Detection of protozoan parasites in deeply embedded supply lines explains why Americans get water borne infectious diseases and water safety regulations are now being revisited for making water safer. Another disturbing revelation is that most municipalities have no clue regarding the location of the subterranean supply lines which tend to deteriorate over a period of time. Besides these pipelines laid decades ago with the then prevailing materials and technology will have to be replaced if future water related health problems are to be avoided in a big way. Satellite imaging of subterranean pipes needs to be done to locate them for replacement. As usual civic bodies are starved of funds for renovation and rejuvenation of infrastructure like water supply and it is time federal government intervenes to pump massive funds for this purpose. Citizens also must pitch in with their share of the cost to make the urban living safer for future generations to come. 

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