Source Water: Our Resource, Our Responsibility

Oct. 30, 2009

It is a fact: The U.S. has the highest water consumption per capita in the world. Somehow this fact comes as no surprise, especially if you were to take a closer look at some of our inefficient or downright wasteful water use practices.

In the past, public water utilities usually increased their supplies as the demand for more water from a growing population increased. In recent years, however, climate change, droughts—and especially shrinking utility budgets and ever-increasing costs associated with the treatment, delivery and collection of water and wastewater—have raised awareness of water conservation practices.

The reuse of treated wastewater for nonpotable uses, for example, has become a common practice for water-starved areas, particularly in southern and southwestern parts of the U.S.

Even the implementation of indirect potable reuse (IPR) has received more public acceptance recently. For example, San Diego county residents are increasingly willing to support IPR. A recent water authority public opinion survey showed that support for using recycled water as part of the drinking water supply has increased substantially—from only 28% favoring it in 2005 to 63% in 2009.

With this positive public support, one may even hope that we can finally put the unpopular term “toilet-to-tap” behind us, and instead focus on the benefits of reusing water for drinking.

Despite the growing popularity of water conservation and water reuse practices, one growing concern needs to be addressed first: source water protection.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, protecting drinking water sources generally requires the combined efforts of many partners (e.g., public water systems, communities, resource managers and the public), and it is critical to providing healthy and safe drinking water.

Our nation’s watersheds, reservoirs and other water sources have various uses beyond drinking water and irrigation. We use water sources for recreation, wildlife conservation, food and shelter. What we do in our everyday lives can have an effect on watersheds, reservoirs and the quality of our drinking water.

We all have a commitment to environmental protection and source water has many threats. Anything from microbial and inorganic contaminants to pesticides, herbicides and organic chemical contaminants could critically affect the environmental balance and quality of source water. Source water is our vital resource, and it is our responsibility.

In an effort to help gain better understanding of source water protection and the effects of residential and commercial development in watersheds, as well as irrigation runoff, agricultural or industrial wastewater discharges, Water & Wastes Digest is excited to introduce its new Source Water special section (pages 30 and 32) in this month’s issue.

We hope that you will find the information in this section useful, and we invite you to e-mail us at [email protected] to let us know what other source water topics you would like to read about in the future.

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About the Author

Neda Simeonova

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