A panel of experts in the field of water quality and supply and its impact on health gathered as part of the world Environment Day conference in Pittsburgh Thursday and they shed some light on a few lesser known aspects of the broad topic. Virginia Tech researcher Marc Edwards warned that some of the newest water conservation techniques are having unintended negative consequences. He studied several new buildings that employed methods such as rainwater capture and water recycling and found that the measures were so successful that the flow of water from the municipal water system was slowed to a trickle. That resulted in water sitting in the building’s plumbing for as much as three weeks before it made it to a drinking fountain. “Like milk, water has a limited shelf life,” says Edwards. He says while the water sat in those pipes it picked up dangerous levels of lead, bacteria grew and the water had “serious taste and odor problems.” Edwards says this type of issue will need to be addressed as water conservation efforts expand.
Herbert Buxton of the U.S Geological Survey says the way we monitor chemicals in water is not holistic enough. He says it is not enough to set acceptable levels for individual chemicals and then monitor them in water systems. He says we need to start looking at all of the chemicals in a body of water with an eye on how they interact. He points to natural and synthetic hormones and chemicals that impact human and animal hormonal systems. He says a situation could arise where no one level is high enough to cause concern but when added together the chemicals could impact the reproductive life of the animals that live in the water and the humans that use it.
“Water Health” Author Dr. Mike Magee has traveled around the world learning about how communities survive with and without clean water. He says irrigation has a direct link to poverty levels and the health of humans. He notes that in India, regions where irrigation is available, 30-percent of the population lives in poverty, while in areas without irrigation, 70-percent of the population lives in poverty. He says irrigation and the ability to stave off famine also go hand-in-hand.