Regulatory Reporting and Public Education

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Water systems in the United States submit reports each month to state or federal regulatory agencies, summarizing treatment-plant performance and sampling results. The majority of medium and large water systems in the United States have staff working twenty-four hours a day. If something were to go wrong at the plant, the plant operators have procedures that they would follow to shut down the plant, switch to alternate equipment, adjust chemical dosages, or collect additional samples. State and federal regulations pH an expression of the intensity of the basic or acid condition of a liquid; may range from 0 to 14, where 0 is the most acid, 7 is neutral, and 14 is most base; natural waters usually have a pH between 6.5 and 8.

One of the problems in protecting drinking water is that by the time results of tests for E. coli or Cryptosporidium or even anthrax are known, an urban population can already be at risk. Inventors Gregory Quist and Hanno Ix are out to change that. They use laser beams to scan a flow of water; particles in the water scatter the light beam and each scatter pattern is different. A computer analyzes the pattern and provides continuous realtime identification of microorganisms. The system is being tested at a Los Angeles, California, water facility.

specify when the water plant operator must notify the state or federal agency, and these requirements are built into the plant's procedures. The regulations also specify when the public must be notified. Orders to boil the water are usually jointly issued by the state health agency and the drinking-water system quickly after a problem has been discovered (most likely via telephone and radio). Public notices about problems with routine monitoring results or the failure to collect required samples would generally be distributed in the newspaper or via the water utility's annual water quality report (also called a consumer confidence report). The requirement that all water systems compile and distribute a user-friendly report began in 1998. This report provides an overview of the water-system activities and compliance with regulations for the year, as well as identifying ways that customers can get involved or acquire more information. see also Agriculture; Cryptosporidiosis; Groundwater; Health, Human; Nonpoint Source Pollution; Snow, John; Wastewater Treatment; Water Pollution.


American Water Works Association. (1999). Water Quality and Treatment, A Handbook of Community Water Supplies, 5th edition. San Francisco: McGraw-Hill.

American Water Works Association and American Society of Civil Engineers. (1998). Water Treatment Plant Design, 3rd edition. San Francisco: McGraw-Hill.

Peavy, Howard S.; Rowe, Donald R.; and Tchobanoglous, George. (1985). Environmental Engineering. McGraw-Hill Series in Water Resources and Environmental Engineering. San Francisco: McGraw-Hill.

Symons, James M. (1992). Plain Talk about Drinking Water: Answers to 101 Important Questions about the Water You Drink. Boulder, CO: American Water Works Association.

Internet Resource

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water Web site. Available from

Julie Hutchins Cairn

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