Category — Colorado
When I give water talks, I tell my audience that in 2007, 88.9 of the nation’s community water systems (there are about 53,000 of them) met or exceeded federal safe-drinking-water standards, which left twenty-four million people drinking sub-par water. Everyone wants to know: Who are those people? Well, 156,498 live in small Colorado towns that don’t have the money or personnel to look after aging water systems. As David Olinger reports in today’s Denver Post, one town had a salmonella outbreak (probably from animal waste leaking into a cracked water tank, which contained six inches of sediment), another had dead squirrels in its water tank (the top wasn’t bolted on), and live birds fouled another. Statewide, there were 62 boil-water alerts in 2008 (I’ve been tracking boil-water alerts over at my other blog: royte.com/badwater). The breakdowns stem from a combination of aging infrastructure (tanks and pipes more than 50 years old), stricter federal rules, and population growth, Olinger writes. The state’s drinking-water program manager said most of the current 120 inspection-based violations — inadequate maintenance or incorrect water sampling, for example — are not directly health-related. Reading that, I remembered something an EPA water specialist told me: incorrect sampling or reporting is often an attempt to hide a health-based violation.
The cost to repair Colorado’s failing systems, in hundreds of cities, towns and districts, has geysered from $800 million in 2005 to $1.3 billion today. The federal stim, expected to bring $32 million to the state’s health department, ain’t going far. All of which makes me wonder: should the state spend over a billion to clean up water, of which less than five percent is actually consumed? If you’re rebuilding entire systems, why not provide dual plumbing, and treat water to the appropriate level for consumptive (drinking and bathing) and nonconsumptive (toilet flushing, lawn watering, car washing) use?
March 22, 2009 No Comments