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Story Discussion: Where is funding most needed for U.S. drinking water systems?

Story Discussion: Where is funding most needed for U.S. drinking water systems?

Story Discussion: Where is funding most needed for U.S. drinking water systems?

(OP)
ENGINEERING.com writer Joan Thompson's article on engineering clean water has been published at:

Engineers: Help Us Fix Drinking Water Systems in the U.S.
http://www.engineering.com/DesignerEdge/water/Arti...

Quote:

Engineering innovation is at an all-time high. Tech news sites spew fresh headlines about engineering feats from 3D-scanning phones to quantum computing to artificial gills....

We live in a strange world where engineering breakthroughs such as these are juxtaposed against headlines about places in America where the drinking water is so poor that the water comes out of people’s taps a rusty brown color.

Engineers, we want to hear from you:

Where is funding most needed in the drinking water industry? If water treatment plants are not functioning properly, should we make plans to replace them? Retrofit them? Or scrap them entirely and reorient the distribution system to take water from other plants? What does this decision depend on?

RE: Story Discussion: Where is funding most needed for U.S. drinking water systems?

Just as a discussion starter i would suggest that the reason that many water water treatment plants are not functioning properly, is because as an industry we have been way too successful. People no longer understand why drinking water systems are built and must be maintained.
Water supply systems are fundamentally about protecting human health. Water and wastewater treatment combined havecontributed way more to the improvement of health than the discovery of any drug or any medical procedure but no one ever thinks about it. If we ignore the more isolated events,like Walkerton, North Battleford , Milwaukee and Flint, and think back 50 to 100 years people used to die and suffer from water borne disease everyday. Not just in Africa but in the "developed" world as it then stood.

Most people think about water supply systems in terms of :

1) It so expensive.
2) Is there enough water to water my garden or fill my swimming pool.

In the years since WW2 in particular water treatment systems have been built and improved the incidence of water borne disease has been almost eliminated through water supply systems. There have been multiple generations who have no knowledge of such events. As an industry we have built the systems with multiple barriers, redundancies and back-ups to make certain that safe water is always delivered, and then established emergency procedures so that consumers are protected even when things go wrong.

I am going to propose that the reason that drinking water systems are failing , is because those that make the decisions on such things do not understand why drinking water systems are important. If you don't understand this then you won't allocate sufficient money, time and resources to do what is necessary.

Likewise customers want/expect or are told that they must have everything at "low cost". This puts utilities , water system operators etc under pressure to cut corners with maintenance , operations and capital works. Of course there is always a massive outcry when prices go up, a bigger outcry when there is no water , and a demand for the rolling of heads when there is a disease outbreak.

If people say that water is expensive think about this. What other multi-purpose product is delivered to your door safe ready to use for a couple of dollars per ton.

Regards
Ashtree
"Any water can be made potable if you filter it through enough money"

RE: Story Discussion: Where is funding most needed for U.S. drinking water systems?

This is typical sensationalistic "journalism." We have rockets, so why are we still driving IC vehicles? None of the mentioned innovations have to do with improving delivered water quality. In a place like Flint, simply replacing the existing lead pipes with even last century's technology would have eliminated the lead problem. The only issue is money. Innovations are mostly irrelevant, as we can get decent water quality without any specific innovations.

The specific questions posted are not engineering questions; they're questions about political will and economic will. Every project goes through a phase of asking "make, buy, or refurbish (if applicable)." But, all else being equal, it's a funding problem, given that all else is equal by virtue of a non-stressing water quality requirement.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers

RE: Story Discussion: Where is funding most needed for U.S. drinking water systems?

I agree with IRstuff's comment about the innovative solutions.

Many if not most of the water quality issues could be managed or at least improved with existing technology and often with the equipment already in place. Its just a matter of the application of sound water quality management principles( source to tap), having the resources required and the will to do so.

Regards
Ashtree
"Any water can be made potable if you filter it through enough money"

RE: Story Discussion: Where is funding most needed for U.S. drinking water systems?

I agree with IRstuff. How will new technology solve our problems when we can't, or are unwilling, to maintain the technology that is on the street right now. I see so many examples of buying the latest gizmo, just because it is marketed as the latest and greatest, without ever thinking about if it is really useful or needed, or will function in the socio-techno-economic environment in which it will be installed. Why overload systems with components that will never be maintained properly. How many LIDAR pipeline surveys have been purchased and the data never actually used for anything more than padding some hard disk. We don't need to know the location of every leaf of every tree. Mostly we just need to know how to procure funding to expand, operate and maintain what we have now. Lest attention to marketing. More attention to need and function.

RE: Story Discussion: Where is funding most needed for U.S. drinking water systems?

Funding is needed for capital improvements as well as operations.

RE: Story Discussion: Where is funding most needed for U.S. drinking water systems?

Our infrastructure has a limited lifetime. Nobody ever expected waterlines to be still in service after 100 years. How can we expect those 100-year old water systems to function just like new? Would anybody have expected that lead pipes (or cast iron pipes with lead caulked joints) could result in high amounts of lead in the water and that would be a bad thing? The water crisis in Flint could have been predicted. After all, it is not the first time that a change in water quality caused pipeline corrosion. The City of Tucson experienced nearly the same thing in 1993 when they started using water from the Colorado River instead of well water.
http://academic.engr.arizona.edu/HWR/Fall02/Stacy/...

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