November 2006, Vol. 18, No.11


Briefs Waterborne Disease Research Summaries Published

 A special July–August 2006 issue of the Journal of Water and Health published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showcases a series of review articles on research supported by EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

According to an EPA news release, the research was mandated by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) amendments of 1996. The papers include authors from the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory’s Human Studies Division and the Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water. The authors and researchers from CDC and EPA met in July 2005 to identify data gaps and make recommendations for the next generation of health studies related to microbial exposures in drinking water, the results of which are included in the publication.

The papers published cover topics such as assessing waterborne risks, the rate of acute gastrointestinal illness in developed countries, a review of household drinking water intervention trials and an approach to the estimation of endemic waterborne gastroenteritis in the United States, and an approach for developing a national estimate of waterborne disease due to drinking water and a national estimate model application.

The National Estimate Research was an extension of EPA’s intramural research program and ongoing collaborations with CDC. SDWA also mandated that EPA and CDC conduct five waterborne disease studies, the news release notes. EPA and CDC sponsored two workshops in 1998 and 1999 to develop a research plan for the National Estimate and Five Waterborne Disease Studies. The program involved both U.S. and international scientists and was focused on endemic gastrointestinal illnesses associated with microbial drinking water exposures. The special issue includes more than 30 authors from the United States and the United Kingdom.

The main purposes of the National Estimate Research papers are to review the state of the science, propose methodologies for estimating waterborne disease, and make available the data needed for a National Estimate of Waterborne Disease.

For a review of the research papers, see

World Water Monitoring Day Moves to WEF

 The Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) announced its adoption of World Water Monitoring DayTM, an international outreach program that builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world. The monitoring period, held annually from Sept. 13 to Oct. 18 and culminating in the Oct. 18 celebration, engages communities in monitoring the condition of local rivers, streams, estuaries, and other waterbodies. 

“As an international water quality organization, part of WEF’s mission is to educate the public about the importance of protecting our water resources,” said WEF Executive Director Bill Bertera. 

The international program was created in 2003 to introduce the importance of water monitoring, encourage a connection between communities and their watersheds, and expand the base of information about the health of individual watersheds over time. An easy-to-use test kit allows everyone from children to adults to sample local waterbodies for a core set of water quality parameters including temperature, acidity (pH), clarity (turbidity), and dissolved oxygen (DO). Field results are then put into an international database and summarized on the program’s Web site. 

The kit ($13 plus shipping and handling within the United States; international costs may vary) contains a step-by-step instruction booklet, one set of hardware (collection jar, pH test tube, DO vial, Secchi Disk decal, and a thermometer), pH and DO reagent tablets for 50 tests, and a material safety data sheet. 

Originally a national event, the program was founded in 2002 by Robbi Savage, executive director of America’s Clean Water Foundation, in celebration of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Year of Clean Water. Oct. 18 was selected as World Water Monitoring Day in recognition of the U.S. Clean Water Act — a milestone in efforts to restore and protect U.S. water resources — enacted by Congress in 1972. World Water Monitoring Day expanded to an international program the following year.

For more information, visit

U.S. Water Costs Climb Higher in Some Areas

 As towns and cities throughout the United States seek to improve ailing water and wastewater infrastructure, customers must foot the bill, as found by cost management consulting firm NUS Consulting Group (Park Ridge, N.J.).

An annual survey conducted by the NUS Consulting Group found that the average price of water in the United States climbed by 4.4% for the period from July 1, 2005, to July 1, 2006. The survey, which includes 51 water systems located throughout the country, revealed the highest price paid was in Huntington, W.Va., at $5.61 per 1000 gal while residents in Greenville, Miss., paid the lowest water price at $0.80 per 1000 gal. The average cost of water in the United States was $2.49 per 1000 gal. Including related sewer costs, the survey also found that the national average rose to $6.29 per 1000 gal — an increase of 5.2% from July 2005.

“Year after year water rates in the United States will predictably increase as cities can no longer forestall much needed infrastructure upgrades and repairs,” said Richard Soultanian, co-president of NUS Consulting Group. “This once cheap and plentiful resource can no longer be viewed in the same way, and businesses must accept the reality that, along with other utilities, water prices are on the rise and can adversely affect their bottom line.”

Some of the more notable increases in water prices were observed in Newark, N.J. (39.9%), Albuquerque, N.M. (21.8%), Miami (19.5%), Boston (15.8%), San Francisco (14.8%), and Albany, N.Y. (14.6%). Most of the increases were attributable to maintenance and construction costs, as these cities struggle to upgrade and maintain aging water and sewer systems. Of the surveyed cities, only Portland, Ore., and Los Angeles reported water rate decreases over the past year (24.6% and 9.3%, respectively).

For a copy of the 2006 Water Survey, contact The Devon Group at (732) 224-1000, ext. 11.

Water Enivornment Federation Releases New Wet Weather Guidance

 The Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) released an electronic publication, Guide to Managing Peak Wet Weather Flows in Municipal Wastewater Collection and Treatment Systems, in August. Developed under a Water Quality Cooperative Agreement between WEF and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the 117-page document is designed to help owners, planners, designers, and operators of wastewater collection and treatment systems improve and maximize performance during peak wet weather events. 

Publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) — often faced with a limited ability to control highly variable wet weather flows — must propose alternatives, assess impacts, and proactively communicate with regulators and the community during wet weather events. To help address these issues, WEF’s guide provides a method for POTWs to be more proactive in planning for these events and outlines a process that can be used to build support for real-world solutions to improve overall water quality. 

In addition, the guide supports implementation of EPA’s proposed Peak Wet Weather Discharge Policy. Announced in December 2005, the policy applies the bypass standard of “no feasible alternatives” to wet weather diversions at POTWs serving sanitary sewers. If finalized, it will require a comprehensive utility analysis to identify and assess alternatives to discharges, and restrict diversions when peak flows are largely due to poor collection system maintenance or lack of investment in capacity. 

Prepared by CH2M Hill Inc. (Englewood, Colo.) and Water Resources Strategies (Siasconset, Mass.), the document underwent a yearlong review process by a project steering committee of WEF members, a technical review group of Federation and individual technical experts, and volunteer stakeholders. 

Presented in three sections, Guide to Managing Peak Wet Weather Flows in Municipal Wastewater Collection and Treatment Systems is available for purchase at

USGS Report Details Blue River Basin Contaminants

 The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the City of Kansas City (Mo.) Water Services Department, released a report in September detailing the detection of prescription drugs, household and commercial cleaning compounds, pesticides, and other chemicals in the Blue River Basin, situated in Missouri and Kansas.

The report, Water-Quality in the Blue River Basin, Kansas City Metropolitan Area, Missouri and Kansas, July 1998 to October 2004, characterizes the water quality of receiving streams, provides a better understanding of the myriad factors that influence water quality in the Blue River Basin, and provides scientific data to assist in overflow control plan development, according to a USGS news release.
Sites downstream from wastewater treatment plants had the highest concentrations and loads of nutrients, household chemicals, personal care products, and pharmaceuticals in the basin, the study found.

The study is available online at Printed copies of the report and fact sheet can be purchased by calling 1-800-ASK-USGS.