Water Quality

564 words | 2 page(s)

Drinking water in Western countries originates from rivers, streams, and other local sources of water. In most areas, the use of these resources is sufficient for local needs, although drought conditions or unsustainable growth may cause areas to tap into local aquifers. Using aquifer resources is not recommended for areas, as careful management must be used to ensure that withdrawal rates do your surpass the refill rate on these resources. In most cases, aquifers are a non-renewable resource and empty out if they are used to a certain point.

The greatest threats of contamination for drinking water supplies stem from introduction of pollution from agricultural, sewage, and industrial use. Industrial and agricultural use represents the majority need for water use, and many treatment plants are ineffective in removing industrial pollutants from the water. Sewage contamination is particularly dangerous, as it can lead to outbreaks in disease within a community. Water treatment plants are only designed to remove particular contaminants from drinking water, and as such, vigilance must be used to ensure that non-removable pollutants are introduced into the water supply. For example, pharmaceutical waste from consumer use is not filtered out by drinking water and can have significant effects on wildlife later in the use cycle.

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Water quality mainly follows a cycle of quality that depends on the level of use and the amount of rainfall that an area receives in a particular time period. Quality tends to peak during spring and fall, as there are heavy rains in most areas during this time. Summer water quality is usually lower, as there is a great deal of agricultural use that impacts quality if not properly treated. As such, winter typically maintains a lower water quality than other times.

Water quality can vary based on the severity of use and the weather event. Unusual weather events can lower water quality in some instances, as they can damage the treatment facilities for municipal water supplies. Furthermore, they can affect quality by introducing contaminants and particles into the water that would not normally be present. As such, unusual weather events are not uniform in their effect on water quality and depend on the intensity the event.

Raw water is treated through a number of methods to ensure that it is consistently safe for public consumption. The water is passed through multiple filtering methods and is processed in industrial water treatment facilities that prevent a number of contaminants from remaining in the water. This is effective in removing common wastes in the water and sterilize it for drinking use. While effective for common contaminants, this process does not remove pharmaceutical or industrial pollutants within the water and there is a constant monitoring of water quality to ensure that these instances do not affect use.
Water quality and safety is controlled by municipal organizations that are heavily regulated by federal, state and local legislation. Local ensures that water quality is adequate for the community as a whole and local tax dollars are used to manage all water treatment resources in an area. In some cases, water treatment is managed by federal agencies. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates the quality of water in the United States, with municipal water utilities following regulations from this agency. As a whole, however, other aspects of water management are divided between local and state agencies, with federal involvement only occurring on a higher level.

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