According to the American Water Works Association's (AWWA) 2007 State of the Industry Report, the most critical issues facing drinking water managers involve infrastructure repair and replacement, business factors, regulatory matters, water resources, and the workforce.

Aging infrastructure—and the funding needed to replace it—remains a top concern. Another is the imbalance between the cost of delivering quality water service and the rates that can be feasibly charged before outraging customers, taxpayers, and politicians.

Final Stages of E. Coli Monitoring

In 2008 utilities continue their work to abide by the Stage 2 Disinfectant Byproducts Rule, the Long Term 2 Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT2ESWTR), and the Groundwater Rule, among others. ATotal Coliform Rule revision that will increase distribution-system monitoring is also expected within the next couple years.

Larger, and some medium, public water systems that use surface water (or groundwater under the influence of surface water) have already started E. Coli and/or Cryptosporidium monitoring under LT2ESWTR, and this year all others must get with the program. Systems serving less than 10,000 customers must begin E. coli monitoring in October. If levels are above specific triggers, they must conduct Cryptopsoridium monitoring. Finding an approved lab and collecting samples takes a relatively high level of expertise, costly endeavors sure to further challenge perennially under-funded smaller utilities.

Washington Eyes Security Exemptions

Last year AWWA Government Affairs chief Tom Curtis reported the Bush Administration may support legislation subjecting water and wastewater utilities to the 2006 Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Security program, which requires facilities using and storing specified chemicals (including gaseous chlorine) to submit a special security vulnerability assessment and implement a site security plan. Having undertaken such work under the Bioterrorism Act of 2002, water and wastewater utilities are currently exempt.

New legislation could also mandate that facilities using hazardous chemicals find safer materials or practices unless they can make the case that existing materials are absolutely necessary.

But nothing has gone into effect yet.

“It's too soon to speculate,” says Kylah Hedding, AWWA public affairs manager. “But we're taking a close look at the practices and measures implemented by utilities following vulnerability assessments required in 2002.”

While allowing that security remains an important issue, the AWWAmaintains that local utilities—not the federal government—are best suited to decide how to treat water. “It's critical that decisions about which chemicals to use are made by the professionals who best understand local water quality,” says Hedding.

Fluoride Shortages

Shortages of some fluoridation chemicals will continue into the first half of the year as new communities seeking to fluoridate and a call for more fluoride products in non-water treatment applications exacerbate the affects of last year's production facility closures.

The cost of fluorosilicic acid (FSA) increased last year because its largest producer is experiencing production problems. Although new suppliers have entered the market—which should alleviate some shortages by the middle of this year—it may take a few years for the market to fully recover.

To cope, make sure storage is full by June, after which pronounced shortages of FSA typically occur, and increase order lead times during the warmer months.

Or, says the AWWA Fluoride Standards Committee, consider using sodium fluorosilicate (SFS) instead of FSAif your system is capable of feeding a dry chemical. Also, consider using SFS if you're initiating fluoridation or are ready to replace fluoridation equipment.

Two Kinds of Drought

The acute drought in Georgia, and particularly in the Atlanta area, has its upside. By garnering national attention it has helped elevate water resources issues in the public realm, illustrating that the time to take action has arrived.

Finally, workforce issues are catching up with the water industry. Replacing retiring employees, difficulties in recruiting qualified workers, and overall training of the workforce to meet growing sophistication in water operations are concerns that are expected to become increasingly important in the next few years.

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