Environmental Protection

Canary Software to Help Secure Nation's Water Supply

Scientists from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy (DOE) have collaborated in developing innovative water quality software that enhances a water system’s ability to detect when there has been intentional or unintentional contamination.

The Canary software can help detect a wide variety of chemical and biological contaminants, including pesticides, metals, and pathogens. Once contamination is detected quickly, a water utility can issue a “Do Not Drink” order to prevent customers from ingesting the water.

"This cutting-edge technology helps to protect all Americans and secure our nation's water supply from threats," said Paul Anastas, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Research and Development. "The new software also improves our drinking water systems and allows water utilities to quickly advise customers when their water is not safe to drink."

Drinking water utilities use the software in conjunction with a network of water quality sensors to rapidly detect contamination and to more accurately assess when and how they need to respond. The software helps to distinguish between natural variation in water quality measurements and hazardous contamination and sends an alarm to indicate when water utilities should take steps to investigate and respond to potential contamination. In addition to achieving homeland security goals, Canary can be used to enhance day-to-day water quality management, and ensure the safety and security of water for all consumers.

The Greater Cincinnati Water Works is the first utility to pilot the software and has been using Canary to assist in detecting and managing contamination incidents since 2007. The software is currently being evaluated in four other U.S. cities -- New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and San Francisco -- and in Singapore.

EPA and DOE received a 2010 “R&D 100 Award” from R&D Magazine for developing Canary.

As a free software tool, Canary is available worldwide to drinking water utilities striving to provide safe water to their customers. The software has been accessed by more than 600 users in 15 countries.

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