Water Research Foundation, EPA to Collaborate

The Water Research Foundation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on research and information collection, according to a Feb. 2 press release. The collaboration will focus on managing risks to the nation’s drinking water distribution system. The partners’ work will further inform stakeholders and help water utilities better protect our nation’s drinking water.

“We are pleased to again to work side-by-side with EPA experts,” said Robert Renner, executive director of the foundation. “We have worked jointly on all of the important issues that relate to drinking water: the arsenic standard, the microbial disinfection by-product rule, trace contaminants in drinking water, and climate change. This next project promises to further expand our knowledge of the water quality in the distribution system.”

“We recognize that the foundation is a key organization with ability to advance research and improve our understanding of the causes of potential health risks from drinking water distribution systems,” added Cynthia Dougherty, director of EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water.

The collaboration arose from a review of the Total Coliform Rule. In place since 1989, the rule helps utilities measure the presence of dangerous bacteria in drinking water. A federal advisory committee recently reviewed the Total Coliform Rule and recommended EPA join forces with industry to assess a wide range of issues that may impact distribution system water quality. The agreement comes two years after the foundation developed its own strategic initiative to focus on similar distribution system water quality issues.

Distribution systems span the country across almost 1 million miles. They consist of the pipes, pumps, valves, storage tanks, and reservoirs that carry drinking water from treatment plants to consumers’ taps.

For years, utilities have maintained the quality of drinking water in distribution systems; but scientists seek to further understand how much water quality degrades as water travels through these pipes and storage tanks. They also want to uncover any links between distribution system water quality and public health. Finally, they want to find better tools to assess and manage distribution system-related risks.