UP THE CREEK
July 1, 2007
Of Water Quality and Quantity
Enclosed in this month’s bulky envelope with your bill is the annual Water Quality Report, ironically referred to by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the “Consumer Confidence Report.” There are two ways to interpret the word “confidence,” one of which is commonly abbreviated to “con,” sometimes followed by “game.” The other connotation, the one we hope you will infer, is that you are encouraged to have confidence in the safety of your drinking water.
Around here, and not that many years ago, acceptable drinking water meant that the color was not too dark and there were only a few visible wrigglers in it. In those days most farmhouses were served by an underground cistern filled once or twice a year out of the irrigation ditch. A water dog - excuse me - salamander living in the cistern was considered desirable because it kept down the population of bugs, which could become a nuisance by distracting the cook as they tried to hop out of the pot she was boiling for soup. Those interesting days are gone, and along with them a number of intestinal ailments that were often blamed on eating green tomatoes or sleeping with the head of the bed up against the south wall.
Nowadays we fuss over precisely how many molecules of a contaminant - anything not made out of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen - exist in a billion molecules of water. As analyses become ever more precise, purity standards expressed in parts per trillion are just around the corner, we can be uh, confident.
There is no question that modern drinking water standards have contributed greatly to the health and longevity of human beings, and that we should strive to perfect our techniques in creating and delivering the best possible product. However, when I visit my aunt, who probably spent half her life (she’s 102) straining water through her teeth (she still has them), I have to wonder if we really know as much as we think we do.
On the other hand, water quantity is an easier topic to understand, because when there ain’t enough, there just ain’t enough. That was the situation on the weekend of June 23 and 24. Due to a combination of a fire at the foot of Cedar Mesa, a couple of pipeline leaks, and hot dry weather bringing out people’s instinct to sprinkle, we began that weekend without enough water in our storage tanks. Through the services of the Delta County Sheriff’s Office, we issued an outside watering ban to all our users via the reverse 911system. In doing so, we learned where we need to improve our liaison with that office in order to streamline the process if it is ever needed again.
Thank you for heeding our request. By the end of the weekend, our tanks had recovered and the watering restriction was cancelled. To minimize recurrences, we plan to increase our storage volume, increase our treatment plant capacity, and replace aging and undersize main lines as rapidly as finances permit.
Coming up is a scary holiday if you are a water manager or fire fighter. Independence Day is a joyful and patriotic time, but it comes in the hottest, driest part of summer, when many people use their day off to water their withering yards. There is also the tendency to buy a bag of fireworks and shoot them into the cheat grass, even though we, as adults, should be aware of the risk. Have a happy 4th, and please be careful with fire, water, and firewater.