Drinking water systems carry the load of delivering a steady supply of safe water
In a world where access to clean and safe drinking water is considered a basic human right, municipal water treatment facilities play a crucial role in ensuring that the water that flows from our taps is safe for human consumption.
The responsibility of sourcing, treating, and distributing water that meets safety standards rests squarely on the shoulders of these municipalities and facilities. What are the steps they follow to deliver potable water to their communities, ensuring public health and protection of the environment?
They must find a reliable source of water, treat the water to remove any harmful substances, and ensure that the water meets strict quality standards. Once the water has been adequately treated, it needs to be delivered to the end-user via a distribution network, one that prevents contamination along the way.
Sourcing Water Responsibly
Municipalities usually source their water from nearby rivers, lakes, reservoirs, or groundwater aquifers. However, these water sources may contain a wide range of contaminants from both natural sources and human activities, including microorganisms, sediment, and heavy metals, as well as pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and other chemicals.
Responsible sourcing is key to ensuring a safe drinking water supply. A case in point: The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, began in 2014, when the city switched its drinking water supply from Detroit’s system to the Flint River in a cost-saving move. Tens of thousands of Flint residents were exposed to dangerously high levels of lead, together with an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease that killed at least a dozen people and sickened dozens more. Studies have shown that exposure to the contaminated water contributed to a doubling, and even tripling, of the incidence of elevated blood lead levels in the city’s children, with dire long-term health implications for the city’s youngest generation.
The Municipal Drinking Water Treatment Process
Once a reliable and safe water source has been found, the water undergoes a comprehensive treatment process, involving a series of steps before the treated water is distributed through an extensive network of pipes to homes and businesses.
Water treatment methods may vary from community to community depending on the characteristics of the source water, but the treatment process typically consists of the following key stages:
Coagulation: During this step, positively charged chemicals (such as aluminum or iron) are added to the water, where they neutralize the negative charge of grit and other particles in the water, binding them together to form larger particles that are easier to remove.
Flocculation: In flocculation, the water is gently mixed and chemicals may be added to facilitate the formation of larger, heavier masses.
Sedimentation: Once flocs have formed, the water is left undisturbed to allow the clumped particles to settle to the bottom, separating solids from the water.
Filtration: After sedimentation, the clear water on top is filtered to remove remaining impurities such as dissolved particles, microorganisms, chemical contaminants, and bad odors. For removal of smaller contaminants, including salt, membrane processes such as ultrafiltration or reverse osmosis may be used.
Disinfection: Finally, before water can be distributed to the end-user it is disinfected with chlorine, chloramines, ultraviolet (UV) light, or ozone gas to remove any pathogens that may be present. To ensure the water remains safe when it flows out of end-users’ taps, small amounts of residual chemical disinfectant remain in the water. While UV light and ozone are effective at disinfecting water in the plant, they do not have any residual disinfection properties.
Adhering to Safe Drinking Water Standards
Municipal water treatment facilities must adhere to strict water quality standards and regulations set by health authorities. These standards dictate the levels of pathogens, disinfection byproducts, heavy metals, and other contaminants that are deemed safe in drinking water. Regular testing must be conducted at points throughout the distribution system to ensure compliance.
The Role of Innovation
Municipal water treatment systems play a pivotal role in ensuring that communities have access to a safe supply of potable water. They continually embrace innovation to improve water quality, and employ sustainable practices and green technologies to reduce environmental impacts. Advanced treatment processes can allow wastewater to be recycled for reuse, preserving strained sources of fresh water.
Their tireless efforts, adherence to rigorous standards, and commitment to innovation make it possible for us to turn on our taps and enjoy a glass of water without hesitation. It’s not just a convenience; it’s a fundamental right that we must continue to safeguard.
In this ongoing journey, Seven Seas Water Group is leading the way with innovative technologies and flexible financing options, including Water-as-a-Service® partnerships and our Lease Plant Program. We are committed to advancing the quality and sustainability of water treatment, making it our mission to provide safe water solutions.
If you’re interested in learning more about our innovative approaches to water treatment or exploring potential public-private partnerships to enhance your community’s access to safe drinking water, please don’t hesitate to contact Seven Seas. Together, we can make a positive impact on the future of water treatment and the well-being of our communities.