|Clean water global concern for School of Public Health|
|May 08, 2006|
Safe drinking water is essential to everyone! In the extreme case, we cannot survive for more than a couple of days without water. A major focus of Carolina's School of Public Health is finding ways to provide clean water for people across North Carolina and around the world. Through the Drinking Water Research Center, the Superfund Basic Research and Training Program, and many other programs and research projects, faculty, students and staff are making a difference in one of the world's most precious resources.
Why are we so committed to clean water? For the majority of people living in the United States, clean water is provided at the tap by our local water utility. The sources of fresh water include surface waters from rivers, lakes, and reservoirs and ground water from aquifers.
Surface water requires treatment to insure that any pathogenic micro-organisms and harmful chemical contaminants are removed before distributing the water to consumers. Ground water may also require some treatment before distribution.
For some segments of our population, safe drinking water is difficult to obtain. Some individuals may be located in areas where a municipal or community water supply is not available and the local ground water may be contaminated or may be too expensive to withdraw from the aquifer.
The availability of sufficient quantities of safe water for all uses -- including agriculture, industry, commercial and domestic use -- is important to us locally, across the United States and around the world.
Local to Global
The problems of water resources are ubiquitous; they transcend local, state, national and continental boundaries, and they are posing increasingly greater challenges for society.
Consider the location of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is in a relatively water-rich part of the world. The local water and sewer authority recently made a major shift in how it serves its customers by reclaiming wastewater for use by the University to better conserve the authority's fresh-water resources and to meet an ever-growing demand for clean water. This change, while local and seemingly small, has far-reaching implications when multiplied by similar actions in other communities and states to ensure adequate fresh-water for future uses.
At the state level in North Carolina, most communities east of I-95 rely exclusively on groundwater, 75% of which must be replaced within the next 15 years by far more expensive surface water that is of poorer quality. These communities likely will have to work with each other to establish regional water authorities to develop future water supplies and to build treatment facilities and distribution networks to meet consumer needs; the impacts on North Carolina's economy are expected to be substantial.
At the national level, the arid southwestern United States is rapidly growing in population and faces critical water shortages. Depletion of flows in major rivers spreads water shortage issues across state and national boundaries (e.g., the United States and Mexico in the Colorado River basin), while the tendency to pump underground water sources at unsustainable rates has endangered their long term viability. New research suggests that water resources challenges will become more formidable as climate change raises the likelihood of extreme droughts and tropical storms.
Globally, water resources development and management is one of the most important issues facing society. Billions of people live without adequate or safe supplies of drinking water, large areas of the developing world now face chronic and growing water scarcity, and poor countries will be affected most dramatically by climate change. Examples of important water resource issues in developing countries include the following:
Drinking Water Research Center
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For more information, please contact Ramona DuBose either by telephone at 919-966-9467 or by e-mail at email@example.com.