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Keeping Water Clean - Why Water Quality Analysis is Important
Polluted water impairs the health of individuals, endangers wildlife, and increases water treatment costs. About 44% of assessed streams and 64% of assessed lake acres are not clean enough to allow fishing and swimming, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Pollutants may include any number of chemicals and nutrients, but the leading violators include bacteria, mercury, phosphorus, nitrogen, and organic material. 1
While water quality was the impetus behind the Clean Water Act, legalized in 1972, the Act was unclear when it came to protecting many US waterways. The Clean Water Rule, finalized in May 2015, protects streams and wetlands scientifically shown to have the greatest impact on downstream water quality and which form the foundation of US water sources. 2
The Rule is designed to mitigate the confusion that “compromised federal enforcement in over 500 pollution cases and allowed polluters to dump dangerous chemicals into many seasonal lakes, streams, and other waterways without fear of federal enforcement,” summarized New York Times writer Robert B. Semple Jr.3
Water quality is seldom a constant in any body of water. When it rains, contaminants such as oil, grease, chemicals from motor vehicles, pesticides, road salts, and more run off streets untreated into rivers, lakes, and bays.4 Nitrate runoff from fertilizer can concentrate in drinking water if not removed by water treatment.
Water scientists in environmental labs and research labs test water using equipment designed to detect these contaminants. Measurement instruments used in the field and in the laboratory include:
Additionally, manufacturers and researchers use systems to identify and analyze certain contaminants in the laboratory including:
While clean water is clearly a health issue, it is also an economic imperative. Fishing, manufacturing, energy production, tourism, and other industries add billions of dollars to our economy annually—and depend on clean water.5 With the Clean Water Rule, keeping water clean in streams and wetlands, which, in turn, feed rivers, lakes, and other waters, is now a bit easier to enforce.
1EPA. Water Quality Facts. Retrieved from http://water.epa.gov/aboutow/owow/waterqualityfacts.cfm on June 10, 2015. 2 EPA. Factsheet: Clean Water Rule. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/cleanwaterrule on June 5, 2015. 3Semple Jr, Robert B. “Good News for the Nation’s Waterways,” The New York Times. Retrieved from http://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/05/22/good-news-for-the-nations-waterways/?_r=0 on June 5, 2015. 4 EPA. Water Quality Facts. Retreived from http://water.epa.gov/aboutow/owow/waterqualityfacts.cfm on June 10, 2015. 5 EPA.. “Why Clean Water Rules.” Retrieved from http://www2.epa.gov/cleanwaterrule/why-clean-water-rules on June 12, 2015.