Category Archives: Small Water Systems

Status of Small Water Systems in Nordic Countries

Gunnarsdottir MJ, Persson KM, Andradottir HO, Gardarsson SM. Status of small water supplies in the Nordic countries: Characteristics, water quality and challenges. International journal of hygiene and environmental health. 2017 Aug 24. pii: S1438-4639(17)30391-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2017.08.006.

Access to safe water is essential for public health and is one of the most important prerequisites for good living and safe food production. Many studies have shown that non-compliance with drinking water quality standards in small water supply systems is much higher than in large systems. Nevertheless, people served by small water supply systems have the right to the same level of health protection. Actions are therefore needed to improve the situation. The objective of the present study was to carry out a baseline analysis of the situation in the Nordic region and provide recommendations for governmental policy and actions. Data were gathered on number of water supplies, population served, compliance with regulations and waterborne disease outbreaks from various sources in the Nordic countries. The collected data showed that there are about 12500 regulated water supplies, 9400 of which serve fewer than 500 persons. The number of unregulated and poorly regulated supplies is unknown, but it can be roughly estimated that these serve 10% of the Nordic population on a permanent basis or 2.6 million people. However, this does not tell the whole story as many of the very small water supplies serve transient populations, summerhouse dwellers and tourist sites, with many more users. Non-compliance regarding microbes is much higher in the small supplies. The population weighted average fecal contamination incidence rate in the Nordic region is eleven times higher in the smaller supplies than in the large ones, 0.76% and 0.07%, respectively. Registered waterborne disease outbreaks were also more frequent in the small supplies than in the large ones.

Drinking Water Quality in Small Canadian Water Systems

Scheili A, Rodriguez MJ, Sadiq R. Seasonal and spatial variations of source and drinking water quality in small municipal systems of two Canadian regions. The Science of the total environment. 2014 Dec 3. pii: S0048-9697(14)01663-5. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.11.069.

A one-year sampling program covering twenty-five small municipal systems was carried out in two Canadian regions to improve our understanding of the variability of water quality in small systems from water source to the end of the distribution system (DS). The database obtained was used to develop a global portrait of physical, chemical and microbiological water quality parameters. More precisely, the temporal and the spatial variability of these parameters were investigated. We observed that the levels of natural organic matter (NOM) were variable during different seasons, with maxima in the fall for both provinces. In the regions under study, the highest trihalomethane (THM) and haloacetic acid (HAA) levels were achieved in warmer seasons (summer, fall), as observed in previous studies involving large systems. Observed THM and HAA levels were three times higher in systems in the province of Newfoundland & Labrador than in the province of Quebec. Taste and odor indicators were detected during the summer and fall, and higher heterotrophic plate count (HPC) levels were associated with lower free chlorine levels. To determine spatial variations, stepwise statistical analysis was used to identify parameters and locations in the DS that act as indicators of drinking water quality. As observed for medium and large systems, free chlorine consumption, THM and HAA levels were dependant on their location in the DS. We also observed that the degradation of HAAs is more important in small systems than in medium or large DS reported in the literature, and this degradation can occur from the beginning of the DS. The results of this research may contribute to providing precious information on drinking water quality to small system operators and pave the way for several opportunities to improve water quality management.

Click here for paper (fee).

H.R.5659 — Water Supply Cost Savings Act

Water Supply Cost Savings Act or the Savings Act – Requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to: (1) update their programs that provide drinking water technical assistance by including information on cost-effective, innovative, and alternative drinking water delivery systems; and (2) disseminate information on the cost effectiveness of wells and well systems to communities and nonprofit organizations seeking federal funding for drinking water systems serving small communities (3,300 or fewer persons).

Requires applicants for federal grants or loans for those drinking water systems to certify that wells have been considered as an alternative drinking water supply.

H.R.5659 — Savings Act (Introduced in House – IH)HR 5659 IH

113th CONGRESS2d SessionH. R. 5659To reduce Federal, State, and local costs of providing high-quality drinking water to millions of Americans residing in rural communities by facilitating greater use of cost-effective well water systems, and for other purposes.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVESSeptember 18, 2014Mr. STUTZMAN introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committee on Agriculture, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned

A BILLTo reduce Federal, State, and local costs of providing high-quality drinking water to millions of Americans residing in rural communities by facilitating greater use of cost-effective well water systems, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the `Water Supply Cost Savings Act’ or the `Savings Act’.


Congress finds that–

(1) the United States is facing a drinking water infrastructure funding crisis; the Environmental Protection Agency (the `EPA’) projects a $384 billion shortfall in funding over the next 20 years; and this funding challenge is particularly acute in rural America;

(2) there are 52,000 community water systems in the United States, of which 41,801 are small community water systems;

(3) EPA’s most recent Drinking Water Needs Survey placed the shortfall in drinking water infrastructure funding for small communities (3,300 or fewer persons) at $64.5 billion;

(4) small communities often cannot finance the construction and maintenance of drinking water systems because the cost per resident for this investment would be prohibitively expensive;

(5) drought conditions have placed significant strains on existing surface water supplies, and many communities across the country are now considering the use of groundwater and community well systems to provide drinking water; and

(6) 42 million Americans receive their drinking water from individual wells, and millions more rely upon community well systems for their drinking water.


It is the sense of the Congress that–

(1) providing rural communities with the knowledge and resources necessary to fully utilize wells and community well systems can save local, State, and Federal governments and taxpayers billions of dollars over the next two decades;

(2) wells and community well systems can provide safe and affordable drinking water to millions of Americans; and

(3) the Federal Government lacks the resources to finance the drinking water infrastructure needs of millions of citizens residing in rural America, and wells and community well systems can help significantly to close this funding gap.


The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Secretary of Agriculture shall–

(1) update existing programs of the Agency and the Department of Agriculture designed to provide drinking water technical assistance to include information on cost-effective, innovative, and alternative drinking water delivery systems, including systems that are supported by wells; and

(2) disseminate information on the cost effectiveness of wells and well systems to communities and not-for-profit organizations seeking Federal funding for drinking water systems serving 3,300 or fewer persons.


In any application for a Federal grant or loan for a drinking water system serving 3,300 or fewer persons, a unit of local government or not-for-profit organization shall certify that it has considered, as an alternative drinking water supply, drinking water delivery systems sourced by publicly owned individual wells, shared wells, and community wells.


Not later than 3 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Secretary of Agriculture shall report to Congress on–

(1) the utilization of innovative and alternative drinking water systems described in this Act;

(2) the range of cost savings for communities utilizing innovative and alternative drinking water systems described in this Act; and

(3) the utilization of drinking water technical assistance programs operated by the Agency and the Department.


National Children’s Study household testing does not reflect drinking water exposures in rural areas

This particular paper evaluated the applicability of household water sampling in rural NCS study areas. But in general, measurement of tap water concentrations do not directly measure human exposures regardless of how tight the statistics turn out. Tap water measurements can only serve as a surrogate measure used to estimate actual human exposure if other data (e.g. actual tap water intake) are known or are estimated (the common practice). This is true even in large metropolitan water systems.

Binkley TL, Thiex NW, Specker BL. Validation of drinking water disinfection by-product exposure assessment for rural areas in the National Children’s Study. Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology. 2014 Jul 16. doi: 10.1038/jes.2014.51.

The objective of this study was to provide evidence to evaluate the proposed National Children’s Study (NCS) protocol for household water sampling in rural study areas. Day-to-day variability in total trihalomethane (TTHM) concentrations in community water supplies (CWS) in rural areas was determined, and the correlation between TTHM concentrations from household taps and CWS monitoring reports was evaluated. Daily water samples were collected from 7 households serviced by 7 different CWS for 15 days. Coefficients of variation for TTHM concentration over 15 days ranged from 8% to 20% depending on the household. Correlations were tested between TTHM household concentrations and the closest date- and location-matched CWS monitoring reports for the 15-day mean (R=0.85, P50 μg/l corresponded to measured NCS household concentrations ranging from 2 to 60 μg/l. TTHM concentrations were higher in CWS than NCS samples (11.2±3.2 μg/l, mean difference±SE, P<0.01). These results show that in rural areas there is high variability within households and poor correlation at higher concentrations, suggesting that TTHM concentrations from CWS monitoring reports are not an accurate measure of exposure in the household.

Click here for full paper (fee).

China’s rural public health system

Tian M, Feng D, Chen X, Chen Y, Sun X, Xiang Y, Yuan F, Feng Z. China’s Rural Public Health System Performance: A Cross-Sectional Study. PLoS One. 2013 Dec 26;8(12):e83822. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0083822.

BACKGROUND: In the past three years, the Government of China initiated health reform with rural public health system construction to achieve equal access to public health services for rural residents. The study assessed trends of public health services accessibility in rural China from 2008 to 2010, as well as the current situation about the China’s rural public health system performance.

METHODS: The data were collected from a cross-sectional survey conducted in 2011, which used a multistage stratified random sampling method to select 12 counties and 118 villages from China. Three sets of indicators were chosen to measure the trends in access to coverage, equality and effectiveness of rural public health services. Data were disaggregated by provinces and by participants: hypertension patients, children, elderly and women. We examined the changes in equality across and within region.

RESULTS: China’s rural public health system did well in safe drinking water, children vaccinations and women hospital delivery. But more hypertension patients with low income could not receive regular healthcare from primary health institutions than those with middle and high income. In 2010, hypertension treatment rate of Qinghai in Western China was just 53.22% which was much lower than that of Zhejiang in Eastern China (97.27%). Meanwhile, low performance was showed in effectiveness of rural public health services. The rate of effective treatment for controlling their blood pressure within normal range was just 39.7%.

CONCLUSIONS: The implementation of health reform since 2009 has led the public health development towards the right direction. Physical access to public health services had increased from 2008 to 2010. But, inter- and intra-regional inequalities in public health system coverage still exist. Strategies to improve the quality and equality of public health services in rural China need to be considered.

Click here for full paper (Open Source).

Muskegon County (MI) ignores reality…..communities want self-determination on water

When given a choice, communities want control over their own destiny. That destiny is closely related to controlling their own water supply and treatment.

Despite the decade’s old effort of USEPA to force communities to overcome what they think are “football” rivalries…..communities across the land still prefer and will chose self-determination…..not forced consolidation.

This editorial get’s it exactly wrong (click here). Let communities large or small make their own choices.  The “failure of leadership” blame in situations like this is tossed out by statists who want to arm-twist and intimidate communities to be under the thumb of some other government body above them. If communities choose to consolidate water service, great. If not, leave them alone.


China commits to providing drinking water access to rural areas

The Chinese government has passed a 5 year plan to solve problems concerning drinking water safety for 298 million rural residents from 2011-2015….click here for news article..