The historic flooding last September and the lingering drought affecting many Colorado communities demonstrate the need for safe drinking water. In the absence of disasters that threaten water supplies, few people think about safe drinking water and what it takes to make it available at the turn of the faucet.
Water is an essential but limited resource that can become contaminated by natural forces and human activity. Water system managers and operators, laboratory workers, and state and local agencies make water safe to drink.
From the state’s varied source waters including rivers, reservoirs, wells and springs to the facilities that filter and disinfect the water, to the tanks that store it and the pipes that deliver it to our homes, cooperation and coordination by local utilities and state workers is required to ensure safe drinking water flows from the tap on demand.
Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proclamation of Colorado Drinking Water Week, May 5-10, calls on Coloradans to be aware of our role as stewards of nature’s water and the infrastructure upon which future generations depend. The proclamation serves as a reminder to be diligent about protecting our water from pollution and conserving water, and to recognize the professionals who keep our drinking water safe.
Many communities – even those unaffected by the flooding – need to upgrade their aging systems to continue providing safe drinking water. The Water Quality Control Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment oversees approximately 2,000 public drinking water systems in Colorado. The systems are operated and maintained by local authorities. During the past year, nearly half the incidents involving poor water quality investigated by the Water Quality Control Division were associated with infrastructure deficiencies, such as broken or excessively leaking pipes or problems with storage tanks.
Rebuilding aging drinking water infrastructure is almost always a financial challenge, even with the grants and loans available though federal and state agencies. It requires citizen support and careful planning by water system managers. Since 1997, the department, in cooperation with the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority and the Department of Local Affairs, has approved about 180 loans, worth $449 million, to water systems through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. The fund provides below-market financing to help water systems treat and deliver safe drinking water.
The responsibility to ensure safe drinking water does not reside solely with water systems and government agencies. Individuals play a significant role as well. In addition to conserving water, individuals must protect water quality in rivers, lakes, streams and wells by being careful with herbicides and pesticides; disposing of oil, antifreeze, unused prescriptions and personal care products properly; and becoming involved in water quantity and quality issues within the watersheds and water systems that supply their drinking water.
Consumers served by a community public water system can get an in-depth understanding of their water system by reading its annual Consumer Confidence Report. This year’s reports will be distributed to consumers this summer. Past copies generally are posted on each water system’s website. Citizens who have difficulty obtaining their system’s Consumer Confidence Report may contact the Water Quality Control Division at 303-692-3556.