Water Supply Organization

Water for consumption can be divided into three categories: commercially available bottled water, privately owned sources (wells and springs), and public sources. Each category has a distinct set of regulations associated with its surveillance and governmental oversight. The most important distinction is that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water as a packaged consumption item, and the EPA regulates public water suppliers as utilities. This is true whether the supplier is a municipal agency, a public corporation, or a private firm supplying water to a city. Typically, neither the federal nor state government regulates the quality of water drawn from private sources.

Bottled water is most often drawn from privately owned watersheds; however, a quarter of bottled water sold consists of reprocessed tap water (Moore, 2003). In either case this water is not substantially different from tap water supplied to residents. Bottled water undergoes treatment, such as filtration and/or ozonation, to reduce and eradicate microorganisms before its distribution to the public retail system. Although there have been documented quality-control issues with distributed bottled water found to have high bacterial counts (Illinois Department of Public Health, 1996; Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 2000), the FDA stipulates that bottled water must meet specific safety and labeling requirements, according to standards similar to those proposed by the EPA for public water systems (FDA, 2002). State and local authorities also regulate bottled water. Overall, the FDA cites a good safety record, and bottled water suppliers are given a lower inspection priority than are municipal systems (FDA, 2002). However, bottled water is not immune to contamination; in November 2003, a terrorist or terrorists (the "Aquabomber") injected bleach, acetone, and ammonia into plastic bottles of water in 20 Italian cities, causing a number of consumers to be hospitalized (Reuters, 2003), and it is clear water bottling plants could have been targeted. We will not discuss bottled water distribution and surveillance methods here.

Municipal water suppliers deliver water to public access taps from open watersheds, typically reservoirs or lakes, or from underground sources, such as wells and springs. A typical water supply and distribution chain is shown in Figure 9.1.

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