Around the Water Cooler: What’s In Your Water?

By Lahne Mattas-Curry  

What's in your water?

Recently a friend who knows I work on water issues asked me, “What’s in our water?” Good question, right? The answer is a little more complex than just H2O. The truth is that things we flush, throw away, or pour down the sink all have an impact on “what’s in our water.” 

Toxins, contaminants, sediments, and other pollutants all are things that can affect our water quality. 

But the good news is that EPA researchers are developing a variety of tools that can help water utilities better manage our water and make sure that it not only complies with the Safe Drinking Water Act, but goes beyond to protect public health and make sure we have tasty water to drink. 

One of those tools, a one-stop-shop type of tool, called the Drinking Water Treatability Database, helps users looking for information on water contaminants and water treatment techniques. This information can then inform on-the-job decisions about contamination control and treatment. Researchers, environmental groups, and academics can also use the database to enhance understanding and direct future research of drinking water contaminants and their treatment processes. To learn more about the database, click here

Another model under development helps prioritize chemicals for testing. EPA researchers and their partners are developing user-friendly online tools called Dashboards. These interactive web-based tools will provide accessible, user-friendly chemical exposure data, hazard data, decision rules, and predictive models. This information will then help decision makers prioritize chemicals that warrant further testing and will eventually help predict a chemical’s potential to cause harm to human health and the environment. 

The Ubertool, for example, combines different data sources and ecological models to help decision makers estimate the effects of chemicals on aquatic plants and animals. 

Next time you go to your sink and pour a big glass of delicious water, know that EPA researchers are working hard to make sure that it stays cool, refreshing and safe. They are constantly assessing threats to our water and making sure we stay ahead of the game. 

Lahne Mattas-Curry works with EPA’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources research team and a frequent “Around the Water Cooler” contributor.

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