COVID-19: Not a Threat to CA’s Municipal Water Supply
The COVID-19 health emergency has prompted panic buying of bottled water that has emptied store shelves and sown confusion over water safety. But the Public Policy Institute of California wants to reassure the public that, “the virus is not a danger to our public water supplies, and buying bottled water in response to it is unnecessary.”
Dave Eggerton, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies whose members are responsible for about 90% of the water delivered in California, says the safety of the municipal water supply has been confirmed by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control. “Our treatment plants use a disinfectant process that destroys this virus, along with other pathogens that threaten public health. After the water is treated, chlorine is added during the delivery process as an added precaution,” he explained.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which provides water to 19 million people living in to Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties, concurs.
“The novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, does not present a threat to the safety of Metropolitan’s treated water supplies.” — Jeffrey Kightlinger, Metropolitan Water District
Reassuring Americans that they “can continue to use and drink water from their tap as usual” is twofold—it involves explaining that the water is safe to consume and that the supply will not be disrupted during the ongoing pandemic.
On March 27, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent a letter to state Governors requesting that water and wastewater workers be considered essential workers by state authorities when enacting restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“Ensuring that drinking water and wastewater services are fully operational is critical to containing COVID-19 and protecting Americans from other public health risks. Handwashing and cleaning depend on providing safe and reliable drinking water and effective treatment of wastewater.” — Andrew Wheeler, EPA
Given that water systems are critical infrastructure that must remain operational to ensure the safe supply of water to our homes and hospitals, the sector is taking extra steps to keep its employees safe, while they keep our water safe.
Kightlinger has taken the step of declaring a state of emergency for Metropolitan that has allowed the agency to quickly take steps to “protect the health of its employees, minimize potential exposure and avoid widespread impacts to its workforce.” Metropolitan has also ensured it has the necessary backup equipment, supplies and treatment chemicals in the event of disruptions to the supply chain for these items. The agency also continues to build its already robust supply of water in storage.
“Delivering safe, reliable water to Southern California is paramount to the welfare of the 19 million people we serve. Through its pandemic action and business continuity plans, Metropolitan is prepared to ensure water safety and reliability as conditions evolve.” — Jeffrey Kightlinger, Metropolitan Water District