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HW Fall 2016 FINAL cover 

The Fall 2016 issue of Headwaters magazine looks at public health. The magazine introduces the law and policy governing safe drinking water, then takes a close look at how public health concerns related to as-yet-unregulated contaminants are monitored and evaluated. The issue also focuses on the unique public health challenges rural areas face, while exploring efforts to pursue increased water reuse, including from direct potable reuse systems, through initiatives related to technology and policy. The issue's articles are set against the backdrop of public alarm raised about the safety of public water during recent high-profile events, including Flint's lead crisis and PFC groundwater contamination near Colorado Springs. Flip through or download the issue here

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Q&A With Water for People's Eleanor Allen

Water for People's Eleanor Allen (left) celebrats improved hygiene in Peru. Courtesy: Water for People


In July 2015, Eleanor Allen traded her job running a global water business to take up the reins at a global water nonprofit. Deeply affected by an early-career Peace Corps experience, Allen has always looked for ways to be most impactful with her life. Now, as Water For People’s CEO she’s part of changing lives across Latin America, Africa and India through the organization’s Everyone Forever model, where the endgame is sustainable, safe water and sanitation for every home, clinic and school in partner districts. Headwaters senior editor Jayla Poppleton interviewed Allen about her role in advancing an organizational strategy to meet the most basic of all human needs. 

 *This is the full transcript of the abridged interview that was published in the magazine.

Read more: Q&A With Water for People's Eleanor Allen

Setting the Standard

A pond fills with blue-green algae, certain strains of which may harbor and release potent cyanotoxins linked by EPA to negative health effects. Although EPA does not yet regulate cyanotoxins, it issued drinking water health advisories in 2015, which Colorado followed. 
Credit: Christian Fischer/Wikimedia Commons

By Samantha Tisdel Wright

Geno Wasilewski will always remember the summer of 2016 as the one when Ferril Lake filled with slime.

As the owner of Wheel Fun Rentals in Denver’s City Park, Wasilewski got a front-row seat to the spectacle, as a fibrous mat of algae smothered the shallow 24-acre lake, shutting down his paddle boat and kayak rental business for 41 days.

“It was ugly, green and nasty,” he said. “You could not paddle a boat through it—it was like pushing a carpet.”

Algal blooms have shown up at Ferril Lake for eight of the past 11 years. But 2016’s episode, triggered by a steamy heat wave that warmed the nutrient-rich water to tepid bathtub temperature, was epic in proportion, covering up to 90 percent of the lake’s surface.

While it was bad for business, that was as far as it went. The bloom did not contain cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, certain types of which can release an assortment of potent toxins collectively referred to as cyanotoxins. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) links cyanotoxins to a range of health impacts such as nausea, kidney damage, respiratory paralysis and even death, particularly when drinking water becomes contaminated.

Across the country, drinking water crises are making the news—from toxic algae to lead poisoning to a growing number of communities facing contamination from a class of manmade chemicals known as perfluorinated compounds or PFCs—raising concerns about whether the nation’s current drinking water regulations do enough to protect us.

Read more: Setting the Standard

The Rural Water Conundrum

Dale Colerick spent years monitoring Hillrose's drinking water for uranium, and when a new EPA rule put his town's supply over the allowable limit, he set to work finding a new, safe drinking water source. Credit: Paula Gillen

What small, rural utilities and private well owners face in keeping their water safe to drink

By Nelson Harvey

It didn’t take long for Dale Colerick to realize he had a problem.

In the winter of 2004, Colerick ran the water utility for the 300-person northeastern Colorado hamlet of Hillrose, whose grid of old Victorians, doublewides and mobile homes sits south of Interstate 76 amid the crop circles and cattle ranches of Morgan County.

Hillrose drew its drinking water from an alluvial well connected to the nearby South Platte River. Late in 2003, a new federal rule took effect that was meant to reduce the risk of cancer and kidney damage in areas where uranium—often naturally present in surrounding rocks—made its way into groundwater. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the rule under the landmark 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act, which regulates both natural and manmade drinking water contaminants. The new rule directly regulated uranium for the first time, capping uranium levels in drinking water at 30 parts per billion, and gave communities four years to meet the standard before penalties kicked in.

Read more: The Rural Water Conundrum

Water on Repeat

Denver Water's purple pipes supply water reclaimed for  nonpotable reuse to the Denver Zoo, parks, golf courses, schools, Xcel Energy, and other users for landscaping and industrial uses. Courtesy: Denver Water

With water reuse, the challenge is no longer public perception, but protecting public health

By Allen Best

Looking to Mt. Evans from the hillsides of oak brush and ponderosa pine in Castle Rock, you might get the wrong impression of the city’s water reality. The mountain’s 14,265-foot summit is covered with snow much of the year, suggesting springtime abundance. But only the thin trickle of Plum Creek passes through Castle Rock. Instead, the city of 60,000 relies primarily on wells that draw water from Denver Basin aquifers underfoot. Those aquifers are dropping by about five feet per year. It’s an unsustainable future.

Castle Rock and other water providers in Denver’s South Metro area understand the need to diversify their water supplies. One big piece of that puzzle is water reuse. You’ve heard of locovores, people who favor locally sourced food? This is similar. Call it locoagua. Rather than import water from distant sources, these water-strapped communities can reuse certain water supplies again and again, until they are exhausted. For many communities, it’s the lowest-cost alternative. Given proper treatment, it can be the highest-quality alternative, too.

The concept is relatively new to Colorado. “A lot of people don’t know what reuse is,” says Laura Belanger, president of WateReuse Colorado, an advocacy group that includes many water utilities. “Historically, it has been clumped in with water conservation,” she says. “They are very different things. They have very different challenges.”

Read more: Water on Repeat

Headwaters Sponsors

Publication of Headwaters magazine is made possible by the generous support of sponsors and advertisers. We extend our appreciation and thanks to the following sponsors for contributing to this issue:

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