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Clean water is essential to protecting public health

As published in Lake Travis View, week of April 16, 2020.

Clean water is essential to protecting public health

Let’s take the time to celebrate and give thanks to all those who are helping us through this trying time: Our medical professionals are on the front line working fervently to aid the sick and keep facilities clean, unselfishly putting themselves at risk, like grocery store and restaurant employees, while top scientists work behind the scenes to search for a viable treatment to end this health crisis. Businesses large and small are donating what they can offer and individuals are using their talents and excess time to spread a bit of kindness to those less fortunate. “Essential businesses” are moving full steam ahead (with extra precautions in place) to provide a bit of normalcy or distraction during this shock to everyday life, keeping the economy somewhat afloat so we don’t have to completely start over whenever this all ends.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recognizes “16 critical infrastructure sectors” which include Healthcare, Energy, Communication, and Water, among others. These industries are essential to the way we live and are critically important in emergencies with special responsibility to continue their operations. DHS states, “Promoting the ability of such workers to continue to work during periods of community restriction, access management, social distancing, or closure orders/directives is crucial to community resilience and continuity of essential functions.” The industries deemed “essential” during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic were estimated to collectively employ anywhere from 49 to 62 million workers prior to the outbreak, based on figures from The Department of Homeland Security. These workers are helping us get what we need and get rid of what we don’t.

Clean water is and always has been essential in protecting public health. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the emphasis placed on washing your hands regularly cannot be overstated. In addition to water being the basis for every possible cleaning agent, water also needs to be consumed regularly to keep us healthy. Thankfully, water is an area most people in developed countries do not need to worry about right now. Tap water remains safe and reliable for use in your normal everyday activities, including for drinking, cooking, hand-washing, and cleaning. Public water systems, such as Lakeway Municipal Utility District (LMUD), meet stringent state and federal standards set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to keep treated water clean, safe, and plentiful. The EPA website states, “EPA has established regulations with treatment requirements for public water systems that prevent waterborne pathogens such as viruses [including COVID-19] from contaminating drinking water and wastewater.” Additionally, availability is not expected to be affected. “Continuity of Operation” plans that are implemented by cities and utilities in times of disaster greatly improve the odds that there will always be enough staff on hand to keep critical services, such as water, functioning.

The World Health Organization (WHO), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, and others recognize the important role of water, sanitation and hygiene services working together, collectively known as “WASH.” Global WASH programs provide expertise and interventions aimed at saving lives and reducing illness by improving access to healthy and safe water, adequate sanitation, and improved hygiene. Within their critical infrastructures document, DHS states, “Safe drinking water is a prerequisite for protecting public health and all human activity. Properly treated wastewater is vital for preventing disease and protecting the environment. Thus, ensuring the supply of drinking water and wastewater treatment is essential to modern life and the Nation’s economy.”

We continue to work for you, throughout this pandemic and beyond, to reliably provide the critical water and wastewater services you rely on in your day to day life. “These are unprecedented times we’re living in. Especially in the face of such uncertainty, we need to trust the authorities and comply,” said Earl Foster, General Manager of LMUD. “It will take each of us foregoing convenience for a while to prevent the spread of this virus, but we will get through this together. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to all those who are impacted.”

Written by Stephanie Threinen, Public Information Liaison, LMUD. Earl Foster is the General Manager of LMUD.