While the world is battling the spread of COVID-19, private and public water and wastewater utilities in California are doing their part in making sure water supplies are safe during this critical time. Also, federal and global government officials assure the public that water supplies remain safe.
The Environmental Protection Agency states on its Website that the risk to water supplies from COVID19 is low and that Americans can continue to use and drink tap water as usual.
The World Health Organization has stated that the “presence of the COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water supplies, and based on current evidence, the risk to water supplies is low.”
EPA regulations require that public water system operators treat water to remove or kill pathogens, which includes viruses. These treatments include disinfectants such as chlorine and filtration that remove or kill pathogens before they reach the public.
the presence of the COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water supplies, and based on current evidence, the risk to water supplies is low.”—WHO
The EPA recommends that homeowners with private wells may want to take necessary precautions and apply certified home treatments to remove bacteria and viruses from their water supplies.
In addition to water utility operators, wastewater treatment plants also employ treatment and disinfection processes that kill viruses and other pathogens.
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The American Water Works Association recommends that water utilities postpone water shutoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic as hygiene and sanitation are essential in reducing the spread of the virus.
The AWWA also notes that social distancing should be practiced when providing customer assistance onsite. The organization is hosting a free webinar, “Utility Actions to Sustain Operations During COVID-19,” on Friday, March 20, from 11 am to 12:30 pm. The webinar will cover “basic continuity practices that can be applied by a utility under a pandemic.”
A Business Continuity Planning for Water Utilities: Guidance Document is also available here.
WHO provides a technical brief for water and sanitation practitioners and providers, which gives guidance on water, sanitation, hygiene, and waste management during the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be accessed here.
Various California water districts are taking measures, such as closing offices to the public and requiring front-line employees to take precautions such as social distancing and wearing disposable nitrile gloves while in customers’ homes.
“This level of treatment meets the strict state and federal drinking water standards ensuring water is safe for consumption,” RMWD
San Jose Water District states on its Website that the water district will not be turning off water due to non-payment during this crisis.
The Rainbow Municipal Water District in San Diego has closed its offices to the public. District officials reassured its customers that the district takes multiple steps in their treatment process to “physically remove, disinfect and chemically inactivate viruses, bacteria, and other living organisms.”
“This level of treatment meets the strict state and federal drinking water standards ensuring water is safe for consumption,” RMWD states on its Website.
RMWD General manager Tom Kennedy in a video statement, said that all its offices are closed to walk-in payments and public use. Payments can be made by mail or dropbox. Payments by cash can be made through Union Bank on Fallbrook.
He noted that the district’s information systems have been upgraded, and customer service reps can work remotely via cloud-based software. Staff will have access to all the information necessary to serve their customers.
“Our field staff will be working in different ways,” Kennedy said. “They’ll still be here to repair main breaks and provide maintenance services we need to keep the systems running, but we’ll also be working individually using some of our internet-based communication systems.”
All field staff will be practicing social distancing. Watch the video below from more on how RMWD is handling operations during the pandemic.
El Toro Water District General Manager Dennis Cafferty released the statement, “Rest assured that the Coronavirus has no impact on the quality of your drinking water and that the El Toro Water District is taking steps to ensure the continued uninterrupted delivery of safe drinking water to your home.”
El Toro Water provides 50,000 people in Southern Orange County with water, sewer and recycled water operations.
“Rest assured that the Coronavirus has no impact on the quality of your drinking water and that the El Toro Water District is taking steps to ensure the continued uninterrupted delivery of safe drinking water to your home.”
The Pico Water District on its Website states it is taking the following precautions:
- Encouraging the public to pay bills online or via phone (562) 692-3756 and call with questions instead of visiting the office
- Keeping hand sanitizer available in our lobby
- Regularly cleaning all public surfaces, including customer service counters
- Training staff on proper prevention tips
- Readying emergency protocols to ensure continued service.
The district also encourages the public to email written comments to the general manager instead of attending public meetings.
“Pico Water District remains committed to its mission of providing safe, reliable water. We follow all state and federal regulations and testing that keep your tap water safe to drink.”
Joshua Basin Water District encourages customers to make payments online, by phone, or to drop payments in a dropbox. Additionally, it provides a web page that shares facts about COVID-19 and how to stay healthy and avoid the spread of the virus. Access the COVID-19 information page here.