On July 1, 2014, the Connecticut Source Water Collaborative took a tour of the Bristol Water Department surface water treatment plant and the Metropolitan District Commission’s Nepaug watershed. The purpose of these tours was to gain more knowledge about the “source to tap” concept and why source water protection is important for drinking water quality. The Connecticut Department of Public Health greatly appreciates the hosts, Rob Longo and Carol Youell, as well as the participating organizations.
The tour of the Bristol Water Department surface water treatment plant demonstrated the importance of treatment on drinking water quality. The group was taken through a step-by-step process of how the surface water is treated before it is safe for human consumption. Briefly, the raw water is pumped into a rapid mix basin, then into a flocculation basin, then into a sedimentation basin, and then through a multi-media filter. More information regarding this process can be found here.
The Metropolitan District Commission’s tour of the Nepaug watershed was primarily based on forest management. The most recent forest management technique occurred in February of 2014, in which the hemlock trees were removed due to the infestation of the insect called the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. To replace this loss, about 120 Norway Spruce trees and 650 White Pine and Norway Spruce seedlings were planted. The group was shown an example of a similar tree removal project done in 2004 and the progress it has made. Forest management is a very important concept to understand for source water protection in order to ensure the quality of drinking water. The group was also shown other forest management techniques, such as a controlled hunt to manage the deer population and timber sales. The group discussed the sometimes unrealized benefits of a robust source protection program, including significant cost savings due to improved water quality and minimized treatment chemical usage.
These tours demonstrated the importance of protection and treatment of source water in order to ensure the quality of drinking water. This “source to tap” concept shows how source water protection and treatment are interrelated. Protecting surface water through forest management throughout the Nepaug watershed and treating surface water at the Bristol Water Department treatment plant are both necessary steps to ensuring safe drinking water now and in the future.
A great document that details the importance of source protection, its relationship to water treatment, the potential for significant cost savings and the societal benefits is available for free at http://www.wri.org/publication/natural-infrastructure.