Exploring driving factors for drinking water violations: A case study of Tennessee public water systems

Authors: Ke Ding*, Vanderbilt University, Yolanda J McDonald, Vanderbilt University
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, United States, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters
Keywords: Public Water System, Drinking Water, Water Security, Public Health, Geospatial Database
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2020
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Granite B, Hyatt Regency, Third Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the US, numerous drinking water quality issues have resulted in acute and chronical health problems. There is a critical need to measure and assess the driving internal and external capacity factors that influence drinking water violations, hence quality. Internal capacity factors include financial and human resources and quality of the infrastructure. External capacity factors include climate (i.e., temperature, humidity, and extreme weather events) and land use (i.e., farming and industrial). We use a data-driven approach to investigate these capacity factors of the drinking water quality stratified by types of violation (i.e. all, monitoring and reporting, and health-based) and by sizes of population served by public water systems (PWS) (i.e. very small, small, medium, large, and very large). Using the state of Tennessee as a pilot study, we constructed a holistic PWS-level geospatial database by combining data sources representing internal and external capacity factors and link those data to the USEPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS). Preliminary findings showed that very small, small, and medium had a larger proportion of monitoring and reporting violations as compared to large systems. This suggests that while larger systems report a larger proportion of health-based violations, this may not necessarily be an indicator of ‘less safe’ drinking water quality but a result of greater internal capacity to address quality issues by having the internal capacity to ‘fix’ issues to resolve future violations. We aim to standardize this analysis approach to provide a more nuanced framework to assessing drinking water quality.

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