By Joseph K. Stuart, DWA's Board President – The other day at the market I saw lots of empty shelves. I had heard about our local stores running low on hand sanitizers and toilet paper. However, I did not expect that bottled water was a coveted quarantine stockpile item. People need to go no further than the sinks in their homes for water in a quarantine scenario.
Some people claim that tap water isn’t up to their standards for various reasons. Others use a pitcher filter as an option that doesn’t require a pricey stockpile or loads for wasted plastic bottles that are bad for the environment. Our local tap water goes through thousands of tests each year and is chlorinated to remove any bacteria or viruses. California has the strictest drinking water standards in the nation and some of the toughest in the world. Desert Water Agency (DWA) lives by those standards every day.
As a long-time Palm Springs resident and DWA board member for many years, I believe that I understand how people in our community live and work. While many see the priority that water has in an emergency scenario, this current rush to purchase bottled water has me concerned because it is unnecessary and costly.
Many people don’t know that even thought DWA is a utility, it is not for profit. In fact, all our employees are disaster service workers that take an oath to the California Constitution on their first day of work. DWA continuously plans for natural or man-made disasters and coordinates our responses with local cities and Riverside County. Our team of water professionals actively works with other water agencies to determine best practices in preparation for any public health emergency we may face.
In the event of a quarantine where people are asked to stay home from work, our essential personnel will be dispatched to operate any sites that cannot be operated remotely. We will continue to collect water quality samples and do all the work necessary to keep the water safe and flowing. This is great news for people concerned about having enough water at home. Tap water is necessary for drinking, cooking and critical for keeping things sanitary (including all-too-important handwashing).
Unless there is a natural disaster or widespread and long-lasting power outage, the tap water supply is not in jeopardy. It is always important for people to store water in the event of an earthquake, but I hope this message eases fears and eliminates the urge to stockpile bottled water due to the Coronavirus.
The DWA Board of Directors and staff are closely monitoring public health emergency declarations. Out of an abundance of caution, and out of respect to our more vulnerable neighbors, DWA has canceled our workshops, facility tours and events planned for March and April. For now, we plan to continue to hold Board Meetings and business with the public at our offices with extra sanitizing precautions.
DWA is committed to being a resource for the community which includes the important message that tap water is always a safe and reliable water source now or in an emergency.