Today's Journal Says Drinking Water Is and Will Remain A Mystery : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

John Conner of Dow Jones Newswires reports in today's WSJ that the GAO "Congressional watchdog agency" says "little is known" about y2k effects on drinking water.

GAO says there is "insufficient information" available to assess and manage y2k in water sector and little additional info is expected.

GAO says water is "vulnerable to failure."

Comments by Puddintame: The cost of storing water approaches $00.00 per gallon. It's as close to free as any product gets. The only reason not to store a lot of water is laziness.

-- Puddintame (, May 04, 1999


"little is known" about y2k effects on drinking water"

Is water not compliant?

-- Helen Wheels (helen@wheel.s), May 04, 1999.

Good post, Puddintame, thanks. still has good rainwater barrels, but they're now $110 ($100 ea if you buy two). Grids, screens, overflows, faucets, all kinds bells and whistles. Capacity 75 galls. No water, no chance.

-- Old Git (, May 04, 1999.


The water may not be your-digestive-system-compliant before it's processed at a water treatment plant. If the plant's equipment isn't Y2k-compliant, then the water may not be your-digestive-system-compliant after it's gone through the plant to your tap, either.

-- No Spam Please (, May 04, 1999.

55 Gallon water barrels in Salt lake City go for as low as $30 at the Tent Man on Main street at about 4300 South. Most grocery stores here sell them for $40. The over $100 per barrel price is a rip off!

-- freddie (, May 04, 1999.

Helen, Some properties, like flowing downhill, are compliant. The government/industrial complex would thus say that its mission critical properties are 99% compliant. Potability is probably not mission critical to Mr. Koskinen.

One known y2k effect of drinking water is that it causes the y2k polly trolls who post here to experience temporary sobriety, so they stop posting until they again take leave of their senses.

-- Puddintame (, May 04, 1999.

Freddie, it's a 75-gall capacity rainwater collecting system that you hook up to a downspout. It's meant for watering a garden but could easily be used for drinking water collection--if you filter it properly before drinking. That's why it has the screen, safety grid, overflow pipe, and so on.

-- Old Git (, May 04, 1999.

I wonder why "little additional info is expected," given the play the water problems have been getting. Has someone made the conscious decision not to test water treatment facilities, or is there some legal barrier to revealing test results (a la FDIC) or what?

This seems like a very strange statement.

-- Flint (, May 04, 1999.

If you are interested in storing "utility" water (i.e., for uses other than ingesting), pick up one of those round kiddy pools at WalMart, put it some place that can take the weight, and fill it towards the end of the year. Mine is 8 feet in diameter and says it will hold 500+ gallons, cost me sixteen bucks. Just remember, water weighs about 8.5 pounds per gallon, so it would be best to put it in your garage or in your basement if you have either one. Filling it up on the second floor of your house could likely cause a disaster!

-- flush_alot (, May 04, 1999.

Good catch, Flint. It is weird and another one of those statements I find rather alarming, given that "failure" and "vulnerable" are in proximate range. And, frankly, angering. I feel like saying, "Get it done, whatever it takes." For what it's worth, I have never even remotely heard of a FDIC-type reason that would hinder disclosure.

It really does sound like they "can't" get accurate information. That might suggest that many (too many) facilities are so out of it that they don't know and can't figure out how to find out if they are compliant. But that certainly seems weird too ....

-- BigDog (, May 04, 1999.

I recently purchased a 2,500 gallon water tank (black plastic) that is food grade quality. It is about 8ft. wide (circular) by 7 1/2 ft. tall with a circular 1 1/2 ft opening with a smaller circular opening inside of the larger opening. It also has a 2 inch opening at top and a 2 inch opening at bottom for valve control. It was 725.00$ delivered at the site. 1,550 gallon tanks are about 450.00$. Why F around with piddly stuff when one can nail your concerns.

Sincerely, eller

-- Feller (, May 04, 1999.

Some of us have varmints visit their backyard, like raccoons with slashing claws; we also grow Asian Tiger mosquitoes around here. The water barrels I bought are extremely sturdy, can't be slashed or tipped over, have screens to keep out mosquitoes, other insects, birds and squirrels, a firmly-attached grid to keep out children, and a handy-dandy hose thingie to water my veggies. They suit me, and I plan on buying two more for the other downspouts.

-- Old Git (, May 04, 1999.

Flint, B.D., maybe they simply haven't bothered to alot the resources to monitor water supplies - if you tried to check out the water processing facillities of every town and village in the US, I'd imagine it would be rather instead they're whistling past the graveyard.

Feller - if you don't mind me asking, doesn't that come out to about 20,000 pounds of water? did you have to build a seperate structure to protect/house the tank or did you use your garage or what? I mean that is beacoups water no kidding!


-- Arlin H. Adams (, May 04, 1999.

er, meant "beaucoups" water...sheesh why do I bother with french when I can't even spell in english?


-- Arlin H. Adams (, May 04, 1999.

I believe that the federal government under the separation of powers does not have jurisdiction over your drinking water. The feds "buy" quasi-jurisdiction by making the receipt of federal funds contingent upon the State's Department of Water Quality submit a plan that is amenable to the EPA. I believe that is how the Safe Drinking and Clean Water Acts are "supposed" to work. (Despite President Clinton's executive mandate under the Administration's Clean Water Action Plan or CWAP.)

The States permit your water treatment facilities. (However, these facilities may also apply for grants and revolving fund programs that involve federal cost share and further conditions of grant.)

Municipalities, chartered or "homerule" counties, and service districts probably have a further layer of jurisdiction through local ordinance, etc. It may be difficult to surface the information through all the bureacratic layers. I am sure there is also some reluctance in some quarters to volunteer information to the federal government and risk EPA intervention.

-- marsh (, May 04, 1999.

If Anyone, who lives in Massachusetts or Rhode Island, is in need of food grade water barrels, drop me a note. I might be able to help .


-- Jeff Sullivan (, May 05, 1999.


By Presidential Order, under a declared National Emergency, all "water" comes under the jurisdiction of the DoD.


-- Diane J. Squire (, May 05, 1999.

Diane - This may be true, but to my knowledge no such declaration has yet been made; (except, perhaps, in OK.)

-- marsh (, May 05, 1999.


"When" the declaration is made, marsh.

What that means is you'll likely have contols placed on water. Very easy to put armed guards on the resevoirs.

It's just best to have your own well, or at least stored water, including ways to collect rainwater, creekwater, and ways to purify it.

Get to know your alternate water supplies.


-- Diane J. Squire (, May 05, 1999.

Diane, as I remember from other disasters, isn't it specifically the Army Corps of Engineers with responsibility for drinking water? I guess since they oversee locks, dams, canals, rivers, etc., drinking water got channeled into their neck of the woods too.

-- Old Git (, May 05, 1999.

Flint and BigDog,

From the same article, " . . . officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency say the agency currently lacks rules necessary to require water and wastewater facilities to report on their year-2000 status."

-- Puddintame (, May 05, 1999.

From the Army Corps of Engineers site: Y2K Team Information has been moved to

These page are now restricted to Corps-only.

Please visit our Y2K Public Information Page for information tailored to the general public.

POC for this page is

Sally Mahoney, CEIM-P, (202) 761-8764,

-- Old Git (, May 05, 1999.

There's a good deal of information at the Corps site under "What we do." Here's a little bit relating to natural disasters:

If you are a resident of a community struck by natural disaster, you can count on the Corps to:

Help your community leaders organize flood fighting and provide sandbags, pumps and technical assistance in compliance with the law;

Provide post-disaster technical assistance, clear and remove debris, and help restore critical public facilities or services;

Provide water in cases of drought or contaminated local supplies for up to 30 days, or until your local government can provide safe water.

-- Old Git (, May 05, 1999.

"Please visit our Y2K Public Information Page for information tailored to the general public."


Can you say "Freedom of Information Act Request?"

-- What? (, May 05, 1999.

To repost the essence of an e-mail that I sent to a few Yourdonites during this morning's Oracle shutdown...

The Army Corps has no regulatory jurisdiction over public drinking water supplies - that is the EPA under the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C.A. sec.300f, et seq). (The Federal Clean Water Act covers navigable waters and wetlands - it has nothing whatsoever to do with regulating drinking water.) Most or all drinking water programs have been fully delegated by EPA to the states. The states must meet or exceed federal regulatory standards for the quality of drinking water. Even if the program has been delegated, EPA can still stay involved.

EPA's role in Y2K is really to encourage controlled pre-rollover testing and contingency planning. The incentive is an enforcement policy that says civil and criminal penalties will be waived for testing violations only if the company is diligent prior to the rollover, the violation does not result in the "creation of a potentially imminent and substantial endangerment ... or serious actual harm", and a bunch of other criteria are met.

EPA is not in the business of ensuring that other companies stay in business and thus cannot require a company to get Y2K ready. Its role is to protect the public and the environment from environmental harm by imposition of a permitting program (usually run by the states) and by after-the-fact enforcement action.

All testing violations must be reported to EPA. I haven't been able to identify any way to track these violations, and my guess is that not many are being reported, either because the companies are not aware they are supposed to report, or because not enough companies are engaged in diligently testing. Also, unlike NRC's disclosures on nuke plant audits, the violations reported to EPA may not be considered public record until any enforcement action is resolved. At a seminar I attended in February, EPA said the good news is that water systems are relatively primitive compared to other types of environmental controls (more likely to be easily run on manual), but EPA was having little success following what the smaller public water companies were doing to get ready.

Diane has pointed out that the Secretary of Defense would have control of water sources during a declared "national emergency". If the feds are so unsure that this critical infrastructure will be ready and functioning, it begs the question whether a national emergency should be declared prior to rollover. Except, of course, then they would have to admit there is a problem. Major PR dilemma.

-- Brooks (, May 05, 1999.

Brooks, thanks for that information.

-- Puddintame (, May 05, 1999.

The Army Corps has constitutional jurisdiction of the interstate commercially navigable waters of the United States. Their powers stem from the Interstate Commerce Clause and are supposed to relate to activities that directly affect interstate commerce, such as the navigability of those waters.

In "dredge and fill" cases, the courts have interpreted the processes of certain wetlands and nonavigable streams to effect the commercial navigability of interstate waters. Dams, bridges and flood control are connected to the issue of navigability (electricity is ancillary.) The dumping of sewage and chemicals that affect navigability are also related to interstate commercial navigability. The federal government has no jurisdiction over public health, safety and welfare, per se.

The jurisdiction of the federal government (and later) the Army Corps has been in constant litigation since the birth of the United States. See

IMHO - It is going to be further complicated by the recent proposed MOU between the Corps, EPA, Fish and Widlife and National Marine Fisheries to use each agency's enforcement and permitting powers to collaboratively further the mission of the others. It purports to invite a massive expansion of federal power that has questionable relation to direct authority under the Interstate Commerce Clause.

Under "dual sovereignty," the federal government has jurisdiction over individuals and not States. However, it's actions on individuals must have a legitimate nexus in an enumerated power, such as the Commerce Clause or come through the back door into the States as a condition of federal funding or collaborative afreement through an MOU.

There is a case right now in Florida on the "dual overeignty" issue regarding residential lights on the beach and endangered turtles. The litigant wants to force the county to pass an ordinance to curtail the lights under the Endangered Species Act. The county's stand is that it does not have to implement a federal program. It is up to federal government to implement its direct power of legislation and enforcement over the individuals. (See also Mass. Coates v. Strahan.)

Federal agencies do not always have the power to support the actions they have taken

The long and the short of it is that information can be the property of jealously guarded jurisdiction and not everything is under federal control. We are a compound bottom up republic that eminates from delegated the sovereignty of the people and not a democracy or a hierarchial command and control form. Things related to the "police powers" or the power to protect public health safety and welfare are the traditional domain of the State (county/municipal) governments, subject to strange and convoluted encroachments by the feds, usually under the Commerce Clause or in implementation of extra-constitutional Treaties.

The best source of this information is probably on the State level.

-- marsh (, May 05, 1999.

Marsh, This still does not give the Army Corps any jurisdiction over the *operation* of public drinking water supplies. The Corps' navigable water jurisdiction stems primarily from the Federal Clean Water Act and the Federal Rivers and Harbors Act and affects *construction* projects that involve fill or interfere with navigation. The implication of the Commerce Clause is that the Corps used it to take jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act over wetlands, since they are used by migrating ducks. Illegal discharges (of a liquid nature, like a chemical release) are handled by the EPA, and sometimes also by the Coast Guard. If the "discharge" involved actually filling wetlands, then the Corps can also take action. Meanwhile, the EPA is the only federal agency with the legislative or administrative authority to oversee environmental Y2K readiness of municipal or state public drinking water supplies.

-- Brooks (, May 05, 1999.


Can you give info on your water storage tank? How much bleach or whatever did you add to sterilize the water and keep it buggie-free? Would love to hear where you put that monster.


-- jhollander (, May 05, 1999.

On the issue of who controls the water in a national emergency ...

July 15, 1996 res/I2R?urn:pdi://

Certain national infrastructures are so vital that their incapacity or destruction would have a debilitating impact on the defense or economic security of the United States. These critical infrastructures include telecommunications, electrical power systems, gas and oil storage and transportation, banking and finance, transportation, water supply systems, emergency services (including medical, police, fire, and rescue), and continuity of government. Threats to these critical infrastructures fall into two categories: physical threats to tangible property ("physical threats"), and threats of electronic, radio-frequency, or computer-based attacks on the information or communications components that control critical infrastructures ("cyber threats"). Because many of these critical infrastructures are owned and operated by the private sector, it is essential that the government and private sector work together to develop a strategy for protecting them and assuring their continued operation. ...


Sec. 201. Delegations of Priorities and Allocations.

(a) The authority of the President conferred by section 101 of the Act to require acceptance and priority performance of contracts or orders (other than contracts of employment) to promote the national defense over performance of any other contracts or orders, and to allocate materials, services, and facilities as deemed necessary or appropriate to promote the national defense, is delegated to the following agency heads: ...


...  (5) The Secretary of Defense with respect to water resources; and ...


Sec. 901. Definitions. In addition to the definitions in section 702 of the Act, the following definitions apply throughout this order:


... (m) "Water resources" means all usable water, from all sources, within the jurisdiction of the United States, which can be managed, controlled, and allocated to meet emergency requirements. ...


-- Diane J. Squire (, May 05, 1999.

Getting answers on water treatment isn't easy. I bugged our City Council here in Houston to add Y2K to the City homepage for months. Finally they did last month. They even address water treatment. "blah blah blah, and we're going to stockpile some extra chemicals just to be safe."

I guess that's progress, but by then I had decided to drill my own well out in the country.

Since we know most cities aren't tackling Y2K (though some are), I can understand why the GAO doesn't expect to get much information on what could be the two most critical Y2K issues of all, water safety and supply.

These may be easily resolved, but we won't know unless we test. Fix on failure isn't a really an attractive option if it means poisoning all your citizens.

-- Doug (, May 05, 1999.

Perhaps more specificity is in order. From the following it looks as if the Corps has particular responsibility for providing water after a disaster, which I presume would include Y2K. This piece was under a "disaster" heading. (See above for site and cite.)

"Provide water in cases of drought or contaminated local supplies for up to 30 days, or until your local government can provide safe water."

And of course the US Army Corps of Engineers is under the DoD umbrella.

-- Old Git (, May 05, 1999.

a good and cheap way to hold water is to buy a big plastic trash can with lid, $5 and change at Walmart. at that price, there is no excuse at all for anyone to not have at least a month's worth of water on hand at the end of the year. and if you are lazy as well as cheap, it's much quicker and easier to go buy the trash can, than it is to try to get answers out of your city's officials about water readiness.

-- jocelyne slough (, May 06, 1999.

The trash can idea sounds good, however, I keep hearing that plastic bags, trash cans, containers that are not "food grade" quality often have pesticides in their makeup. I wonder if this is a ploy to sell "special" products. I do wish someone would clarify this. It sure would be cheaper.

-- marsh (, May 06, 1999.

Marsh, I assume Jocelyne is talking about water storage primarily for washing and other non-ingested uses. Most water is not used for cooking and drinking, so it would be great to have some bulk sources.

Keep a minimum 30 gallons per person in approved containers. Then keep utility water in trash cans, kiddie pools, whatever.

-- Puddintame (, May 06, 1999.

I have heard that the seams of the regular plastic trash cans might not hold up under the pressure. You might want to try one for a few months this summer before it becomes critical that it works. (For those of us in the north, we may be inclined to store water in the basement so that it doesn't freeze. Bad enough to lose the water, but I wouldn't want to flood my basement at the same time!)

-- Brooks (, May 07, 1999.

Concerning the weak seams - how about just digging a hole and putting the bad in it; fill it up; tie it shut; go on to dig another hole... etc.

Then all you have invested is the price of the bag (read: liner). I'm considering this as an option but using a few of the kiddie pools are previously mentioned. The only drawback is the availability of open ground to dig into.

-- j (, May 07, 1999.

Sorry for the spelling - that should be 'bag' not 'bad'.

Got to keep my brain out of the way of my fingers.... :)


-- j (, May 07, 1999.

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