With all the time we’re spending at home these days, there’s a greater focus on keeping our water and food supplies safe from coronavirus. Grocery shopping is an essential activity, but unless you’re careful, experts say you can still bring coronavirus home from the store.
Bottled water is disappearing from grocery shelves almost as fast as toilet paper, but there’s no shortage of water in California. There’s plenty flowing right out of your tap. And it’s germ-free and perfectly safe to drink. You can’t get COVID-19 from tap water.
In a move that is expected to save ratepayers in the Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District approximately $10 million a year collectively, the districts took action Thursday, March 19, to withdraw from the San Diego County Water Authority and instead purchase their water from the Eastern Municipal Water District.
During these uncertain times, many people are sacrificing their lives for the greater good.
A highly specialized group of employees at public utility plants who have jobs that are impossible to do at home are some of these workers. Some workers at the Poseidon Desalination Water Plant in Carlsbad are going above and beyond to make sure our drinking water is safe from the coronavirus.
When we think of heroes during this coronavirus pandemic, we immediately think of medical staff, grocery workers, and delivery people. But remember to thank those who continue to provide water.
Water companies are asking people to stay at home for the good of their health rather than visit popular sites like reservoirs during the coronavirus outbreak.
Water companies in England and Wales have stepped up efforts to help customers who have lost their jobs or had their incomes cut during the coronavirus crisis.
The chief executive of British Water has told WWT that water companies’ day-to-day operations will remain critical during the coronavirus outbreak and that business continuity is key.
In addition to ensuring a safe and reliable water, the Board leadership of the San Diego County Water Authority is joining regional efforts to fight the economic impacts of the pandemic by setting up a virtual food drive in partnership with the San Diego Food Bank.
The San Diego Food Bank helps feed hundreds of thousands of hungry people each year – and the numbers are growing rapidly as economic impacts of coronavirus closures ripple across the region.
The Water Authority’s virtual food drive allows donors to select and purchase items such as canned meats, vegetables, fruits, peanut butter and oatmeal for distribution to needy residents.
The Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank and its North County Food Bank chapter comprise the largest hunger-relief organization in San Diego County. The Food Bank distributes food to those in need at 200 distribution sites across the county as well as through 500 nonprofits with feeding programs.
Monetary donations received by the Food Bank will be used to purchase food items to be given to those in need.
Virtual food drive during coronavirus pandemic
The virtual food drive is part of an overall effort by the Water Authority during the coronavirus pandemic. The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have increased regional coordination and communication to ensure the coronavirus pandemic does not impact safe and secure water service for San Diego County.
Public water supplies in the San Diego region remain safe to drink due to numerous robust treatment processes used by local and regional water providers.
To support continued operation of critical infrastructure, the Water Authority has activated its Emergency Operations Center, increasing the region’s ability to respond to any challenges that emerge.
The EOC supports the need for enhanced communication between the Water Authority and its member agencies as the public health crisis evolves. In addition, the agencies have back-up plans to assist each other should key personnel be unable to work.
As the global COVID-19 outbreak continues to develop and reports of bottled water shortages make headlines, the National Association of Water Companies, the American Water Works Association and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies recently issued a joint statement about the quality of tap water in North America.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, America’s drinking water supplies remain a safe and affordable way to access the water needed for drinking, cooking and maintaining personal hygiene during the COVID-19 outbreak.
COVID-19 is not present in drinking water supplies
Americans and Canadians can and should continue to use and drink water from their tap as usual as COVID-19 is not present in drinking water supplies. Disinfection processes like those practiced by water systems across the North America provide protection that includes filtration and disinfection of our surface water supplies and disinfection of our ground water sources. These treatments are effective in removing and/or inactivating viruses.
Efforts by some to profiteer off of bottled water shortages are inexcusable, but drinking water consumers can avoid being taken advantage of by simply using the water that is available in their homes from the tap.
“America’s water companies share a deep understanding of the importance of the reliability of quality water and wastewater services in our daily lives and during a public health crisis and are committed to taking steps to help ensure our water systems are functioning both reliably and safely,” says NAWC President and CEO Robert Powleson.
COVID-19 response efforts by water providers protect public health
The municipalities and private companies that make up the 51,000 community water systems across the U.S. are taking measures to help protect their workforce so they can continue to keep the water flowing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This means limiting home repair visits and directing customers to pay bills online instead of coming into their water providers’ offices. Because of the outbreak and the need for access to clean water in order to promote personal hygiene and overall public health, many systems across the United States are suspending shutoffs for nonpayments. If you are facing financial difficulty and cannot afford to pay your water bill at this time, please be in direct contact with your water provider.
“Water utilities throughout the United States and Canada are prepared to protect public health in normal conditions and in emergencies, and they are committed to keeping safe water flowing, 24/7,” says AWWA CEO David LaFrance. “During times like these, safe and reliable water service is essential for drinking and food preparation, hand-washing and carrying away waste.”
As COVID-19 response efforts evolve to meet the needs of the American and Canadian people, the member organizations represented by NAWC, AWWA and AMWA will continue to support the water systems by offering all of the water profession’s expertise and resources at their disposal. The agencies added that they’re confident in their ability to serve communities across the country with the highest level of efficiency, empathy and professionalism.
“These are challenging times for our nation, but despite the many uncertainties regarding COVID-19, Americans should take comfort in the fact that the virus does not spread through drinking water supplies. The nation’s water systems remain committed to the uninterrupted delivery of clean and safe drinking water for the duration of this crisis,” says AMWA CEO Diane VanDe Hei.
With the world struggling through the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, vegetable growers in the Imperial Valley are continuing to harvest vegetables.
Agriculture remains an essential service to serve California, the nation and the world. The vegetable harvest is ongoing as the Imperial Valley heads toward the final weeks of the winter vegetable crops.
“We have not to this point been impacted,” said farmer Scott Howington, president of the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association. Howington’s farm operation, Oasis Farming Inc., focuses on organic crops.
But Howington said for his own operation, food safety protocols already in place are even more critical in light of the coronavirus.
More precautions for Imperial Valley harvest
When it comes to agriculture, he said, the farming work that goes into the planting of crops typically does not bring workers physically close together; it is the harvesting where there could be potential issues because of the proximity of the crews. That is where additional precautions are necessary due to the coronavirus. Howington said farmers are tailoring these steps to their specific operations.
“What we are doing is making sure the equipment is sanitized several times a day, and we are making sure crews keep the recommended distance from each other,” he said. “We are trying to make sure crews stay healthy.”
However, if workers and staff are feeling sick, they’re told to stay home or are sent home if they come to work and present any signs of illness, Howington said.
Vegetable farmers navigate through coronavirus
Precautions to make sure staff are healthy are equally important in other aspects of agriculture, including at the coolers where crops are stored, he said.
“It’s an interlocked chain,” said Howington. “You break any part of it, and it will begin to be an issue.”
So far, there have been no noticeable impacts on the vegetable industry in the Imperial Valley.
With the harvesting season still underway, the need for workers — many of them from Mexico — remains high. Howington pointed out that while there are restrictions on border crossings, those restrictions have not involved people crossing to work in the agriculture industry. Under the new conditions, crews from Mexico have been able to cross with just their work permit. But in case his workers need additional proof, Howington said he’s having letters prepared from his company to provide to crews.
Imperial Valley agriculture harvest helps feed world
For now, harvesting will continue into its final weeks of the season, and all food safety protocols are continuing to be followed.
Howington reminds everyone to follow their own safety protocols as they normally should do, from washing their fruits and vegetables, to peeling away top layers of the vegetables they eat.
“Everyone has to use their best judgement,” he said of both farmers and consumers.
As the world navigates through these challenging times and faces a shortage in supplies of basic necessities, the importance of agriculture takes on even greater meaning as consumers look to grocery stores and restaurants for some certainty that food supplies will remain available.
Howington said there has been no reduction in the produce grown and harvested in the Imperial Valley in the wake of the coronavirus. He said the valley continues to provide food that feeds people around the world.
“As a community, something like this does brighten the light on the impact agriculture has to the fabric of the economy and our society,” Howington said. “We are just doing what we normally do.”