The report, entitled Enhancing Human Health through Improved Water Quality, provides an overview of this research and includes new data on:
Key recommendations include:
• Reducing the use of antibiotics in human and animal healthcare.
• Classifying water sources – to highlight those at greatest risk.
• Applying computer models to predict changes in water quality, so that it is possible to plan and respond.
• Implementing total quality management systems approach to water treatment plants, as operational failure is identified as a major risk.
• The need for proper well construction and water treatment and protection of water sources from contamination from farms, septic tanks or other sources.
Dara Lynott, EPA Director, said;
“The rainfall that renews our rivers, lakes and ground water is the foundation for good health as well as an important resource for tourism, farming and industry. It is important to recognise and deal with the threats to water quality and health which are highlighted in this project. But it is also important to see the opportunities identified for Ireland to develop and provide tools for monitoring and addressing the challenge of protecting our water resources.”
Professor Martin Cormican, lead author of the report, said;
“Water is an increasingly scarce resource in an increasingly crowded world. We are privileged to have a lot of it and we have tended to take it for granted. This project is a part of a process of developing the science and the policies to treat water for what it is – the foundation of life and health for the people of Ireland and a tremendous sustainable natural asset in our engagement with the rest of the world.”
This research was conducted in the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway and in UCD, with partners in the HSE and local authorities. The full report, Enhancing Human Health through Improved Water Quality, is available on the EPA website at: www.epa.ie/downloads/pubs/research/health/
The output of this research project is immediately relevant to understanding the impact of existing methods of sanitation, water pollution and water treatment on population health in Ireland and in developing policies to improve human health.
1. The potential for very rapid changes in microbiological parameters (E. coli levels) in groundwater in response to heavy rainfall has important implications for ensuring safe drinking water supplies.
1. A matrix for classification of the vulnerability of groundwater sources to faecal contamination was developed.
2. A mathematical model for the prediction of flow rates and E. coli levels in a river catchment was developed. The model predicts water flow rates satisfactorily but further refinement is required to improve E. coli predictions.
3. A process for the adaptation of complex databases relating to physical and social factors from multiple sources in Ireland into a format suitable for application in a GIS was demonstrated and applied to the study of sporadic Cryptosporidium infection. This system is available for application to the study of other infections.
4. Novel molecular markers for use in identifying the animal species responsible for faecal contamination of water were developed and their application piloted. This work has been published but the methods require further validation before routine application.
5. Molecular assays for the detection of specific pathogens (Verocytotoxigenic E. coli and Norovirus) were developed and piloted. The methods require further validation before routine application.
6. A novel approach to the enumeration of antimicrobial-resistant E. coli and Enterococci was validated and published.