James M. Symons



Plain Talk About Drinking Water

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) and its 56,000 members work to assure a safe, sufficient supply of drinking water for the people of North America. The group leads efforts to advance the science and technology of drinking water, as well as the management of water utilities. It also promotes consumer awareness and influences government policies related to drinking water. Its members are united with one common goal—to provide drinking water of unquestionable quality.

In 1989, I received a flyer from my friend Ray Taylor, Vice-President, Operations, California Water Service Company, San Jose, California that was an interview he had about his utility. It was written in an easy-to-understand question and answer format, and I was sure was very informative to his customers.

As I too had answered many questions about drinking water over the years, I had the idea of writing a book that everyone in the water works community could use. I started on the manuscript during a 1990 summer vacation in Hawaii and submitted a rough draft to AWWA in early 1991. Jon DeBoer and Norm Udevitz at AWWA saw the possibilities, and in early 1992 the first edition, containing 101 questions and answers, was published. Its success lead to an updated and expanded second edition containing 121 questions and answers, published in May 1994, a third edition containing 199 questions and answers, published in 1997, a fourth edition containing 231 questions , published in 2001, and a fifth edition containing 235 questions, published in 2009.

The popularity of the AWWA book, over 137,000 sold to date, lead AWWA to publish the fifth edition in November 2009. This edition has been expanded and completely updated.
An index is provided to make finding the answers to specific concerns easier.

Water suppliers have found this book useful in reaching out to the community they serve, often buying copies in bulk.  Many give them to their customer service representatives to help answer telephoned questions, some have given them to repair crews and meter readers as they often are questioned in the field by consumers. Copies of the book are quite helpful during plant tours, either of adults or school children, and they are a good educational tool for Directors, City Council members, legislators, consumer advisors, etc. One utility used the book as a thank you gift for consumers participating in the lead and copper sampling program.

One note of caution -- although I have made every attempt to be accurate, these answers must be general in nature; thus, I cannot be responsible for any inaccuracies caused by local conditions.

The material received several favorable reviews and has been used by faculty in universities, middle school teachers, elementary school teachers, and consulting engineers as well as by the general public.


This book can be
ordered from AWWA.


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