Major New Research, funded by the EPA, Details New Links Between Water Quality and Health

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published the results of significant research completed by a NUI Galway research team led by Professor Martin Cormican.  The research details new links between water quality and health.

The report, entitled Enhancing Human Health through Improved Water Quality, provides an overview of this research and includes new data on:

  • How the growing global emergency of antibiotic resistant bacteria is connected to our water.  It demonstrates how widespread the problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria has become and adds to the evidence that there is a need to extend current campaigns to reduce the use of antibiotics in human and animal healthcare.  The findings of this part of the research will feature on RTE’s The Science Squad tomorrow, Thursday, 5 July, at 8.30pm.
  • How DNA technology can be used to find disease-causing bacteria and viruses in water.  It demonstrates how bacterial contamination of water can be tracked back to sources such as humans or animals (e.g. cows or pigs), leading to faster corrective actions.
  • How heavy rainfall can result in sudden changes in water quality as bacterial contamination gets washed into groundwater from farm sources and septic tanks.   The research is also important for families and businesses using private wells as it shows how poorly protected wells or water treatment can have an adverse impact on their health.

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, NUI Galway, 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 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/

ENDS

 

Keywords: Press

Author: Marketing and Communications Office, NUI Galway
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