New book challenges conventional safe drinking water beliefs

By Jay Mashburn, Rural Community Assistance Corporation rural development specialist

Water to Drink: Sustaining Watersheds and the People Who Need Them
Author Susan Lisa Toch, Ph.D, M.P.H., M.A.
Copyright 2002
Phoenix Publishing, Anacortes, Washington
122 pages

A solution is now available for water systems caught between decreasing funding assistance and ever increasing regulations, demand and pollution. In her book Water to Drink: Sustaining Watersheds and the People Who Need Them, author Susan Toch, Ph.D., does not offer quick, easy answers, but she does illuminate a pathway for serious communities to create a dependable future source of safe drinking water.

Toch challenges conventional "expert" wisdom often given to decision makers that environmental maladies are best remedied with technological solutions. While scientific knowledge and technological interventions alone have often been credited for dramatic reduction of infectious disease, Toch proposes a new model for preserving hydrologic ecosystems and the life dependent upon them. This new approach is proactive as opposed to reactive. Resources are directed at longrange sustainable goals such as "preventive" care over "pathologic" cures. Toch's approach integrates scientific analysis with information dissemination.

The author calls upon wisdom accrued over 20 years of experience in land use hydrology, water resources management and community health work wisdom well tempered by serious academic discipline and achievement.

This book is a resource for local and regional decision makers. Toch expands the scope of information used for source water protection planning. She combines the scientific disciplines of hydrology, community health, geology, and ecology with chemistry and microbiology to analyze watersheds. The book contains an overview of a useful mapping technique for coordinating all this information. This approach looks for deeper environmental relationships and interactions between data sets.

Water to Drink goes beyond simply offering a new and more complicated way to analyze drinking water. The book demonstrates, through the use of real world examples, that the fruits of coalition building, overcoming conflicting legal rights (land use), integrating conflicting perspectives (economic welfare and environmental preservation), negotiation, smart development and consensus building on a common objective can result in sustainability.

Toch begins her book by warning that, "This book is a work in progress." The book presents a large paradigm shift in water resources management. Toch does a wonderful job of championing a new perspective on environmental water quality conservation. This book is the work of a seasoned sage, not an embarking pilgrim.

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