UCMR 4: Preparing for What’s to Come

The US EPA will soon publish the UCMR 4 Final Rule, with pre-implementation activities commencing next year. Currently, laboratories are in the process of applying to the program.

The program entails the quantitation of 30 analytes: total microcystins, 8 speciated microcystins and nodularin, 2 cyanobacterial toxins, 2 metals, 9 pesticides, 9 Haloacetic acids, 3 alcohols and 3 semivolatile aromatic compounds. To better reflect the times of year when certain contaminants (i.e., cyanotoxins and pesticides) are more likely to occur in drinking water, the proposed sample collection time frame is March through November.


Perhaps most unique in the new round of UCMR is the proposed phased sample-analysis for microcystins. Source water intake samples will be analyzed for total microcystins by ELISA. If the result is less than 0.3 μg/L, the result will be reported to the EPA and the additional sample collected at the Entry Point to the Distribution System (EPTDS). If the ELISA result is greater than 0.3 μg/L the source water result will be reported to the EPA and the EPTDS sample will be analyzed by ELISA. Again, if the result is less than 0.3 μg/L, the result will be reported to the EPA and the second sample collected for 544 will not be analyzed. If the result is greater than 0.3 μg/L, the result will be reported to the EPA and the second sample collected will be analyzed using Method 544 to identify particular microcystin congeners.

Under UCMR 4, large groundwater (GW) systems with multiple EPTDS can sample at representative locations rather than at each EPTDS if prior approval is received. New GW representative monitoring plans must be submitted for review by the state or EPA within 120 days from publication of the final rule and approved representative locations must be loaded into the SDWARS database by December 31, 2017.

In terms of what’s new for small systems, if notified that the system will be subject to UCMR 4, the small system must report contact and zip code information to SDWARS within 90 days of notification. Small systems must also report sampling location information to SDWARS by December 31, 2017.

Only UCMR 4 approved laboratories can analyze UCMR 4 samples collected at Public Water Systems. Laboratories must meet the required equipment criteria, laboratory performance criteria, and data reporting criteria. Approval is by method and by individual location, and a lab may apply for any number of UCMR 4 methods. Once the application is accepted, the lab will be sent PTs to demonstrate proficiency in the applicable analyses. If the lab passes these PTs, it is then put on the EPA’s official list of UCMR 4 approved labs.

Babcock Laboratories has participated in the UCMR program since its inception, and has been approved for all preceding UCMR rounds (1, 2, and 3). If you have questions or would like to talk with our staff about UCMR 4, please contact our Director of Client Services, Cathy Iijima.

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SWRCB Releases New Conservation Targets

On August 16th, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) released the following press release concerning new water conservation targets:

SACRAMENTO – The State Water Resources Control Board today posted “stress tests” submitted by water suppliers to demonstrate whether they have adequate supplies to withstand three additional dry years. Water suppliers that pass their “stress test” will not face a state-mandated conservation standard through January 2017, but are expected to keep conserving water to build long-term drought resilience.

“We created the ‘stress tests’ so that local agencies could demonstrate their ability to supply water under extended drought conditions, so we could step back from our unprecedented 25 percent water conservation mandate with some confidence,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “Demonstrating adequate preparation for drought through developing supplies like local storage, recycling, groundwater banking and other means is great. Sharing that information with customers in an accessible way is also a critical piece of developing consumer comfort and confidence. Being prepared, however, is not a license to abandon conservation, because one thing we know is we can’t know what next year or the next will bring.”

In addition to releasing the “stress test” data, the State Water Board issued nine Informational Orders to water suppliers whose “stress test” submissions were incomplete or inadequate. The nine suppliers that received Informational Orders have 30 days to provide additional documentation, and failure to comply could result in a return to a supplier’s March 2016 conservation standard, monetary penalties, or both.

Of the 379 suppliers that submitted “stress tests,” 36 indicated that they would face a supply shortage in 2019 and will be required to meet a conservation standard equal to the shortage amount. Thirty-two suppliers did not submit “stress tests” and will retain their March 2016 conservation standards through January 2017.

A significant purpose of the stress test was to give the public a picture of the water supplies their water agency was relying on. Because many “stress test” submissions were incomplete, unclear, or appeared to not follow instructions properly as originally submitted, State Water Board staff has spent significant time engaging with water suppliers to make their analysis more clear and complete. However, the staff did not independently research and verify the accuracy of the submissions.

Going forward, the State Water Board will investigate allegations that “stress test” submittals are inaccurate. The Board reserves the right to reject submissions found to be significantly erroneous or misleading. The State Water Board will also closely monitor conservation levels through the end of the year and will prepare a proposal to return to state-mandated conservation levels in February 2017 if drought conditions persist and statewide conservation levels falter significantly.

“Last year, with the lowest snowpack in 500 years after three terrible drought years, and less than impressive response to our earlier calls for conservation, we needed to step in and mandate specific conservation targets to prepare in case we had yet another record bad year in a row,” said Chair Marcus. “Thankfully, this year we received a modest reprieve, and saw improved water supplies for most urban areas. Just as important, we also saw that agencies and the public had stepped up to accomplish impressive conservation.

“So, we’ve stepped back and let local communities step back in to take responsibility for maintaining adequate conservation levels — if they can demonstrate adequate supply. We commend the many water suppliers that passed their stress tests who also have stepped up to demonstrate a strong commitment to continued conservation, just as we are concerned about those who are trumpeting preparation or supply and intentionally or unintentionally sending an anti-conservation message.”

According to State Water Board analysis, water suppliers such as the city of Sacramento, which submitted a well-documented “stress test” and elected to maintain restrictions on outdoor irrigation, deserve credit for showing leadership. Other water suppliers, such as the city of Burbank, which saved 27.8 percent in June, and the Dublin-San Ramon Services District, which saved 32.5 percent, have continued promoting conservation and expanded public access to recycled water for irrigation.

In addition, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, San Jose Water Company, Yuba City, Beverly Hills, Lemoore, and Eastern Municipal water districts, and many others submitted A- grade stress tests and also kept conservation levels high. The State Water Board has required continued reporting of conservation results and will monitor the results, while being prepared to step back in with mandatory targets if necessary depending upon water supply conditions and water conservation levels.

In addition to monitoring conservation levels, the State Water Board is working closely with the Department of Water Resources and other state agencies to develop long-term water use efficiency standards, as directed by Executive Order B-37-16, which will be applicable across California. These new standards will provide for improved water conservation and efficiency in the years ahead based on climate, population, and business types, rather than percentage reductions off a given baseline. The new standards will also include permanent prohibitions on wasteful water use, improved drought planning, and enhanced leak detection and repair requirements.

The adopted regulation also keeps in place the specific prohibitions against certain water uses. Those prohibitions include watering down a sidewalk with a hose instead of using a broom or a brush, or overwatering a landscape to where water is running off the lawn, over a sidewalk and into the gutter. Prohibitions directed to the hospitality industry also remain in place.

Prohibitions against homeowners associations taking action against homeowners during a declared drought remain as well. State Water Board staff will be following up with urban water suppliers who have certified a three-year supply to ensure that local enforcement of the prohibitions is being reported in the monthly water data each urban water supplier sends showing how much water is delivered to customers every month.

More information on the Board action today can be found here.


In his April 1, 2015 Executive Order, in light of the worst snowpack in 500 years, Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. mandated a 25 percent water use reduction by users of urban water supplies across California. In May 2015, the State Water Board adopted an emergency regulation requiring a 25 percent reduction in overall potable urban water use statewide from June 2015 through February 2016.

On Feb. 2, 2016, based on Gov. Brown’s November 2015 Executive Order, the State Water Board approved an updated and extended emergency regulation. The extended regulation responded to calls for continuing the conservation structure that had spurred such dramatic savings while providing greater consideration of some factors that influence water use: climate, population growth and significant investments in new local, drought-resilient water supplies such as wastewater reuse and desalination.

On May 9, 2016, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued Executive Order B-37-16, requiring the Board to adjust its emergency water conservation regulation through the end of January 2017 in recognition of improved urban water supply conditions across the state and, separately, take action to make some of the requirements of the regulation permanent. The Board adopted the revised regulation on May 18. June was the first month under the revised regulation.

Since June 2014, the State Water Board has been tracking water conservation for each of the state’s larger urban water suppliers (those with more than 3,000 connections) on a monthly basis. Compliance with individual water supplier conservation requirements is based on cumulative savings. Cumulative tracking means that conservation savings will be added together from one month to the next and compared to the amount of water used during the same months in 2013.

California has been dealing with the effects of an unprecedented drought. To learn about all the actions the state has taken to manage our water system and cope with the impacts of the drought, visit drought.CA.Gov. Every Californian should take steps to conserve water. Find out how at SaveOurWater.com. While saving water, it is important to properly water trees. Find out how at www.saveourwater.com/trees. In addition to many effective local programs, state- funded turf removal and toilet replacement rebates are also available. Information and rebate applications can be found at: www.saveourwaterrebates.com/.

To view the official press release on the SWRCB’s website, click here. To view information about Babcock Labs’ drinking water testing services, click here.

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Updates in Environmental Measurement and Laboratory Accreditation

At the beginning of the month, representatives from Babcock Labs attended the Environmental Measurement Symposium (EMS) in Garden Grove, CA. The symposium, which ran over the course of a week, included 27 technical sessions, three poster sessions, four keynote speakers, a technology showcase, and a plenary session.

David Schiessel presenting at EMSAmong the representatives from Babcock Labs were our Organics Manager David Schiessel and Corporate Communications Director Alexandra Chrystal, both of whom presented during the technical sessions. Mr. Schiessel presented on method development concerning the non-targeted screening of halogenated organics in wastewater. Ms. Chrystal spoke as part of a session on citizen science, calling for interdisciplinary collaboration among the scientific community, public policy makers, and communication specialists on citizen science initiatives.

Other representatives from Babcock Labs included Quality Assurance Manager Stacey Fry, Assistant Quality Assurance Manager Julia Sudds, and myself. The symposium provided greater insight into both technical and policy topics that are important to the environmental testing industry. Perhaps most significantly, the symposium included forums, meetings, and trainings pertaining to The NELAC Institute (TNI).

TNI establishes the Standards used by the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAP). Christine Sotelo, Chief of CA’s Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP), announced during one of the sessions that on October 5th, 2016, the CA State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) will consider their recommendations to ELAP regarding the implementation of a Standard for the newly restructured CA ELAP. Currently, the Environmental Laboratory Technical Advisory Committee (ELTAC) has a split decision for their recommendations to ELAP regarding the appropriate Standard for California. Half of the ELTAC representatives support TNI while half insist that ELAP should invest what some deem considerable time and effort to create a standard unique to CA. The regulatory partner agencies have already advised ELAP that they support implementation of the TNI Standard for California.

EMS is the combined meeting of the Forum on Environmental Accreditation and the National Environmental Monitoring Conference (NEMC), and is co-sponsored by TNI under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For more information, click here

Babcock Labs is NELAP accredited through ORELAP. Click here to see our certification.

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EPA to Propose SDWA Regulations Concerning Lead in August

Next month the U.S. EPA is scheduled to propose a new rule to support the goals of the Safe Drinking Water Act and clarify expectations for lead in public water systems. As Sara Jerome of Water Online reported:

In August, the agency plans to propose regulations pertaining to Section 1417 of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The agency wants a final rule to be formalized by February of 2018.

The backdrop: Congress passed a law in 1986 prohibiting “the use of pipes, solder or flux that are not ‘lead free’ in public water systems or plumbing in facilities providing water for human consumption,” according to the EPA.

“At the time ‘Lead Free” was defined as solder and flux with no more than 0.2 percent lead and pipes with no more than 8 percent,” the agency says.

The mandate has been updated since then. In 2011, Congress changed the definition of lead-free, and the new rules went into effect in 2014. This change revised “the maximum allowable lead content from not more than 8 percent to not more than a weighted average of 0.25 percent of the wetted surface of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures.”

What will happen in the upcoming rulemaking? The EPA says it is planning to “propose regulations to codify and assist in the implementation of…amendments to section 1417 of SDWA.”

The lead contamination crisis in Flint, MI, is sure to play into any EPA rulemaking around lead and water in the coming months. Flint is still fighting major consequences caused by lead in its infrastructure. “A new report average cost for replacing service water lines was $7,500. That’s almost double the average cost of $4,000 estimated by state last fall,” The Detroit Free Press reported.

Other water issues on the EPA’s regulatory agenda this spring:

  • Clean Water Act Methods Update Rule for the Analysis of Effluent
  • Credit Assistance for Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Projects
  • National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Application and Program Updates Rule
  • Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System General Permit Remand Rule
  • Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 4) for Public Water Systems
  • National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Application and Program Updates Rule

Click here to read the original article published by Jerome on Water Online

Click here to view the rule on the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs website

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The Drought’s Effect on Water Quality in Southern California

California is in the throes of the worst drought it’s experienced in the last century. The focus thus far has been on water conservation, reclamation, and alternative sources—and rightfully so, given the lack of water available in the State. There is, however, another potential water issue related to the drought looming in the shadows, of less immediate concern but deserving of concern nonetheless. That issue is water quality.

In an attempt to better understand the drought’s effects on water quality in Southern California, we contacted three industry experts—Craig Miller, Deputy General Manager at Western Municipal Water District; Celeste Cantú, General Manager of the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA); and Gary Lynch, retired Vice President of Water Quality at Park Water Company—and asked them to share their knowledge and perspectives on the topic.

An example of CA’s conservation efforts. Photo credit: CBS News

Certainly water quality is contingent on water quantity, which is why California public policy makers, water professionals, and residents have and are continuing to concentrate on ways to conserve and replenish the water supply.

“In this case, quantity is more crucial than quality; We need water first,” said Miller. But despite the importance of quantity, it cannot come at the expense of quality.

As Miller also explained, “The biggest priority as a retail water agency is serving high quality water that meets all of the Federal and State health requirements.”

For Western Municipal Water District and other California water agencies, the focus may be on sustaining the water supply but the end goal is always potable water for consumers. Unfortunately, the drought is placing strain on that end goal by threatening water quality.

According to Cantú, the drought is likely having a negative impact on water quality in three major areas: domestic consumption, agriculture, and wildlife.

In terms of domestic consumption, Lynch explained that potential impacts on water quality stem, in part, from lowered turnover in water mains and water storage tanks. As the water sits, particularly on hot summer days, there is greater risk of chlorine degradation and potential formation of disinfection byproducts.

“The design of water systems to meet fire flows presents the challenge of keeping water fresh to begin with,” said Lynch. “Cutting usage by 25 percent creates an even bigger challenge, operationally, to keep water fresh.”

The lack of rainfall is also problematic. “Any time you’re not getting rainfall and runoff from ambient basins, your basins are going to degrade,” explained Miller. This means that when those basins are recovered, the water extracted is of potentially poorer quality.

“This can be challenging from a political standpoint,” said Miller. “Can my ratepayers afford to clean up the water?”

Southern California receives a significant amount of its water supply from Northern California. Therefore, drought effects on Northern California—such as limited rainfall, drier conditions, and changes in inflow into the Delta—all have the potential to negatively affect water quality in Southern California. One such problem, as Miller explained, is increased level of TDS in potable drinking water, which translates into increased levels in discharges into wastewater treatment plants and increased levels in groundwater.

Another significant contributor to the Southern California water supply is the Colorado River, which is naturally salty.

“Historically we have blended down the salt with sweeter Delta water,” explained Cantú. “But the drought has affected the import of Delta water so we have more Colorado River water, which means we have less salt dilution. Over time this will be a problem.”

Salt build up is a challenge when it comes to water recycling.

Image of salt build up around crops. Photo credit: Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

“Every time humans touch water it gets saltier,” said Cantú. “If you’re going to follow that drop in its cycle, every time a person uses it, it becomes saltier. Every time we put it on our yards, it becomes saltier. So in what we collect—either through runoff or wastewater sewer plants—there is salt.”

Cantú explained that salt is hard to treat. The Santa Ana region has desalters which push the water through membranes and separate NaCl (salt) from H2O (water). The salt is then conveyed via a brine line to Orange County where it is treated and put it into the ocean. Unfortunately, other major Southern California counties, like Los Angeles and San Diego, don’t have these systems and, therefore, have a harder time treating salt build up.

“In terms of agriculture, salt management is a silent killer,” said Cantú. She explained that agricultural farmers used to flood irrigate their crops, which was inefficient from a conservation aspect but effective in moving the salt to below root level. Drip irrigation and limited water use do not move the salt, resulting in build up that, according to Cantú, will likely have a long-term negative impact on agricultural production because many crops are salt sensitive.

Of course, if salt is building up due to limited water use, other minerals and contaminants may be building up as well. One such likely contaminant is perchlorate, which is a legacy problem in the region having entered the groundwater from past industrial and farming practices.

The drought is also drying up lakes and rivers, creating water quality issues for the wildlife that inhabit such bodies of water. Examples include the Salton Sea and Lake Elsinore here in Southern California.

Lake Elsinore. Photo credit: Valley News

“Lake Elsinore has been managed really well and they’ve been able to keep fish kills to a minimum, but the drought poses a serious challenge for water quantity and quality for lakes,” said Cantú.

These, of course, are only a few of the challenges and potential ramifications of the drought. Despite being years into this historic drought, we are still in the early stages of understanding its full impact on water quality. This is in part because the focus is currently on water quantity, but also because it may take another few years before we begin to see more significant damage to water quality in California. As Miller explained, working toward high water quality is a continuous and steadfast process.

“From a water quality standpoint, we like to operate on a big buffer so that we have lots of time to react,” said Miller. “Being proactive about potential water quality issues is key.”

So what does the future hold for water quality in Southern California?

According to Miller we should focus on more sophisticated water recycling programs, utilization of TDS source waters further down the watershed, greater collaboration between agencies, program compensation for less expensive salt treatment, and more groundwater cleanup and use.

Lynch foresees development of more conservation-friendly strategies to preserve water quality. “The irony in a drought is that as water stagnates in the distribution system, the remedy is flushing the system to waste. This is not what we want to do nor is it what our conserving customers want to see,” explained Lynch. “Future strategies will be needed to prevent wasting of flushed water.”

In addition to focusing on water quality issues affecting domestic consumption, agriculture, and wildlife, Cantú suspects that there will likely be more investigation into the potential influence of the drought on constituents other than salt—such as perchlorate, arsenic, and hexavalent chromium—because such constituents are more harmful to human health and therefore greater threats to water quality.

While the extent to which the drought will negatively affect water quality in Southern California is still unclear, there is one known truth succinctly summarized by Cantú:

“As the drought continues—and we have every reason to believe it will—we have to make every drop go as far as possible.”


Special thanks to Craig Miller, Celeste Cantú, and Gary Lynch for their expertise and assistance with this piece.

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Horizon Technology Collaborates with Babcock Labs on Application Notes for 4-MEI

Horizon Technology, Inc. has just released its application notes for the analysis of 4-methylimidzaole using automated solid phase extraction and high performance liquid chromatography with MS/MS and MS/SIM detection. Babcock Laboratories played an important role in the development of these notes by offering support and the use of our methods, systems, and standards. We are very proud of our Organics Manager, David Schiessel, and our Laboratory Director of Operations, Paul Monroy, for their excellent work on this joint project with Horizon Technology.

Background on 4-MEI: “The compound 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) is formed as a byproduct in some foods and beverages. Caramel coloring Type III and Type IV in beverages is one of the ingredients which may contain 4-MEI. Products that potentially contain 4-MEI include certain colas, beers, soy sauces, breads, coffee, ammoniated livestock feed and other products. There has been an increase in concern lately about 4-MEI being a suspected carcinogen. Europe has regulated the amount of 4-MEI allowed in coloring used in food products. The state of California has added 4-MEI to its proposition 65 list of known carcinogens. California now requires products with an exposure potential of >29 μg/day to carry warning labels. The trend shows potential expansion as this compound is receiving a lot of public attention and is the subject of ongoing studies.”

Click here to view the published notes in Spectroscopy Online.

For more information about this project or about 4-MEI testing services, please email info@babcocklabs.com or call us at 951-653-3351.

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Babcock Labs is on the Go this Summer!

Summer is officially here and for Babcock Labs that means it’s time to prepare for the many conferences and events we’ll be attending. The staff who participate at these conferences share their experience with peers and enrich their own professional knowledge. All of this benefits Babcock Laboratories and ultimately aids us in meeting the needs of our clients.

In July, our Laboratory Director of Operations, Paul Monroy, is attending the annual International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) conference. The conference takes place in St. Louis, Missouri, from July 31st through August 3rd. At the conference Mr. Monroy will hear the very latest in current and emerging food safety issues, learn about future directions in analysis methodology, and discuss innovative solutions to new and recurring problems within the food industry. He will have the opportunity to network with food safety professionals from around the globe adding to our understanding of the challenges and potential challenges facing our food and beverage clients.

In August, Babcock Labs’ Organics Manager, David Schiessel, Corporate Communication Director, Alexandra Chrystal, and I will attend the 2016 Environmental Measurement Symposium in Orange Country, California. This conference is the combined meeting of the Forum on Environmental Accreditation and the National Environmental Monitoring Conference (NEMC) and is co-sponsored by The NELAC Institute (TNI) under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Mr. Schiessel and Ms. Chrystal will both present during the technical sessions of the conference. Mr. Schiessel will give a presentation covering the non-targeted screening of halogenated organics in wastewater. Ms. Chrystal will give a presentation on interdisciplinary collaboration—specifically among the fields of science, communications, and public policy—as the next step for citizen science. Babcock Laboratories is proud to be so well represented at this year’s symposium!

The annual California Association of Sanitation Agencies (CASA) conference will also take place in August. The conference will be held in Monterey, California at the Marriott Hotel and will run from the 10th through the 12th. As member agencies and associates tackle important issues affecting sanitation and water agencies, Babcock Labs sends its regards to CASA and wishes them a successful conference.

It is a busy summer, indeed, and we are looking forward to it!

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Next TEAM Event: Regulatory Updates Under FSMA

On July 28th Babcock Labs will hold its next TEAM Event, “Food for Thought: Regulatory Updates Under FSMA.” The event will feature presentations from industry experts Troy Aykan (Hain Celestial Group; Law Offices of Troy Aykan) and Melissa Calicchia (Food Safety Solutions; Food Microbiological Laboratories).

During the session, Mr. Aykan will discuss FSMA food safety enforcement by the FDA, competitors, and class action law firms. He will provide information on how to prepare for enforcement by such groups. Ms. Calicchia will discuss food labeling and speak on microbiological sampling plans for ingredients and finished products. We look forward to seeing you at this informative and timely event! Click here to register now. Click here for more information.

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Water Supply Analysis: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Earlier this month the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) released the results of an analysis demonstrating it has sufficient water supplies to meet the demand of its member agencies over the next three years. This finding is attributed in large part to successful water conservation efforts by SoCal residents. MWD issued the following press release on the news:

After the State Water Resources Control Board ended mandatory emergency conservation in May 2016, it asked water agencies to instead demonstrate whether they have sufficient supplies for the next three years, assuming the drought continues. Under the new regulations, if an agency has a shortfall, it must cut water use by that amount through January 2017.

“This so-called ‘stress test’ asked if we can provide water for our member agencies for the next three years, and our answer is yes,” said Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger. “To provide that assurance, we have invested to diversify our water portfolio with some of the nation’s largest conservation programs, more storage, and ongoing efforts to improve reliability of imported water supplies.”

While Metropolitan’s stress-test results mean it will not be forced into mandatory conservation, long-term conservation remains a key pillar of its water supply reliability plan. By 2040, conservation and recycling will account for one-third of Metropolitan’s water portfolio according to its Integrated Water Resources Plan which was updated in January and guides the agency’s long-term water management policies.

“Metropolitan is focused on supporting long-term water conservation and moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle,” said Brandon Goshi, manager of water policy and strategy. “Rather than look to water rationing as a solution in dry years, we are focused on how to be reliable every year.” To that end, Metropolitan has invested nearly $1 billion over the past 25 years to develop drought-resilient local supplies, increase water conservation and reduce per capita water use.

In April, Metropolitan’s board of directors approved an investment of $100 million over the next two years for conservation programs and rebates for permanent water-saving devices. In May, the board declared a Water Supply Alert calling for continued awareness and reinforced conservation throughout the district’s 5,200-square-mile service area.

The stress-test is based on a careful analysis of anticipated conditions, taking into account water supply challenges such as the ongoing drought, uncertainty regarding imported water deliveries from Northern California via the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta, and limitations on the Colorado River.

“We are constantly assessing conditions to ensure we have sufficient supplies,” Kightlinger said. “That said, if we have an exceptional drop in supplies, or an unusual spike in demand, we will absolutely turn to our other tools, such as our allocation plan, to ensure that we maintain water reliability.”

Water supply wholesalers are required to provide projections on the amount of water they expect to deliver to retailers based on a three-year water supply projection that assumes current supply conditions plus an assumed hydrology based on the 2013, 2014 and 2015 water years, and a total potable water demand based on the supplier’s average annual total potable water production for 2013 and 2014. Metropolitan’s water supply projections are posted on our site at www.mwdh2o.com/AboutYourWater/Planning/.

Metropolitan’s member agencies and other urban water retailers are required to self-certify their water supply using a three-year water supply projection starting with current supply conditions plus an assumed hydrology based on the 2013, 2014 and 2015 water years, and submit that information to the state board by June 22, 2016.

To read the official MWD press release, click here.

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Flint Fallout: What California Can Learn from the Flint Water Crisis

The Flint water crisis has been called, “a public health disaster that never had to happen.” And rightfully so, as investigation of the incident has uncovered operational, administrative, and regulatory negligence at the local, state, and federal levels. Although the implications of the Flint water crisis are many, as a recent article written by Penelope Grenoble and published by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) maintains, the path forward involves the removal of lead service lines nationwide and strict adherence to the Lead and Copper Rule.

We now know that during the time that the decision was made the city was under the control of a state emergency manager because its financial collapse—which Rep. Dan Kildee testified was in part due to state budget cuts—had placed the city in receivership, teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. An emergency manager is given authority to make independent financial and cost-cutting decisions in an effort to rescue a city from financial ruin, effectively stripping locally-elected officials of their power. But despite the emergency manager’s obligation to cut costs, there were a litany of other controls in place meant to protect public health, namely Michigan State Governor Rick Snyder, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and Region 5 of the EPA.

On a very basic level, the Flint crisis could have been avoided had those in charge observed proper protocol under the Lead and Copper Rule. In the AWWA article Grenoble asks, “Do Lead and Copper Rule testing protocols lend themselves to misinterpretation?” Grenoble explains that it has since become clear that the MDEQ “misapplied the Lead and Copper Rule in regard to testing protocols, and that proper corrosion control was in fact not in place when the city began drawing water from the Flint River.” MDEQ cited inexperience as the reason for this blunder.

Fortunately, this has not been our experience in California. This may in part be due to the fact that California has historically been more conscious of environmental efforts and more stringent when it comes to drinking water regulatory guidelines. In fact, many of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act requirements were modeled after California drinking water regulations. Our direct experience as an environmental laboratory serving water agencies suggests that although we must all remain vigilant, metropolitan Southern Californians need not be overly worried about a Flint-esque water crisis happening here.

The main reason for this assertion is that our agency clients understand the Lead and Copper Rule testing protocols and conduct sampling as required, reporting results on a consistent basis. Both the agencies and regulators pay attention to the test results and use them to make decisions that are in the best interest of public health and the environment. Our clients know that it is of the utmost importance to work with a laboratory that demonstrates high ethical standards and a commitment to data integrity. In addition to the rigorous quality control procedures conducted as part of the testing process, data integrity at Babcock Labs also involves a review of the pertinent regulatory limits and client historical data. The QC and review process followed at Babcock Labs provides increased confidence in the data we generate for our clients. I have recently had the pleasure of learning from several clients that they consider confidence in our results as a top strength and the foundation of our professional relationship.

It should be noted that proper sample collection is also critical to obtaining accurate data regarding the effectiveness of corrosion controls and successful implementation of the Lead and Copper rule. Our public agency clients are diligent in this area because they recognize the importance of the integrity of the sample to the final results.

The biggest takeaway from the Flint water crisis should be that no matter what systems are in place, it is up to each professional to make educated and ethical decisions and to accept responsibility for those decisions. At Babcock Labs, we know that the data we provide our clients is used to protect and preserve the public health and environment, which is why we take our work so seriously. As AWWA’s CEO David LaFrance summarized, “From public officials, to water utility managers, to regulators, to chemists, to every operator at the treatment plant and throughout the distribution system, we must renew our commitment daily to providing safe water to our communities.”


Grenoble, P. (2016). The Flint water crisis. Source: California-Nevada Section AWWA, 30(2), 22-27.

For more information about the AWWA CA-NV Section, click here.

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