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Sharing is Caring, At Least When it Comes to Monitoring Water Quality

Jacobs’ Environmental Scientist Jennifer Liggett teamed up with environmental experts to discuss the top cause of water borne illnesses in the U.S. with Opflow magazine.

“Few things are more important to providing safe drinking water than controlling disease-causing microorganisms,” at least that’s what Jennifer Liggett, Jacobs environmental scientist, and her fellow co-authors (from the Portland Water Bureau, SPL Consulting Services, Special Pathogens Laboratory and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, respectively) shared in a recent article published in American Water Works Association’s Opflow magazine.

The full article, “Preventing Disease from Legionella is a Shared Responsibility,” is the first in a series of Opflow articles that will examine why Legionella – the No. 1 cause of waterborne disease outbreaks in the U.S. – becomes a problem in some building water systems, how to manage the risk and the challenges in doing so effectively.

Legionella is a major public health threat with continued yearly outbreaks of Legionnaire’s disease and Pontiac fever, including recent cases in New York and Australia. In 2017, 7,458 cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – that’s more than six times the number of reported cases since 2000. Even more concerning, noted the article, is that many more cases are undiagnosed or unreported.

Legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment and can be conveyed through water distribution systems to the premise plumbing in buildings, where they may grow in warm water sources such as hot water heaters, storage tanks, pipes, cooling towers, decorative fountains and hot tubs.

“By understanding water quality in premise plumbing systems, we can prevent the deterioration of water quality and subsequent conditions that are favorable for bacterial growth through better engineering controls and building management within the systems,” says Liggett. “We can also highlight the need for an understanding that water quality is a shared responsibility between drinking water utilities and building managers and begin to foster those relationships.”

For example, she says, Jacobs is working with a major Veterans Administration hospital to monitor water quality and protect public health. With nearly 40 advanced Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and wireless data capabilities – designed by us, in partnership with Cisco and s::can – we’re helping pave the way for early detection of issues like potential Legionella growth, before they can harm water supplies or public health.

Interested in learning more about how Jacobs transforms intangible ideas into intelligent solutions, such as powerful online water quality monitoring for a more connected, sustainable world? Visit

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