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Water Quality and Conservation

See also: Rivers and Watersheds and Marcellus Shale

Learn more than you ever thought you'd know about water: where it comes from, where it goes, and how to conserve it. Choose a book from the library, link up with local water organizations, or check out the quality of your water online.


Selected Books

Ashworth, William
Ogallala Blue: Water and Life on the Great Plains
S616.U6 A78 2006
An environmental and natural history writer based in Ashland, Oregon, Ashworth discusses the huge Ogallala aquifer, which lies just below the semi-arid High Plains of North America in the rain shadow of the Rocky Mountains from South Dakota south to the Texas panhandle. He looks at the underground ocean; the ghosts of ancient rivers; and the use, overuse, and depletion of the water. See also John Opie's Ogallala: Water for a Dry Land
Caldecott, Julian
Water: Life in Every Drop
GB671.C25 2007x
Julian Caldecott reveals where the water we use comes from, and at what social and environmental cost. He explains the history, science, economics and politics behind the looming water crisis, and reveals what the future holds, and what we can all do to make a difference.
Dam Nation: Dispatches from the Water Underground
TD388.5.D36 2007x
Edited by the coauthors of the notorious zine The Guerrilla Graywater Girls Guide to Water, this collection of original essays, drawings, and photographs is part radical history of water and part DIY guide to disengaging one's home, school, or workplace from the wasteful water grid.
Dry: Life Without Water
Masood, Ehsan (Editor); Schaffer, Daniel (Editor)
GF55.D78 2006
Learn about the vast array of life that is carried on precariously yet proudly on the earth's dryest lands.
Fishman, Charles
The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water
Fishman shows that we’ve left behind a century-long golden age when water was thoughtlessly abundant, free, and safe and entered a new era of high-stakes water. But he also shows how we can use our water more productively and conserve more. Read more in the NPR article: The Worldwide 'Thirst' For Clean Drinking Water.
Glennon, Robert
Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What to Do About It
TD223 .G578 2009
"In a book that is both frightening and wickedly funny, Glennon captures the tragedy - and irony - of water in America. From the Vegas Strip to faux snow in Atlanta, from our super-sized bathrooms to mega-farms…Unquenchable tells the shocking stories of extravagances and waste that are sucking the nation dry."
Kandel, Robert S.
Water from Heaven: The Story of Water from the Big Bang to the Rise of Civilization, and Beyond
GB661.2.K3513 2003
Kandel, a Brooklyn-born scientist at the National Scientific Research Agency of France (C.N.R.S.), begins by tracing the peculiar compound of hydrogen and oxygen from the beginning of the universe.
Kostigen, Thomas M.
Green Blue Book: The Simple Water-Savings Guide to Everything in Your Life
TD388.K67 2010
Hundreds of useful tips on how to save water along with directions on how to calculate your water footprint. Once you learn that it "costs" 42.8 gallons of water to produce one book and 18.5 gallons to grow one apple, you may start thinking about water quite differently.
Langwith, Jacqueline, ed.
TD348 .W377 2010
This title is part of the Opposing Viewpoints Series which provides an overview of various points of view on the topic, in this case water supply and water resources development are covered. An efficient way to get an introduction to the subject.
Marks, Susan J.
Aqua Shock: The Water Crisis in America
HD1694 .A5 M37 2009
An award-winning journalist looks at the fact that "water is the new oil - a precious and diminishing resource, one ultimately far more important and far less replaceable."
Rogers, Peter and Susan Leal
Running Out of Water: The Looming Crisis and Solutions to Conserve Our Most Precious Resource
TD388.R64 2010
In this ground-breaking and forward-looking book, Harvard professor Peter Rogers and former general manager of the San Francisco Utilities Commission Susan Leal give us a sobering perspective on the water crisis —- why it’s happening, where it’s likely to strike, and what puts the worst strain on our supply.
Salina, Irena, ed.
Written in Water: Messages of Hope for Earth's Most Precious Resource
GB662.3 .S25 2009
A publication of the National Geographic Society that includes 25 essays that address the "book's central message, that water conservation is not about scarcity but rather its careful use and fair distribution."
Solomon, Steven
Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization
CB482 .S65 2010
A fascinating political history of water and how it has been pivotal to the rise and fall of great powers and the achievements of civilization.
Wood, Chris
Dry Spring: The Coming Water Crisis of North America
HD1691.W65 2008x
Canadian journalist Wood investigates the water crisis in the southwest and the ramifications for Canada.


Blue Gold: World Water Wars
(DVD) HD1691.B596 2009x
This 2008 documentary film is based on the book Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World's Water by Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke. It examines corporate and governmental control of fresh water supplies and citizens' reactions to how those supplies are managed.
Dead in the Water
(DVD) HD1691.D4279 2006x
This Canadian documentary examines the growing trend to privatize water resources in response to water shortages throughout the world.
Flow: How Did a Handful of Corporations Steal Our Water
(DVD) HD1691.F595 2008x
A look at the world's water crisis and how the causes of the depleting water supply is connected to pollution, human rights, and even politics.

Pittsburgh Region

  • 3 Rivers QUEST
    The 3 Rivers QUEST water quality monitoring project covers 3 river basins: Allegheny, Monongahela, and Upper Ohio and is led by the West Virginia Water Research Institute (WVWRI).
  • Allegheny County Health Department: Public Drinking Water
    ACHD monitors and inspects public drinking water systems to ensure compliance with safe drinking water standards; investigates citizen complaints about water quality; and offers County residents free bacteriological testing of water samples from private wells.
  • Allegheny Front: Who Should Manage Western Pennsylvania's Water?
    Droughts and floods are happening more frequently on this side of the Mississippi. And eastern states are thinking about how much fresh water should be pulled from their waterways and who should decide how much water is withdrawn. (May 25, 2011)
  • Environmental Working Group: Chromium-6 Is Widespread in US Tap Water
    Pittburgh, with .88 parts per billion (ppb), has one of the highest levels of the carcinogenic hexavalent chromium of the 35 cities tested. In 2009, California officials proposed setting a “public health goal” for hexavalent chromium in drinking water of 0.06 parts per billion to reduce cancer risk.
  • National Academies Press: Regional Cooperation for Water Quality Improvement in Southwestern Pennsylvania
    Jan. 6, 2005: "A comprehensive, watershed-based approach is needed to effectively address water quality problems in southwestern Pennsylvania, says a new report from the National Academies' Water Science and Technology Board. The report outlines a technical framework to deal with these problems, and suggests ways to better unify and coordinate the region's efforts. Currently, water planning and management in southwestern Pennsylvania is highly fragmented; federal and state governments, 11 counties, hundreds of municipalities, and other entities all play roles, but with little coordination or cooperation."
  • Three Rivers Wet Weather Demonstration Program
    a partnership of ALCOSAN and the Allegheny County Health Department established to provide county communities with the institutional, technical and financial tools to eliminate wet weather sewer overflows.

Water & Sanitary Authorities

  • ALCOSAN (Allegheny County Sanitary Authority)
    "Located along the Ohio River on Pittsburgh’s Northside, the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) provides wastewater treatment services to 83 communities including the City of Pittsburgh. ALCOSAN’s 56-acre treatment plant is the largest wastewater treatment facility in the Ohio River Valley, processing up to 225 million gallons of wastewater daily."
  • Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County
    The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County (MAWC) provides 17 billion gallons of potable water to more than 350,000 residents in a five county area of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
  • Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority
    PWSA provides water and wastewater services to approximately 250,000 consumers throughout the City of Pittsburgh and surrounding areas.



Nearby States

  • ORSANCO: Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission
    Established on June 30, 1948 to control and abate pollution in the Ohio River Basin, ORSANCO is an interstate commission representing eight states and the federal government. Member states include: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
    • RiverWatchers
      A citizen volunteer monitoring program for the Ohio River and selected tributaries includes 31 groups in six Ohio River Basin states, including Pennsylvania. It involves schools students in monitoring the water quality of the river.
  • West Virginia Water Research Institute
    The West Virginia Water Research Institute (WVWRI), located at West Virginia University, serves as a statewide vehicle for performing research related to water issues. In monitors the water quality of the Monongahela River.

United States



  • United Nations: Water
    "The UNESCO Water Portal is intended to enhance access to information related to freshwater available on the World Wide Web. The site provides links to the current UNESCO and UNESCO-led programmes on freshwater and will serve as an interactive point for sharing, browsing and searching websites of water-related organizations, government bodies and NGOs, including a range of categories such as water links, water events, learning modules and other on-line resources."
  • The Water Channel
    View videos about water sorted into different categories.
  • World Water Council
    The World Water Council is an international multi-stakeholder platform established in 1996 to promote awareness, build political commitment and trigger action on critical water issues. It believes in the "human right to water" which entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses.