inexpensive, ubiquitous, every jursidiction should have one, no matter how rich or poor the community—and easily shared online.
For example, many people are talking about gene chips, which are used in concert with methods to amplify genetic material. Griffiths predicted that we also will have water detection chips, which will have 50,000 or 100,000 sections of nucleic acid materials to monitor the water for chemicals and toxins. Similar results also may be achieved with technologies such as optical sensors—which also could function as chemical indicators in identifying waterborne chemicals—and biosensors sensitive enough to detect one anthrax spore or one Cryptosporidium.
Meanwhile, Griffiths observed, it is important to continue monitoring for classical or known threats, but to remove all pathogens that get into drinking water, including the unidentified pathogens that cause some 80 percent of the outbreaks of waterborne disease. In addition, it is important to not leave any chemical traces and to remove naturally present but harmful chemicals such as arsenic—all while using less water and dealing with the presence of sewage and industrial waste. The challenges here are immense when it comes to health.
Conventional technology worked in 1910 and is still working today for many communities with normal populations, said Griffiths. However, it clearly has its limitations, especially for susceptible populations. Advanced technologies that can neutralize pathogens with ultraviolet radiation or pull them out with membrane technologies do exist, but they are not affordable by many systems. So we need technological advances, some of which may simply drive down the costs of present systems, though others will have to be of a different generation.
In effect, these treatment technologies should be inclusive, said Griffiths. They should monitor and eliminate across the spectrum of toxins and chemicals. They are necessary because it will be very difficult to come up with narrowly focused new treatment technologies that address one contaminant at a time—there are just too many of them and some will remain unknown. It is better, he concluded, for us to come up with solutions that essentially eliminate all of these risks at once.