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Can you drink the water? New EPA software acts as taste-tester

Posting in Cities

Free software is now being tested by five U.S. cities.

You've heard that phrase "canary in a coalmine." The minute one of these birds died down below, miners were supposed to evacuate. Stat. Well I'm guessing that's where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency got the name for its new water quality software called Canary.

The software, which was developed by the EPA and the Department of Energy, works in conjunction with sensors placed throughout a water supply to detect contaminants including pesticides, trace metals, and pathogens. When it does, a "do not drink" alert can be issued. The EPA says the software is meant to work in conjunction with existing systems for running water utilities. Future features planned for the application include automated configuring that will take into account "normal" historical data unique to a particular water distribution system; additional interface technologies that will allow the software to better integrate with utility Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) measurement systems; and parameters that will allow the software to parse and analyze information collected simultaneously from more than one location in a water supply. (The latter might work, for example, to show if something is spreading through the water supply, so that an alert could be issued BEFORE an incident happens.)

The EPA reports that the Greater Cincinnati Water Works is the first utility to pilot the software. The free utility is now being tested in four other cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Francisco, as well as in Singapore.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure