What's the problem?

Innovation and collaboration can help solve our source water challenges

Major storms and other types of incidents or events can be highly disruptive to our public water and waste-water systems. RAIN safeguards the quality of your drinking water by its innovative (and growing) monitoring network; enabling source water quality to be continuously monitored, in near real time. With an estimated 2 million residents living within the Ohio River Basin in Southwestern Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia, the demands of agriculture, energy, industry, and municipal users continues to expand. People rely heavily on the Allegheny, Monongahela, Youghiogheny, Shenango, Beaver, and Ohio rivers as their source of drinking water. Contaminants in the rivers are identified at our monitoring stations in real-time. Those decision makers responsible for your water quality will be notified automatically about the presence of contaminants via RAIN's information network and will be able to ensure faster implementation of actions to protect the public from contaminated drinking water.

BACKGROUND

Since the nineteenth century, steel plants, coal mining, energy, transportation, agriculture and individuals have had major impacts on the health of our rivers. Before the construction of canals and railroads ever began, the Ohio River system was the interstate highway of a young nation. Favorable geography, unique natural resources, a super-abundance of entrepreneurial talent, and fate lifted late 19th century Pittsburgh to a position of national and international prominence.Western Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia gave rise to the nation’s first marine engineers and waterways shippers. Here were built the first flatboats, keelboats, and steamboats; here the first barges and towboats were manufactured; here was the birthplace of American inland river commerce.

Today, RAIN's Basin area includes the 3rd busiest inland port—21st busiest port of any kind—in the nation. The region includes more than 240 miles of navigable waterways, 20 navigation locks and dams, and 16 multi-purpose flood damage reduction reservoirs. Our rivers are bounded by active railroads and crossed by highways and pipelines. Over two million residents of western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia obtain their public drinking water from these same rivers.

Industrial development continues to affect the topography, the environment, and the population of our region. Active and abandoned coal mines are everywhere, new industry and decrepit brownfields have replaced many of the steel mills that made the area so vitally important a century ago. Communities created to house the early 20th century population boom (many of which stand partially empty and/or decrepit) create combined sewer overflow problems with diluted sewage and stormwater being released into rivers during significant rain events. And the region is now experiencing the beginning of a new boom: shale natural gas exploration. If people are to live here (and past and future industries require a population of workers), then the monitoring of these waters becomes an absolute necessity.