August 2001: Volume 43, Number 8
Net Fun in the Summertime -- Something for Everybody
by Ronald Y. Pérez, WC&P Senior Editor
As the impending end of another summer draws ever closer, the scent of potpourri—or pollen for you hay fever suffers—fills the air. Doing our part to keep with the theme, we offer our own potpourri of websites for review. At first glance, they have nothing to do with one another and that's the whole idea. But if you look carefully, there's something for almost everybody.
The first portion of the column will take a look at the World Health Organization's (WHO) website and what it has to offer by way of water quality issues around the globe. Secondly, we'll look at Water Infrastructure Network, a group that may not be known to many of you, and its website. Last, nothing is synonymous with the end of summer as the beginning of another school year. With this in mind, we offer a website dedicated to helping students search for a possible science topic in the realm of water-related issues (please, no emails).
Right away, the site's home page looks intimidating. But what do you expect with a global organization of this magnitude? Sure, the home page is loaded with information. Yet, it's relatively easy to navigate and find the preferred topic. As I sort my way through the different functions, I discovered two different avenues of culling the desired information.
At the top of the home page, two headings will serve you well. One is "Health Topics A to Z" and the other is, of course, the "Search" button. "Health Topics A to Z" gives an extensive list of topics. Selecting the obvious, I punch the "W" at the top of the screen and get whisked down to "Water resources" as my first choice alphabetically. Looks good so far. After clicking on the topic, I am greeted with a paragraph that begins, "Of all water on earth…" and proceeds to break down a few percentages. Unfortunately, there's nothing more to the page.
The only thing that saves the usefulness of the page is the trusty search function lurking to the left. After clicking on the search button, I am given 328 hits on water resources. Feeling overwhelmed and seriously beyond deadline, I opt to skip the notion of perusing each listing until I have ample time on my hands (like perhaps the day after Thanksgiving). Anyway, each listing provides articles (with abstracts) and various WHO reports on the topic. Solid resource material.
Directly under "Water resources" in the alphabetical listing, one finds "Water supply and sanitation." You will repeat the same steps here as before with "Water resources." For what's it worth, there are only 178 hits for supply and sanitation. Overall, the site fulfills and meets its purpose, which is to promote international health matters while informing the public of ongoing projects and missions through research materials and current event listings. Knowing specifics of what to search for will save you time.
So what is Water Infrastructure Network (WIN)? According to the site, it's a nonpartisan coalition of local elected officials, drinking water and wastewater service providers, environmental groups, labor unions, and construction and engineering professionals. How much power they wield is difficult to gauge.
With its motto of "Clean & Safe Water for the 21st Century," the Water Infrastructure Network approaches the matter of water safety in a politically active manner. This is indicated as you scroll through halfway down the home page. Headlines such as "Tax Votes Supersede Infrastructure Hearing" and "Senate Holds Field Hearing On Infrastructure Needs" provide all the tip-off one needs.
Meanwhile, to the left of the home page, a pictorial representation of buttons shows different WIN reports as well as features in the form of events, news, member organizations and miscellaneous information. Each one is accessible at the push of a button. One report that is touted more than any other is called Water Infrastructure Now, which WIN published on February 13. This shouldn't be confused with the recent report detailing drinking water infrastructure released by the American Water Works Association, who coincidentally is a member of WIN. In its report, WIN also encompasses wastewater needs.
As you might have already guessed, the site reads like an introduction to a political action committee. Under the "WIN Legislative" button, the site even encourages people to contact their U.S. House or Senate representative so they may take action behind the WIN cause. Some of the more familiar members of WIN include Water Environment Federation, National Rural Water Association and WateReuse Association. Links to these groups' websites along with other members are given.
Yes, we have made it to the one website where the parents of school-aged kids among us will undoubtedly spare a look of unimpeded delight. Why? Well, for starters, it has the word "study" in it. And because my parents, like most others, were all too happy to see me back at school after a summer of whatever it is young minds and bodies do to drive their parents nuts.
Have no fear, kids. I know where you're coming from. Perhaps you're thinking ahead to that science project your child will have due in a couple of months. Or, maybe she's seeking a research topic for her history, government or health class. Whatever the case, have her sneak a peek at this site. It's a nice supplement to the typical academic-minded sites out there.
If your child should want to embark on water-related topics, those are available too. In fact, the site boasts over 162,000 "research quality URLs" on a multitude of topics. Trying to be as general as possible, I type in "water." After seeing some of the entries read "water polo" and "water skiing," I return with a more specific "water treatment." Fifty-seven hits pop up. That's all well and good but, after the first two references, I am being sent to "The English Bill of Rights of 1689." Whoa! Images of blue books and sweaty palms come over me as I seek better navigation.
Back at the home page, I utilize the "Select A Topic" button to the left. I scroll down and click on "health." It zips me to another page and, right there, under "pollution" is "water quality." Finally. I am greeted with 16 items and they actually stick with the theme. One item centers around Earth Day, another gets to the bottom of groundwater contamination and yet another takes you to Flush Gordon's wastewater page. Let's all hope that doesn't become your child's science project. The most interesting topic is perhaps the last one—water science for schools.
At the very least, I hope this short array of sites inspired an idea or thought on something related to your business or gave your child a brainstorming idea for a school project. So, whether you are happy that summer has come to end or not, hopefully one of these sites allows you to see water in a different light and informs at the same time.
FactBOX: Pick of the summer litter
At times, we get so wrapped up in our own backyards that we tend to forget the water situations in other regions of the world. For those looking to catch up in this area, this is one site that should be at the top of your list.
So you're looking for a site that calls for you to take an active role in water issues and policy? You have come to the right place. Decisions are made all the time and few people know about it until it affects them.
All kidding aside, this site is just as useful for adults. When you are looking for background research on a certain topic, it doesn't hurt to check this site out. If websites were physically located at a library, this one would be at central reference.
EXTRA—Summer & movie blockbusters
For those of you in denial, summer isn't officially over until Labor Day. You still have time to enjoy that new release at the local multiplex. When scanning the web, you might want to check out the top movie sites as rated by Nielsen/Net Ratings: