Inside the cover of Steven Johnson’s “The Ghost Map” reads:
It is the summer of 1854. Cholera has seized London with unprecedented intensity. A metropolis of more than 2 million people, London is just emerging as a one of the first modern cities in the world. But lacking the infrastructure necessary to support its dense population – garbage removal, clean water, sewers – the city has become the perfect breeding ground for a terrifying disease no one knows how to cure.
Sounds a bit like the spring of 2008 in Alamosa, Colorado. According to news reports:
Boiling tap water will kill bacteria to make it safe for use, but health officials warned that no one should use even boiled tap water once the flush of the water system begins. Investigators are working to determine how the system was contaminated. Possibilities include a compromise in a storage tank or cross-contamination with a sewage line. The city had been working to switch to a chlorinated system, but the salmonella outbreak is speeding up the city’s timetable. The outbreak has affected business for many restaurants, who were told to toss any produce washed or misted with city water if it was going to be served raw, and to stop serving ice or soda fountain drinks made with city water. They also could not wash dishes with city water.
As recently at March 2008, the Chieftan reported that a new water treatment plant designed to bring Alamosa in line with federal arsenic standards for drinking water should be ready by Aug. 1, said Public Works Director Don Koskelin. The plant became necessary when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revised its drinking water standards for arsenic to 10 parts per billion in 2004, down from the old rule of 50 ppb.
"We’ll get the EPA off our backs, won’t we," Mayor Farris Bervig said.
Even earlier and perhaps odder, in 2005, water was an issue. Then it was the start up of Alamosa-based Colorado Water company. It wanted to be “a part of whiskey history.” Lewis and Clark believe Colorado’s San Luis Valley is just the place to produce a whiskey "slightly above the Jack Daniels/Jim Beam level," as Clark puts it. Why Alamosa? Clark, 50, who previously worked in the microbrewery business, sized up the San Luis Valley’s water and abundance of barley, and deemed it ideal for a distillery. He also knew there was no Colorado or Western brand of whiskey. He partnered with Lewis, a native of Scotland and an expert in the field of single-malt Scotch whiskey (spelled "whisky" only if produced in Scotland).