District's Water Turns Yellow After Pesticides Get into Water System

Two people, one of whom was a child, had to be hospitalized after using the water.
Derya Ozdemir
The district is now renewing its water systemObtained by Interesting Engineering

Pesticides and chemical agents used to destroy or control pests can contaminate water supplies in both agricultural and urban settings, and the people living in the Alpu district of Eskişehir, Turkey -- where farming is the preferred economic activity -- had to learn that the hard way. 

In the morning hours of May 6, the locals reported seeing water from the taps and fountains turning yellow. They also said the water smelled "weird." Alpu Municipality cut off the water distribution after getting multiple complaints about the color and smell, and the following examinations showed that pesticides had gotten mixed into the water network, according to local agency DHA.

It was announced to the crowds that the water was laced with pesticides and should not be used by the locals. The water needs of those living in the district, about 1,500 people, had to be met via tankers.

During this process, two people, one of whom was a child, got poisoned from water, and had to be treated in the hospital.

The reason behind the incident

The main reason behind the unfortunate incident was explained by Alpu Mayor Gürbüz Güler, who told journalists that a local and the bursting of a water pipe were behind it. The pesticides were not deliberately mixed into the water distribution system. As this person was filling its pesticide sprayer with water, a water pipe exploded during a sewerage operation in the district.

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This created a vacuum, Güler said, which caused the pesticides in the tanker to be mixed with water. The person, according to the city's Water and Sewerage Administration, is estimated to have made an illegal connection -- the loss of water through theft, and not through leakage -- to the water supply. 

District's Water Turns Yellow After Pesticides Get into Water System
The district is changing the water pipes. Obtained by Interesting Engineering

"Our water supply system is about 40 years old. To make sure any residue of the chemical doesn't remain, we will renew the system of our neighborhood in four to five days," added Güler, noting that the efforts to change the water pipes in the district are continuing. During this process, the needs of the people will be met with seven tanks that deliver water to houses, while another car will bring drinkable water. 

District's Water Turns Yellow After Pesticides Get into Water System
The locals taking water from the tank. Obtained by Interesting Engineering

Water fraud

The district's police department teams have determined that illegal connections to the waterline have been in fact made from 10 houses. It's reported that the investigation to determine from which house was involved with the pesticide is continuing.

The theft of water comes in various forms, such as not paying for filtered drinking water and stealing water from natural rivers in violation of environmental regulations. Agriculture, which uses 70 percent of the world's water, is often to blame. A study, which looked at improper water use while growing marijuana in California, strawberries in Spain, and cotton in Australia, and which was published in the journal Nature Sustainability, says people, who are often poor people in developing countries (but water theft does take place in developed nations) steal between 30-50 percent of the world's water every year.

One of the biggest indicators of illegal connections is water usage declining or stopping at an occupied residence. Detecting the illegal connection can take weeks, months, or even years due to how the water metering is tracked. Improved monitoring technologies and tougher penalties for stealing water can help stop this from being an issue.

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