of new tools and science for addressing EPA’s goals of safe and sustainable water.
If a quantitative microbial risk-assessment framework were put into practice by EPA, it would need to incorporate alternative indicators based on genomic approaches, microbial source-tracking, and pathogen-monitoring. Also, the complete human-coupled water cycle would need to be explored, including built and natural systems. Implementation of a quantitative microbial risk-assessment framework would require investment in a health-related water microbiology collaborative research network. The network would bring molecular biologists, ecologists, engineers, and water-quality health and policy experts together to build internal capacity, to develop external partnerships, and to foster national collaboration. Regardless of whether EPA decides to systematically use a quantitative microbial risk-assessment framework, the future of science at the agency would benefit from continuing to build exposure databases and support work on the survival and inactivation of pathogens that can feed into quantitative microbial risk assessment. Agency science would also benefit from new informatics and application tools that are based on quantitative microbial risk assessment models to enhance decision-making to meet safe-water goals.
An example of an area in which EPA may be able collaborate to more effectively fill information gaps or address funding overlap in a resource-constrained environment is through microbiology research. There are other organizations that have microbiology programs, but few address the environment. NIH’s Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases supports clinical research and basic science for microbes and infectious disease. NIH has recently partnered with the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Agriculture to fund research on the ecology and evolution of infectious disease. The partnership addresses diseases that have an environmental pathway and can include waterborne diseases, but most of the efforts have been related to cholera and little attention has been given to other groups of pathogens. EPA has not yet played a role in the partnership, but it could contribute to filling a gap in knowledge about wastewater treatment and monitoring as it relates to microbes and environmental and human health.
Chapter 2 noted that current environmental challenges are expanding in both space and time and it emphasized that long-term data are needed to characterize such changes and to characterize the cause and the potential implications of different policy options. To address the challenges of increasing spatial and temporal scales for a variety of environmental problems, new approaches, tools, and technologies in such areas as computer science, information technology (IT), and remote sensing will become increasingly important to EPA. The ability to take full advantage of all the new tools and technologies discussed in the pre-