Talk:Water supply and sanitation in the United States/GA1

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GA Review[edit]

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Overall summary by Eubulides[edit]

  • Overall, it's a fine article, with clearly a lot of work put into it, and almost of Good Article quality.
  • It's neutral, stable, well-illustrated, with clear prose.
  • There are a few style glitches (please see detailed comments) but they are minor.
  • There are some problems in coverage. Several aspects of the topic are not covered well or at all (please see detailed comments). One aspect (financing) probably has too much coverage and perhaps should be spun off into a separate article.
  • Too much of the article is unsourced; this is a major problem. I've noted some problems below.

The lack of sources is the main obstacle that I see for Good Article status; the other problems need to get fixed at some point but are not that crucial.

Good work overall. Thanks to all the editors of this article for their evident hard work. Eubulides (talk) 07:30, 11 January 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for your excellent comments. The problems with the sources have been fixed. I have also started working to address some of the other comments. Please see some reactions to specific comments below.--Mschiffler (talk) 14:45, 11 January 2009 (UTC)

Detailed comments by Eubulides[edit]

  • There's no History section; this is a major omission. Suggested source:
  • Melosi MV (2000). The Sanitary City: Urban Infrastructure in America from Colonial Times to the Present. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0801861527. 
  • There's almost no mention of:
  • water conservation
  • reclaimed water
  • desalination
  • sustainability in general
  • Clean Water Act
  • contaminants in groundwater, water supply, and sewers
  • waterborne disease outbreaks
  • relationship between sewers and stormwater drainage
  • vulnerabilities of U.S. water infrastructure to natural disasters
  • There's no mention of:
  • fluoridation (a major controversy in the U.S.)
  • interstate water compacts
  • tribal water
  • agricultural pollution with nitrates and pesticides
  • full cost pricing (despite that long section on finances!)
  • source water protection
  • vulnerabilities of U.S. water infrastructure to sabotage
  • The infobox is too long and cluttered. Infoboxes are supposed to be attractive, brief summaries of salient facts and figures, suitable for instant understanding by nonexperts, but this one has a lot of stuff that most readers won't be able to follow.
  • For starters, the first line "water coverage (broad definition)" is a mystery to a non expert. Perhaps it should be replaced by "water coverage" with a wikilink to a definition of water coverage?
  • Another example: "Continuity of supply (%): high": what's that "(%)" doing there? I suggest shrinking the infobox to 1/3 of its current size, and limiting it to the most-important and most-easily-understood items.
  • Is the American flag needed or useful? I think not.
  • The lead's too long. It's 350 words, or 7.5% of the size of the body. I suggest trimming it down to about half that, or about 175 words. 200 words would be OK, I suppose, but I wouldn't go over that. For example:
  • There's no need in the lead to go into the difference between municipally-owned utilities and municipalities, or to give examples of both, nor is there a need to list private water utilities.
  • When giving percentages of Americans, there's no need to also mention millions.
  • Access. This starts off jarringly, with a table. Start with intro text first, and then put in the table. The table has formatting problems: most of it is white space. Please move the "(80% of the population)" and "(20% of the population)" into another row of the table, so that the percentage columns are much narrower. The text should not repeat the 95%/33% figures that are already in the table.
  • Water use.
  • It doesn't say what percentage of the publicly supplied water goes to residences; isn't that important?[1]
  • "According to a 1999 study by the American Water Works Association Research Foundation" Remove phrases like this: there's no need to put them in the main text. People can read the footnotes for stuff like this. Similar phrases: "According to the same study".
  • The abbreviation "l/c/d" is used without explaining it.
  • Again, no need to repeat both numbers and percentages; one is enough.
  • The bullet list is poorly indented. Indentation should reflect logical structure. Put the percentages first (e.g., "31% toilets"), so that it's easier to see the percentages lined up next to each other.
  • No citation for the last sentence, comparing per capita use to France and Germany.
  • Water sources.
  • Mention population percentages first, before the (less-important) number of water systems.
  • No need to say "Nevada" after "Las Vegas", nor to mention the states of Phoenix or Los Angeles.
  • The mention of Las Vegas's future plans was a bit jarring here; do we need to talk about predictions of the future in this section?
  • "Los Angeles, California, also obtain their drinking water primarily from the Colorado River" Not true: most of the city of LA's water comes from the Owens River. Almost all of this paragraph is unsourced: this needs to get fixed.
  • Impact of climate change. This section seemed a bit long.
  • The National Academies list 4 ways that climate change will affect water supply, but we cite them and list just 3. What gives?
  • We then go on to list another way (increased frequency and intensity of rainfall) that the National Academies didn't. No source is given for that paragraph, which must get fixed. But even with a source, it's very odd that we're silently disagreeing with the National Academies here: that's not right. Either there is disagreement (which we should document) or we should follow the lead of the reliable sources.
  • Service quality.
  • Too many hatnotes. List just the {{main}} subarticle, and put the other hatnotes in that subarticle.
  • "There seems to be no comprehensive single source of information on water supply and sanitation service quality in the United States". This sentence is unsourced and should be removed, unless we can find a reliable source asserting it.
  • The Drinking water quality bullet spends way too much time on bureaucracy, and way too little time on what the quality issues are.
  • "should receive in the mail" Wikipedia should not use prescriptive wording like that. We don't give advice or instructions.
  • That's the second time we mention Cryptosporidium without saying anything more about it. The paragraph mentioning Cryptosporidium is completely unsourced; this has to get fixed.
  • The Sanitation quality bullet is unsourced.
  • Billing accuracy. Again, don't give advice like "are encouraged". Much of this bullet is unsourced. The example of poor billing is not well motivated or explained to nonexperts; perhas a better example?
  • Service provision. Remove the hatnotes; they're not helpful. The last sentence is clumsy with its "which"es.
  • Business associations. This section just repeats stuff from each assn's web page. Yeouch; that's not reliable. Plus, the whole section is boring. Either remove it, or find a reliable 3rd-party source that talks about water business associations.
  • Financial aspects.
  • The $474 figure is given twice here; once is enough.
  • Omit the phrase "revenues from": it can easily be misread to be claiming that debt is revenue.
  • "commercial debt" is "municipal bonds"? Surely not.
  • "ageing" is a misspelling.
  • A lot is unsourced here, including a direct quote. This stuff needs to be sourced.
  • Rates.
  • Don't mix monthly and yearly rates. Use the same period for all rates. Annual rates would be fine.
  • Financing. Again with the user fees, debts and grants, and the commercial debt! This just repeats stuff from the start of the main section. We don't need this much repetition. This section, along with Investment, is way too long: I suggest moving it to a subarticle Finances of water supply and sanitation in the United States or something like that. (I didn't review it carefully, sorry, my eyes glazed over.)
  • See also.
  • As per WP:MOS this section should come before References, not after'.
  • Better yet, the section should be removed. If a topic is worth mentioning here, it is worth mentioning (with a wikilink) in the main text, and then removed from here; i.e., this section should be empty. See WP:SEEALSO for more.
  • External links. There are waaaay too many external links. Do any of them reeeally satisfy the constraints of WP:ELYES? I suggest the 1st EPA link, and maybe one other link on sanitation. That should be enough. Use if you can't find anything better. Or perhaps just remove the section entirely.
  • Style issues:
  • "States" should not be capitalized, if we're talking about U.S. states.
  • No need to say "US$" in an article about the U.S.; "$" should do.
  • Cryptosporidium should be italicized.
  • Don't put one section header (Service provision) immediately after another (Responsibility for water supply and sanitation).
  • Omit Simon-says wording like the following, when the facts are not controversial among reliable sources, as the citations suffice:
  • "According to EPA's community water system survey 2000"
  • "According to the Census Bureau"
  • "by the U.S. Census Bureau"
  • "According to a 2000 study by the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN) quoting analysis by Hagler Bailly Inc.,"
  • "The report states that"
  • "The study also warns that"

Eubulides (talk) 07:30, 11 January 2009 (UTC)

There are a few issues where I do not fully agree with User:Eubulides:

  • Information sources in main text: Some (many?) readers do not always take the time to read footnotes. It may be worthwhile to keep mentioning the source of information in the text of the article itself, even if the source is reliable. An example is the information on climate change impacts, where two reliable sources - AMWA and the National Academies - present the impacts in very different ways.
  • Concerning the section on service quality, I would not call drinking water quality reports "bureaucracy". It is rather an important tool for a utility to communicate with its customers concerning an important topic. By the way, they do not exist in many other countries.
  • On sanitation quality (sewer overflows and blockages) some quantitative information is needed, but it is hard to come by. I would not remove it for now, although it's unsourced, because I believe there is no disagreement concerning the occurrence of the problem.
  • Business associations play an important role in shaping policy related to water and sanitation. It may sound "boring" as it stands now, but there is a story behind it that perhaps has to be fleshed out better. The information is indeed from their websites, but only as a starting point to provide more information on their work.
  • I am not sure that financing of water and sanitation infrastructure merits a separate article. I would rather keep the section in this article.
  • The reason I suggest to keep the flag in the infobox is that articles on water supply and sanitation in other countries also include their respective flags, which provides a uniform look to them and makes them easy to recognize.

Some work that I agree still needs to be done, in addition of what has already been done to incorporate suggestions and before this can be considered a good article is:

  • The lead section still needs to be trimmed and improved
  • In the financing section there is contradictory information from different sources, which makes it harder to write a neat and concise section. Still, the current section should be improved.

Other suggestions could be added if this article once the article has been confirmed as a good article and if it should be nominated as a featured article candidate:

  • A history section, which would require substantial work.
  • The issues listed as being not mentioned or barely mentioned are all important. It would be good to have others knowledgeable in these fields add information on them. Some of them are more in the field of water resources management (source water protection, agricultural pollution, contaminants in groundwater, Interstate Water Compacts) and may better fit in a future article on Water resources management in the United States rather than in the existing article.--Mschiffler (talk) 17:24, 11 January 2009 (UTC)

Information sources in main text[edit]

I agree that when reliable sources disagree, it is sometimes worthwhile to mention them by name in the text, to let readers see the disagreement and make up their own minds. However, when there is no serious disagreement among reliable sources, it's bad style to mention the source in the text. For example:

"According to a 1999 study by the American Water Works Association Research Foundation residential end use of water in the United States is equivalent to more than 1 billion glasses of tap water per day."

The italicized part of this quote bloats the text for no good reason. The ordinary reader does not care where this data came from. The italicized part takes up valuable space in the ordinary reader's mind, space that should be used for more important things. That's why footnotes are placed away from the text: so that they don't disturb the ordinary reader in the usual case. Worse, mentioning the source here tends to give the non-expert reader the mistaken impression that the data are disputed.

Generally speaking, in-text attribution should be used sparingly, only in controversial situations where it'd violate WP:NPOV to omit it.

Admittedly this is something of a style issue, and not all editors agree about it. However, it is true that in-text attribution typically makes the article longer and less sprightly, and more likely to make the readers' eyes glaze over, something we should strive to avoid. When in doubt, I say leave it out. Eubulides (talk) 03:50, 14 January 2009 (UTC)

Another round[edit]

Drinking water quality bullet[edit]

My objection to the drinking water bullet was not to mentioning the existence and importance of the reports, but to the focus on the bureaucratese, at the expense of the real concern. One small example: the text carefully defines the acronyms "SDWA" and "CCR" without using them; wouldn't it be better to leave the acronyms out, so that the reader can focus on the meaning rather than the jargon?

There's also a person problem in the text: it is directly addressed to the reader, who is addressed as "you", and there is advice to consumers about what to do; this is inappropriate for an encyclopedia.

I see now that fluoridation has been added next to discussion of Cryptosporidium in the Drinking water quality bullet. This gives the unfortunate impression that fluoridation is a contaminant, just as Cryptosporidium is. In some cases fluoride does need to be removed from water (because there is too much), but fluoride's addition in order to prevent dental caries belongs in a separate section. For one thing, it is a U.S. invention; for another, the U.S. is its leading exponent.

Eubulides (talk) 03:50, 14 January 2009 (UTC)

Wastewater services quality bullet[edit]

It now has some sources, but lacks one for the claim "Wastewater treatment plants are operated satisfactorily in most cases." If you can't find a source, how about just removing that claim? We really need a source for a claim like this. Eubulides (talk) 07:00, 14 January 2009 (UTC)

Business associations[edit]

Sorry, but self-published sources really are not reliable. And relying on self-published sources means that we may well be missing the real story here. It's typically better to say nothing than to rely on self-published sources, and I don't see this section as any exception. Due I expect to these sources, currently the section reads like a press release, not an encyclopedia, which is not something I'd expect to see in a Good Article. Eubulides (talk) 07:00, 14 January 2009 (UTC)


Financing currently takes up more than 1/3 of the article's body, which still seems too much. This is less important though.


I realize the flag is there for consistency with other articles; still, it's inappropriate. This is an encyclopedia, not the Olympics or the United Nations. United States Constitution doesn't start with a flag; neither does United States Navy, United States Congress, United States men's national soccer team, Culture of the United States, Economy of the United States, etc., etc. It would be far more useful to replace the flag with a photograph that's symptomatic of the U.S. water supply. Similarly for the other national articles. (And aren't you writing the other articles too? :-) Again, though, this is less important. Eubulides (talk) 07:00, 14 January 2009 (UTC)

Main immediate problems[edit]

The main immediate problems are the sourcing issues mentioned above, along with the newly-introduced and problematic treatment of fluoridation. The other stuff needs fixing at some point, but is less pressing. Eubulides (talk) 07:00, 14 January 2009 (UTC)

I don't see progress on these issues. The GA process is typically supposed to take about a week; perhaps we should call it quits for now, and have the article resubmitted for GA when the issues are addressed? Eubulides (talk) 08:04, 19 January 2009 (UTC)
Looks like you might as well do that. Wizardman 03:27, 24 January 2009 (UTC)
OK, thanks, I did that. Eubulides (talk) 08:11, 24 January 2009 (UTC)
Somehow I missed the updates on this talk page on January 14 by Eubulides. The arguments make a lot of sense and I appreciate the time you took to go over the article again. I am still a bit ambivalent about taking out the flag and about the part on business associations, for which I hope to find some third-party sources instead of simply taking it out. Also, the finance section still needs some more work and has to be trimmed. Will try to work on it next week and renominate once its done.--Mschiffler (talk) 18:56, 24 January 2009 (UTC)