Investing in Infrastructure, Valuing Water

Investing in Infrastructure, Valuing Water

Year after year our global population continues to grow, but the supply of fresh water remains the same. Not just the same amount, but the same water. The same drop of water you’ll drink today was here when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. It is our most vital resource—a person can only survive for a few days without water—and yet it can’t be manufactured or produced. Almost all our daily activities depend on access to clean water, but what would a day look like without it?

Imagine: You wake up and shuffle to the bathroom to brush your teeth, only when you turn the faucet on, nothing comes out. Your toilet won’t flush. You can’t make your coffee. Manufacturers sit idle without process water, steam, or cooling systems. There is no water to fight fires. Farmers’ fields go dry, impacting the food supply. A vital resource that people thought would always be there was turned off. As the reality of no water grows so does public concern and unrest, leading to widespread hoarding, rioting, and chaos. People are demanding that local officials do something. But what can they do?

Thankfully, this scenario sounds more like something out of a scary movie than real life. But while access to clean water is something most Americans are lucky enough to take for granted, droughts throughout the west, shortages in communities all over the country, and crises like the one in Flint have been a wake-up call for many of us in the United States. Yes, our planet is 70 percent water, but only three percent of that is fresh water. Two percent of our fresh water is frozen, leaving us with only one percent to support 7.4 billion people. Surprisingly, this is actually enough to sustain us; as long as we protect and preserve it and make access to it universal. When we talk about water scarcity in the US, we’re really talking about preservation, reuse, treatment, distribution, and system reliability.

In addition to the great demand for water, our aging water infrastructure has been estimated to waste trillions of gallons of water every year due to leaks and other structural deficiencies. This infrastructure is nearly invisible, but we depend on it to carry out the basic tasks of our daily lives with relative ease. It’s estimated that we’ll need at least $384 billion over the next fifteen years to repair and improve our nation’s water and wastewater systems. With tight budgets, though, necessary improvements to this infrastructure often get pushed down the list in favor of other, higher profile municipal projects.

As a company, we’ve worked with over a thousand clients across the country, responding to their water and wastewater infrastructure needs so utilities can continue to bring reliable, safe drinking water to their communities, and treating their wastewater before discharging it into our nation’s rivers, lakes, and oceans. While we take great pride in our work in maintaining the nation’s water infrastructure every day, we realize that most Americans still take access to clean water for granted. This is why we’re glad to participate in today’s Imagine a Day Without Water campaign and bring more widespread awareness to the issues we face.

As engineers, scientists, and operators, we’ll continue to do our part every day to make our communities’ treatment processes better and our water systems more reliable. But today we ask you to participate too. Help spread the word through your social networks, sign the petition calling on officials to prioritize investment in water and wastewater infrastructure, and help support local water and wastewater funding through your votes and tax dollars. To learn more about how you can make a difference, visit imagineadaywithoutwater.org.

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