Coalescing Ideas on the Value of Water with a True Coalition

By Dr. Mark LeChevallier – October 1, 2013 – Comment

Like many Americans I make a lot of assumptions every day. I assume that my alarm will go off at the time I set it for the night before. I assume that the traffic lights will function on my way to work. I assume that nobody will steal my lunch from the communal work fridge. And on most days I assume that water will flow from any faucet I turn on. But like many assumptions, I’m presuming that a number of things out of my direct control will function as they’re supposed to.

Because I work in the water industry I am probably more aware of the challenges facing our water infrastructure than the majority of Americans, and that’s exactly why I’m taking part in the Value of Water Coalition’s new campaign working to drive public awareness of water as an invaluable resource in need of help.

The Coalition is a group comprised of leading organizations in the public and private drinking and wastewater sectors responsible for ensuring the safety, reliability and sustainability of our nation’s water. With the recently launched website www.thevalueofwater.org, the hope is to more widely share the latest news and information on water-related issues, and dispel assumptions that many Americans may have. Perhaps it’s a testament to the hard work that the Coalition’s partners perform every day to ensure the best service possible that the majority of adults incorrectly believe our water infrastructure is in good condition.

The delivery of clean drinking water and the reliable treatment of wastewater are essential for every aspect of our daily lives, homes, workplaces and schools. It’s not surprising that a majority of Americans believe that clean water is of vital importance to the nation, but only 40% of Americans think the same thing about water infrastructure. A reliable system that ensures clean water and wastewater treatment makes our way of life possible. However, communities across the U.S. are relying on an aging water infrastructure that is in dire need of repair or replacement.

It’s estimated that a water main break occurs every two minutes in the United States, and that the nation must invest $1.3 trillion in repairs and upgrades over the next 25 years. Similarly, each year an estimated 850 billion gallons of untreated sewage is discharged from failing sewer collection systems.  But because the majority of our nation’s water systems are unseen underground, there is a public awareness gap that needs to be overcome. I hope that the efforts of the Coalition can help impress upon people the current state of water infrastructure and the need for significant investment.  

So much technological progress has been made in recent years. It would be a shame to be unable to keep system performance at the levels of quality and safety Americans have come to expect simply because the legacy infrastructure in need of repair and replacement is not properly handled.

More information on the campaign can be found online at www.thevalueofwater.org, on Twitter at @thevalueofwater, on Google+ at thevalueofwater, on YouTube at thevalueofwater, on Flickr at thevalueofwater and Slideshare at valueofwater.

Getting the conversation going and knocking down assumptions will not be easy, but nothing worthwhile usually is. Water plays an invaluable role in our lives and businesses, and we owe it to future generations to ensure that the current condition of our nation’s water infrastructure isn’t put in jeopardy or allowed to worsen. These are real challenges, but they can and must be met.