Before writing this blog, I conducted an informal experiment to see how the ‘go-to authorities’ define infrastructure for the masses. My method was to do what most people would… an online search of “infrastructure definition.” Looking at the top three hits, every definition asserts infrastructure as being the basic physical facilities, structures and services installations needed for the functioning of a community, society or enterprise. They go on to give examples: buildings, roads, power supplies, transportation, and communications systems.
You’ll notice, sadly, that water is not listed among the examples of “basics” needed for communities to function, and not even the esteemed Oxford Dictionary includes water as part of infrastructure. I did find water mentioned as part of an infrastructure definition on hit #4 and then on Wikipedia. While we’ve made significant progress in awareness of water conservation and sustainability, society’s failure to recognize water systems as a vital part of the infrastructure – as, in essence, a basic need for functioning – presents an enormous challenge and casts quite a shadow on our future water outlook.
The Value of Water Coalition addressed the issue by hosting one of the Infrastructure Week events in Washington D.C. as part of the Coalition’s new awareness effort, Water Works! and by releasing its new report, From Invisible to Invaluable: Changing the Way We Think About Water Infrastructure.
More than just looking at the need to repair, upgrade and replace the aging water infrastructure, the panel addressed several key points – all making a strong argument for the critical need to include water systems in national discussions about infrastructure.
- Water is key to every component of daily life, including jobs, health and the environment.
- Water is fundamentally connected to all elements of a functioning economy.
- The Water industry significantly contributes to local jobs as well as jobs across the national economy. (Every $1 spent on the water infrastructure adds $6.35 to the national economy!)
- The impact of not investing now in the water infrastructure can be devastating. By 2020, failing to make the needed investments will mean the loss of $734 billion in sales for American businesses, the loss of 700,000 jobs, and the average household paying $82/year more for water.
President Obama also weighed in on the issue during a speech at the Tappan Zee bridge, saying: “We’ve got leaky pipes that lose billions of gallons of drinking water every single day, even as we’ve got a severe drought in much of the West.”
Water Works! is an exciting initiative aimed at generating wide-scale awareness and growing the conversations about the vital importance of the water infrastructure. Like all successful endeavors, assuring the health and capabilities of our water infrastructure starts with understanding and talking about it, and Water Works! is already in motion to do just that. You can learn more and get involved in the discussions at TheValueofWater.org.