A Journey From Disco To Desalinization With My Friend, Sid Wa!

By Dr. Mark LeChevallier – December 19, 2014 – Comment

I was honored to be asked to speak during the solutions panel at the Safe Drinking Water Act Experts Forum in Washington D.C. earlier this month. This was a milestone event, as it celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act (affectionately known as SDWA, pronounced “Sid Wa”), as well as all that the legislation itself and its advocates have empowered in terms of ‘Protecting Health from Source to Tap.’

Preparing my remarks took me on a unique journey of the history and progress in the movement to protect and conserve our water resources. In doing so, I discovered, the best ways to appreciate how far we’ve come is to immerse ourselves in life as we knew it in 1974, when SDWA was introduced…

…We were at the height of style, walking into the disco in polyester bellbottoms and platform shoes. We tuned in once a week to All in the Family, the picture snowy, and we either watched it as it aired, or we missed it. Words like “hi-def” weren’t in our vocabulary, DVRs weren’t among our technologies, and Post-It notes were not on the shelves at Staples (also non-existent). While all these innovations were yet to be discovered, water was already making its cause known; it took precedence over so many things.

In my remarks at the forum, I acknowledged the cause for celebration – from substantial decreases in water-borne diseases to increased funding for water infrastructure, a great deal has been accomplished in forty years! However, as we stand at the threshold of a new chapter in driving healthier, more sustainable water systems, now is the time to shed the ‘water leisure suits,’ to embrace the present dynamics, and integrate them with a vision for the future. How? At

the forum, I gave my friend “Sid Wa” three pillars of action:

  1. Get Hip & Get Out of the 70s: things we never considered back then are driving water health today, including climate change and aging infrastructure
  2. Get Networked: gone are the days where we can simply focus on drinking and waste water, here to stay is the need to integrate technologies, programs and people across industries
  3. Think Broadly: this means thinking of water not for individual uses, but as one resource working together

I invite you to view a short video of my remarks, and, if you’re inclined, the video of the entire forum – it was an amazing experience of insights, learning and visions for the future of water conservation and health.