15 Sep Cell Phone or Water… What’s Your Choice?
By Sara M. Katz, Founder and CEO
2016 marks our 30th year in supporting important water infrastructure projects throughout the U.S. and abroad. Over those many years, we’ve had the privilege of working with experts – engineers, scientists, researchers, financial analysts, elected officials, district managers, communication experts and more – all dedicated to solving our infrastructure challenges so we NEVER have to imagine a day without water. Much has been accomplished… and yet much remains to be achieved.
In some recent “man on the street” interviews for one of our projects, regular citizens were asked to name one thing they couldn’t live without. Answers included the following: “Family,” “My Cell Phone” and “My Car” among others. No one, not one person, mentioned “Water.” Fair to say that they have not imagined a day without water? A day without water to brush their teeth, flush the toilet, take a shower, or make their first cup of coffee. Or a day without water to run their manufacturing facility, restaurant or business.
Most North Americans take water, and the systems that bring it to and from homes and businesses, for granted. They turn on the tap, and safe drinking water reliably comes out. They flush the toilet, and they don’t have to think twice about how that wastewater will be taken away and safely treated before it is returned to the environment. Certainly there is little thought to the infrastructure, planning, and advances in alternative water supplies that are helping to ensure a sustainable water supply is available for future generations.
What’s the disconnect between urgent need and action? It’s not the science. It’s not lack of great thinking and ingenuity. Generally speaking, it is the fact that service providers have been doing a great job for many, many years with limited means. It is lack of awareness, lack of clarity on the issues and potential solutions, and sometimes – lack of interest in this competitive information-filled world.
In the western United States, this is changing a bit. Historic drought and mandated conservation have brought supply issues into focus. People are making behavioral changes that are probably going to need to be permanent. Every time a new fire breaks, there are questions about whether or not there will be sufficient water to fight the fight. But is this raised awareness enough to get us where we need to be – given the challenges with drought, flooding and climate change which all need to be planned for as well as funded.
The problems that face our drinking water and wastewater systems are multi-faceted, and funding for improvements has been underfunded for too long. The infrastructure is aging and in need of investment, while drought, flooding, and climate change all place extra pressure on our water and wastewater infrastructure. Understandably, different regions face different water challenges, so the solutions to strengthen our drinking water and wastewater systems must be locally driven, yet adhere to state and federal standards, which also continue to change (requiring more investments) to address many factors. At the same time, a common condition throughout the country is generally low political will to make the tough choices and, in turn, raise rates to fund critical infrastructure projects. Let’s face it — overall the industry has done a great job providing these services for many years, yet the costs for these services are often far less than what we pay for our monthly gas & electric, cable or mobile phone services. As such, as a nation we are now facing an estimated need to invest over $500 billion over the next 10 years to deal with our current water and wastewater infrastructure. These investments are being discussed and debated community by community across the nation.
Katz & Associates is driven by our mission to help clients “communicate effectively about things that matter.” Water matters. Infrastructure matters. Finding alternative ways to ensure a sustainable water supply for now and the future matters. Helping other achieve results through effective, transparent and regular communication matters. This is not just our business, it is our passion. As we embark on our 31st year, we will continue to work hand-in-hand with our clients across the U.S. and beyond to plan and support successful infrastructure projects through awareness and understanding.
That is why we are taking part in this nationwide educational effort called “Imagine a Day Without Water.” Hundreds of organizations across the country are joining forces to raise public awareness and spark action to solve water and wastewater problems today, before they become a crisis tomorrow. These include many of our partners and clients, both engineering firms and water and wastewater utilities, who are joining forces to highlight the connection between the need and solutions. This campaign of imagining a day without water is about helping to highlight the importance of water and wastewater services and how it connects to the daily lives for all Americans. We need more of a focus on investing in keeping these services operating each and every day from water and wastewater utilities, but what goes along with that is that the public needs to understand and support those investments.
We look forward to many more years of helping water and wastewater utilities plan and implement important projects with the support of the communities they serve to ensure our water and wastewater systems continue to function properly now and for future generations.
We must remain focused on how important it is that we address issues with our water and wastewater systems today, so we can all imagine a day without water if we need to, but ideally never have to actually experience it.