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Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter’s statement in response to the Administration’s new water infrastructure proposals is a sad reminder that the only thing groups like Food & Water Watch contribute to the national effort to provide safe, reliable and affordable drinking water and wastewater services is one simple word: “no.”
Local officials across the country are seeking innovative solutions to the water infrastructure and management challenges they face. With their announcement on Friday, the White House and the EPA have affirmed the vital role that private sector capital and expertise have in improving our nation’s water and wastewater systems. Importantly, the Administration’s proposals encourage strong collaboration between the public and private sector in meeting our country’s substantial water infrastructure challenges.
The Administration is to be commended, not criticized, for moving to ensure community leaders have the tools they need to deliver the service and value their residents expect from their local water system. Although Hauter calls the Administration’s proposals “misguided,” in reality it is activist organizations like Food & Water Watch that are out of touch.
Despite a strong affirmation by the president and EPA, radical critics of all things private refuse to acknowledge any role for the private sector in meeting our water challenges. For example, the Food & Water Watch statement repeats vague, tired aspersions about price tags and environmental threats when, in fact, thousands of successful public-private partnerships deliver safe water and true value to tens of millions of Americans every day.
Food & Water Watch and its allies say they are looking out for the American people, but in reality, they are just seeking to deny local communities an important option for meeting water and wastewater needs.
While Food & Water Watch continues to say “no” to the local officials considering public-private partnerships, the National Association of Water Companies will work with public officials – from the Administration to municipal utility managers – to ensure every community in America has the information and tools they need to deliver safe and affordable water. And the thousands of water professionals of NAWC member companies will, as always, be on the streets and in the treatment plants protecting their neighbors’ public health, serving as stewards of the environment and strengthening their local economy.
On Tuesday, December 16 at 1 p.m. EST, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water will hold a Twitter chat featuring Peter Grevatt, the director of the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water.
The chat will explore the accomplishments of the past 40 years under the Safe Drinking Water Act and the challenges that lie ahead. To participate, tweet @EPAwater and use the hashtag #safetodrink. Additional information about the Safe Drinking Water Act and 40th Anniversary can be found online .
On Tuesday, December 9, a national celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act was held at the National Press Club in Washington DC.
Highlights included a keynote address by administrator of the US EPA, Gina McCarthy as well as remarks by NAWC’s executive director, Michael Deane.
Walter Lynch, president and chief operating officer of regulated operations for American Water and NAWC’s current president spoke about the critical role of infrastructure investment and the value of public-private partnerships. American Water’s director of innovation and environmental stewardship, Mark LeChevallier, PhD, addressed the impact of climate change, the energy-water nexus and water reuse.
The event was live streamed and recorded and is now available online.
The actual anniversary date of the Safe Drinking Water Act is December 16, 2014, and we encourage NAWC members to publicize the important role of private water companies in delivering safe drinking water to 73 million Americans every day. Read Michael Deane’s September Huffington Post column on the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Duyen Tran was recently named the National Association of Water Companies’ 2014 Living Water Awards recipient. She blogs about what the value of water means to her and why she feels particularly honored to receive this special industry recognition.
Guest post by: Duyen Tran, Director of Sustainable Operations, CH2M HILL’s Operations Management Services
When people ask me what I enjoy most about living in the United States, my answer is “clean air, clean water, and freedom of speech.” That was my answer 40 years ago, and it was the blessing of having clean water available anywhere, anytime that inspired me to become a passionate advocate throughout my career as a water professional.
So I was particularly honored when the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) named me its 2014 Living Water Awards recipient, because it is an opportunity to represent all my many industry colleagues who share that passion and live water every day. Like you, we all want clean water for our families, communities, and everyone, everywhere, in the world. That is why I am committed to using both the NAWC platform and my role as the 2014 – 2015 Speaker of the House of Delegates for the Water Environment Federation to speak out about the value of water.
Over the years, we water professionals have become increasingly vocal about the need for clean water and the infrastructure to support it. A dozen public and private industry organizations and companies have banded together to form the Value of Water Coalition as a way to unify our message regarding the critical need to reinvest in water infrastructure here and around the world. It provides a wealth of information about how water is used in so many ways, and the impact on society if we don’t do everything possible to preserve this precious, limited resource.
I urge each of you to resolve to become better water advocates – not just by doing the good work of cleaning and protecting water, but also by talking about it with our families, neighbors, and our communities. It is our duty and our privilege to speak out on the importance of sustaining water and the systems that deliver and take it away.
Duyen Tran has worked in the water and wastewater industry for 28 years, 25 of them with CH2M HILL, where she has held numerous leadership positions, including her current role as Director of Sustainable Operations for the firm’s Operations Management Services group. She is 2014-15 Speaker-Elect of the House of Delegates for the Water Environment Federation, where she has been a member since 1990 and served in multiple leadership capacities for the international organization. In these and other industry roles at the state and national levels, Duyen has worked to promote public awareness of and further career opportunities for water and wastewater professionals.
Among her many industry honors, she was recently named the National Association of Water Companies’ 2014 Living Water Awards recipient. Duyen earned her B.S. degree in chemistry from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
This entry also appeared on CH2M HILL’s blog Access Water and the Water Environment Federation website.
Each week Dave McGimpsey posts an interview with a water industry leader to get their perspective on current issues for his podcast, The Water Values.
This week’s guest is Bob Iacullo, executive vice president of United Water. During the podcast Bob and Dave discuss United Water’s P3 agreement with the City of Bayonne in New Jersey, including how the P3 agreement saved Bayonne money not just on the water side, but also improved the city’s credit rating. They also discuss the history of the public-private partnership model in the water sector, how the model has changed and what innovations are taking place. The full interview with Bob Iacullo is now available online.
This podcast, in addition to all previous podcasts in The Water Values series, is available on Dave’s website, The Water Values , iTunes , Stitcher and other podcast directories.
Guest post by Daniel Shemie and Robert McDonald
Each year, cities around the world spend $90 billion to build infrastructure that’s used to deliver and treat water. To meet the needs of growing urban populations, some cities transport clean water thousands of kilometers to their residents, while other cities invest in more complex technology to treat local water resources. But nature has an important role to play in water delivery and treatment, one that has gone largely untapped.
The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and the International Water Association, has released a new report, Urban Water Blueprint: Mapping Conservation Solutions to the Global Water Challenge, which analyzes the state of water among more than 2,000 water sources and 530 cities worldwide. The report offers science-based recommendations for natural solutions that can be integrated alongside traditional infrastructure to improve water quality.
While the 100 largest cities in the world occupy less than 1 percent of our planet’s land area, their source watersheds—the rivers and land where cities get their water—cover more than 12 percent. That’s an area of land roughly the size of Russia—1.7 billion hectares——that collects, filters and transports water to nearly a billion people before it ever enters a pipe.
Although watersheds are vital to the urban water supply, they typically receive little investment. In reality, protecting water at its source can be cheaper and more efficient than treating it after it has already been polluted. The Urban Water Blueprint indicates for the first time that one in four cities could have a positive return on investment from investing in watershed conservation.
Investing in natural solutions such as forest protection, reforestation, stream bank restoration, improved agricultural practices and forest fire management can reduce sediment and nutrient pollutants that flow into drinking water sources. These solutions have the potential to improve water quality for more than 700 million people around the world.
The Urban Water Blueprint, for example, shows that applying natural solutions to working landscapes, such as farms and ranches, has the greatest potential to improve water quality in many large cities—which is increasingly important as cropland is projected to increase 10 percent globally by 2030. The report reveals that 600 million city dwellers would see a material improvement in the quality of their water sources if agricultural best management practices were targeted to some 6.4 million hectares, or just 0.2 percent of cropland area.
The Urban Water Blueprint and accompanying interactive website serve as a tool for decision makers in evaluating water quantity and quality risk across the world’s largest cities, the steps cities have taken to overcome water stress, and the cost-benefits of incorporating natural solutions. Since the benefits of natural solutions often extend beyond municipal boundaries, the report outlines unique financing mechanisms that cities, water utilities and partners can use to share the cost of implementing these solutions in shared watersheds.
Cities that embrace both natural and traditional engineered infrastructure solutions will not only meet future water demand; they will reshape our planet’s landscape for the better.
Visit nature.org/waterblueprint to explore for yourself.
Photo: © Scott Warren
Guest post by Donna Vincent Roa
Water utilities are vital business enterprises that contribute directly to the economy, business continuity, our health, and our existence. They are entrusted with moving, cleaning, and delivering the most important product on our planet and are essential to thriving, sustainable, and healthy communities.
Yet, most communities know very little about them…until a water main breaks, or there is a water disaster. Americans do not know much about, understand, or value these silent water utilities that manage 24/7 the processes and infrastructure that deliver water. We need to advance stakeholder understanding and support.
We need to shape the thinking of the current generation, stimulate ownership, and enhance awareness about the sustainable use and economic importance of water. We need to teach people through clear communication how to value our water resources.
It is been said by water utility leaders that the single greatest benefit to water infrastructure asset management is our ability to explain water. The provocative and hard-hitting narratives from top thought leaders in the industry in The Value of Water: A Compendium of Essays by Smart CEOs offer insights and perspectives that can inform that ability and change our understanding of the value of water. These CEOs, who are at this evolving business dynamic and are shaping water’s future, advocate for the implementation of a “one water” sustainability and resource management paradigm, and support the idea that water is everyone’s business.
From the American public’s perspective, I believe that we appreciate and value water, the product. I think that people understand and appreciate that water is fundamental to life. They know the serious consequences when there is a lack of water or when there is too much of it. What may need to be addressed is how we can connect this instinctive valuing of water to the utilities that deliver it.
How? Integrated management plans for the utility of the future must have a stronger emphasis on strategic business communication that directly supports the mission and operational goals of a utility. With leadership support and the right level of funding, strategic communication can improve the public perceptions of the value of water and our water utilities.
Communicators, working in tandem with engineers, can facilitate more widespread awareness of water issues, create a broader understanding of the language of water, and most importantly, affect behavior change. Strategic communication can also improve “inside the fence” operations too and help senior leaders address ways to enhance customer experience, understand leadership succession and the effects of an aging workforce on business operations, train key staff in crisis communication, and position brand communication to enhance reputation. These are critical business needs that require active input from senior communication counselors.
Water utilities carry the greatest embedded value in value of water equation. We need to unveil that value. The real story of water is inside the fence of our public and private water utilities that consistently delivering a high quality, life-giving product despite the myriad challenges they face. If we consistently communicate the value of water utilities, we will surely raise the profile of the value of water.
Internationally accredited business communicator and counsel to CEOs, engineers and professional communicators, Donna is Managing Partner & CEO at Vincent Roa Group, LLC. The firm helps water passionate CEOs and executives address organizational communication challenges, link communication to their C-suite initiatives and business strategies, and transform interactions with internal and external stakeholders. She speaks at industry conferences and writes regularly on water issues for Water Online and Speaking Up About Water.
To learn more about the importance of strategic communication for water utilities, listen to the Water Values Podcast with Donna: “Effective Communication in Water Industry.”
Earlier this year Denver-based attorney Dave McGimpsey launched a podcast series focusing on water. Each week Dave interviews someone in the water industry to get their perspective on current issues. The series of interviews, titled “The Water Values Podcast”, is available on Dave’s website, The Water Values , iTunes , Stitcher and other podcast directories.
Dave recently sat down with Lisa Sparrow, President and CEO of Utilities, Inc., a water and wastewater utility company with a national reach. During the podcast Lisa discussed:
- The water utility acquisition process as part of growth strategy
- How Utility, Inc. meets the needs of small to mid-size communities around the country
- Examples of the problems that troubled utilities face
- How utilities evaluate acquisition opportunities as a way to bring troubled utilities up to safe, reliable standards.
- How state government regulators impact acquisition decisions
- How utilities can work with regulators to implement creative solutions
- How acquisition adjustments by state regulators can incent further investment in utilities
- How utility investors can increase success in getting return on investment
- How to balance the economic and regulatory needs of all stakeholders involved in utility acquisitions
- How the interests of investors, customers and regulators compare
- The relationship between investors and regulators
- The role of women in the utility industry – and the opportunities available
- Leadership qualities the utility industry needs
The full interview with Lisa Sparrow is available online.
Water industry thought leaders Charles Fishman, Tracy Mehan, Jessica Godreau and Dennis Doll sat down with Dave McGimpsy at the 2014 NAWC Water Summit to discuss the important questions and challenges facing the water utility industry today.
Listen and learn what these panel of experts think about a variety of topics, ranging from the state of the water sector to the regulatory environment to the Safe Drinking Water Act’s regulation of contaminants. The panel also shares ideas about how to best to educate customers and communicate effectively across the industry to better meet water challenges together.
Listen to The Water Values Podcast by clicking here.
PBS launched a new series of videos, How We Got to Now, with an episode that highlights how wastewater and drinking water solutions over the past 150 years have saved lives, cleaned up our cities, and allowed for our economic growth. From Chicago’s strategy to lift literally every building in the city to allow for a functioning sewer system to the tremendous amount of engineering expertise and infrastructure needed to provide these essential services.
Watch the entire episode on the PBS site.
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