AWWA: Conservation, security, stewardship highlight National Drinking Water Week

Drinking Water Week ends with focus on conservation. Public encouraged to protect and preserve water supply. Association also reminds citizens to be aware of unusual activity near water supplies, facilities. And it urges infrastructure reinvestment as maintaining 'lifeblood' of communities...

DENVER, May 6, 2005 (U.S. Newswire) -- Water is our most precious natural resource, and as Drinking Water Week 2005 comes to a close, utilities across the country urge their customers to continue their efforts to conserve water.

"Drinking Water Week reminds us of the essential role we each play in respecting and protecting our drinking water supply," said Jack Hoffbuhr, AWWA's executive director. "Drought conditions in the West, and most recently the Pacific Northwest, have forced many of us to rethink the way we approach our water supply."

The past few years have been some of the most drought-stricken the United States has seen in 100 years. As this summer begins, water utilities will keep a close eye on water shortages and work to keep the public informed on developments that will affect them. Water professionals are exploring many topics to ensure the preservation of our water supply, including increased focus on protecting our watersheds, expanding the use of recycled water for irrigation and industrial uses, and investment in desalination technology.

Water consumers can play a large role in ensuring the continued availability of their water supply. Daily indoor per capita water use in the typical single family home is 69.3 gallons. Households can reduce this water use by about 35% to 45.2 gallons per day by employing conservation measures.

What can local residents do?
-- Don't over-water your lawn, and water early in the morning or at night to avoid excess evaporation.
-- Fully load the dishwasher and clothes washer before running them.
-- When washing dishes by hand, don't let the water run.
-- If you have a swimming pool, use a cover. You will cut the loss of water by evaporation by 90%.
-- Repair dripping faucets and leaky toilets. Dripping faucets can waste up to 2,000 gallons of water each year in the average home. Leaky toilets can waste as much as 200 gallons per day.
-- Don't leave the sink running while you brush your teeth.
-- Help preserve the quality of the available water supply by not overusing pesticides and fertilizers, avoiding flushing medications down the toilet or sink, and disposing of hazardous materials properly.

"We're all stewards of the water we use," Hoffbuhr said. "Utilities, elected leaders, state and federal agencies, and consumers all have a responsibility to ensure that our water supply is protected and there is enough water available for use by future generations."

Urging awareness of unusual activity at water supplies, facilities
AWWA also acknowledged the important strides made since 9-11 to secure North American water supplies and urged citizens to be aware of unusual activity near water facilities or sources.

Water professionals, security experts and emergency responders gathered last month in Oklahoma City to assess the state of water security at the third AWWA Water Security Congress. Officials examined the latest in contamination warning technologies that are improving chemists' ability to detect undesirable substances in drinking water. More than 50 manufacturers of security technologies were present to share the latest innovations with attendees.

"Significant progress has been made in contamination monitoring, physical and cyber security, information sharing and emergency response planning," said Jack Hoffbuhr, AWWA executive director. "But each citizen has a role to play by being the first line of defense against those who would harm our water supplies. If we see unusual activity near a water supply, hydrant or facility, we should report it immediately to the police."

The association estimates U.S. water utilities have spent about $2 billion since 2002 to upgrade security with better fencing, cameras, locks and other physical improvements. J. Alan Roberson, AWWA director of security and regulatory affairs, said security has become part of the fabric of everyday decisions at water utilities.

"Being in Oklahoma City for the Water Security Congress 10 years after the terrorist attack there was a poignant reminder for water professionals that we have to remain vigilant," Roberson said. "If we once applied water security like a protective shield, it now as to be in our bones."

Promoting reinvestment in 'lifeblood' of communities
Lastly, although the 700,000 miles of drinking water pipes running below U.S. streets are usually out of sight and out of mind, water professionals are bringing the dialogue about the value and cost of water infrastructure above ground.

"The vast network of water pipes running below our streets are the lifeblood of our communities and our country," said Jack Hoffbuhr, executive director of the American Water Work Association (AWWA). "We have inherited a magnificent drinking water system that was built largely by previous generations. It's incumbent on all of us to act as good stewards of these systems, and that means increasing our collective investment in them in the coming years."

A 2001 AWWA study, Dawn of the Replacement Era, demonstrated that many communities have water infrastructure that will require significant replacement in the next 20 years, and nationally the bill may exceed $250 billion. By 2030, the average utility in AWWA's study will have to spend about three and half times as much on pipe replacement as it spends today.

While many water utilities have made great strides in operating efficiencies in recent years, in many communities there is a gap between current infrastructure investment levels and the investment necessary to sustain drinking water service over the long-term. Local communities will have to meet most of these expenses through forward-looking customer rate structures and financing plans.

"There may be more glamorous projects than replacing water pipes, but you'd be hard pressed to find more important ones," Hoffbuhr said. "National Drinking Water Week is an excellent time to reflect on the value of our water infrastructure and recommit ourselves to taking care of it. We owe it to our children and their children."

About Drinking Water Week
The importance of water is too often overlooked. For more than 30 years, the American Water Works Association has celebrated Drinking Water Week with its members -- a unique opportunity for both water professionals and the consumers they serve to join together to recognize the vital role water plays in our daily lives. During the first week in May, utilities, their communities and other groups across the country celebrate our most precious natural resource with fairs, programs, contests and other exciting events.

Established in 1881, the American Water Works Association (www.awwa.org) is the oldest and largest nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to safe water in North America. It has over 57,000 members worldwide and its 4,700 utility members serve 80% of America's population.

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