A Cause Worth Supporting

I read in the paper the other day that a significant number of Americans believe that all water going into storm drains is collected and properly treated at a wastewater facility.

I read in the paper the other day that a significant number of Americans believe that all water going into storm drains is collected and properly treated at a wastewater facility. I personally recall passing time as a youth tossing things into my neighborhood storm drains without a second thought, never suspecting that they would end up in some local stream or river.

I also embarrassingly recall, not too many years ago, having my next door neighbor’s 12-year-old son lecture me about my trash disposal habits and this thing called ‘recycling’. Today, most of us wouldn’t think to commingle our plastics, cans, papers and glass refuse with other household trash. So why do most still not understand the connection (or lack thereof) between storm drains and treatment plants? Plain and simple . . . lack of education.

Having been in this industry for nearly 30 years, I have been frustrated by the lack of awareness on the part of the general public, elected officials and others of the essential role served by the water industry in providing a constant, reliable source of potable water at the tap and a safe, environmentally sound means of disposal the waste.

Though many have made laudable attempts to raise awareness about the value of water, we are dangerously behind the eight ball when it comes to educating the public about water, its multiple uses and - most important - its cost. Most people are resigned to ever escalating rate increases for electricity, cable and other utilities, but heaven forbid you should charge reasonable user fees for what some believe is a God-given right.

I firmly believe that many of the challenges we face today as an industry to maintain our infrastructure and continue providing reliable service can be met if only the end user understood the business of water.

There is a new program being launched that seeks to educate the public about the business of water and one that merits our industry’s full support. Water is Life and Infrastructure Makes it Happen™ is the brainchild of the Water Environment Federation, which has made a multi-year commitment to develop public education tools for use by utilities and other stakeholders to educate citizens, local leaders and policymakers about the value of water and wastewater infrastructure.

WEF hopes to engage organizations dedicated to protecting the water environment, like WWEMA, to be part of a national alliance to guide in the program’s development and facilitate in its implementation. WEF recognizes that this is an enormous undertaking and will require the support of multiple stakeholders to ensure its success.

A website has already been created (www.waterislife.net) and written materials are in the process of being developed with the hopes of conducting several pilot projects in early 2006 to determine the best messages and means for delivering them.

One message that comes through loud and clear is that our industry must act now, in a unified way, to raise public awareness of the business of water and the critical need to invest in its infrastructure if we hope to sustain the progress we have achieved and meet the challenges that lie ahead. As the stewards of our water environment, we cannot fail in this undertaking.

WWEMA applauds WEF for taking this first ambitious step and will enthusiastically support its execution. WW

About the author:

Dawn Kristof is president of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association. WWEMA has operated for 97 years as a Washington, D.C.-based, non-profit trade organization representing the interests of companies that serve the water and wastewater industry.

More in Infrastructure Funding