What is the Value of Water?

Oct. 22, 2019

On October 23, 2019, Imagine a Day Without Water, WQP Managing Editor Lauren Del Ciello reflects on the value of water and calls on the water industry to push forward sustainable goals.

“Why does the water industry interest you?”

It was the fall of 2017, Hurricane Harvey had just hit the Gulf Coast, and I was interviewing for a position editing for several water industry magazines. One simple question and the role that followed launched an ongoing personal investigation into the value of water that I previously was relatively unaware of. Now, my friends and family know that I often inquire about the local water quality when traveling, and my Lyft drivers always leave with a greater understanding of the state of U.S. water infrastructure then they possessed before I entered their car. 

While I never considered myself exceptionally wasteful of water resources, I certainly never used to think twice about the life-sustaining resource that instantly appears when I turn on the tap, and having water readily available was always a fact of my Midwestern life. After talking to countless water treatment dealers; researchers and attorneys who have dedicated their lives to protecting water; nonprofits who work to provide access to water and improve quality for residents both near and far; municipalities that push to create public awareness of infrastructure challenges; and manufacturers who strive to create more efficient and sustainable water solutions my eyes are opened to both the gift that is access to clean water and also the need to band together to create a sustainable future.

The average American uses between 80 and 100 gal of water per day, with the largest use of household water allotted to toilet flushing, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. In comparison, last year when Cape Town, South Africa, was facing the threat of Day Zero–the day the city’s taps were expected to run dry–the city limited residents to 13 gal of water a day each. Shockingly, Cape Town is not alone in its imminent dwindling water resources. In 2018, BBC released a list of 11 cities most likely to run out of drinking water and some of the results are closer to home than you may realize. On the list are cities such as Bangalore, Cairo and Jakarta, but also cities including Miami, Tokyo, London and Mexico City. 

How is this possible that booming cities such as Miami are nearing a water crisis? The answer is twofold and considers both infrastructure decay and sustainability needs. In the U.S., a water main bursts every two minutes and much of the nation’s underground pipes that have a lifespan of 75 to 100 years are now due for replacement, according to a study of the economic benefits of investing in water infrastructure conducted by the Value of Water Campaign. The fact is that U.S. water infrastructure is in dire need of repair but federal investment in it is at an all-time low. Without funding in sight, this means that sustainability is more important than ever. Because water is continuously recycled through the water cycle, the Earth has the same amount of water now as when the planet was formed, but what we do with that water is up to us. Can we use less water to lower treatment and distribution costs? Can we re-think our water sources and remove the stigma surrounding treated water? We absolutely can, but we can’t do it alone. 

My co-hosts at the Talking Under Water podcast and I recently had the opportunity to ask Radhika Fox, CEO of the U.S. Water Alliance–which launched Imagine a Day Without Water five years ago–, about the inception of the day and why it is so important. Fox stressed that while each sector of the water industry may have its own agenda, industry partners must band together and speak with one voice to push forward the needs of the larger water industry as a whole, and that concept was the root of Imagine a Day Without Water.

“At the end of the day, if we elevate water in the national debate then we all win,” Fox said in the interview with Talking Under Water.

So, now I ask you, whether you are a consumer, concerned voice, industry expert or water novice: “Why does the water industry need you?”

Related Content: