Smart Investments Now Can Lead To A Smart Water Future
According to a recent BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research report, water may be harder to acquire than oil by 2030, and the demand could be 40 percent greater than the water available. The report goes on to say that this would affect nearly half of the world’s population. One way to reduce the likelihood of this happening is by implementing sustainable water management practices.
Similar to setting up a budget at home to manage your money more efficiently, it’s important in the water industry to constantly keeping track of ways to optimize operations that will ensure water needs are being met now and in the future.
If the analogy between your finances and water running through your hands resonates with you, then you know it’s very easy to spend money if you aren’t keeping track of what’s coming in and what’s going out. We’ve all suffered from buyer’s remorse, overspending on something we didn’t really want or need – it’s not a good feeling. That’s why it is important to keep track of the water that comes in and out of our treatment plants.
As the research report points out, the demand for water is going to increase in the years to come and we need to be prepared for this. That’s why it’s necessary to implement innovative measures and utilize new forms of technology to track consumer water use. We’ve just completed some research that will allow us to do exactly that. Being able to accurately monitor water demand provides the information required to adjust and enhance internal operations, and ultimately increase the quality and the reliability of the water being delivered to each customer.
There’s an obvious price to assuring such quality and dependability. It can cost three times more than other utilities (like electric or gas) to run the facilities and systems that provide water services to customers, yet water is typically the least expensive household utility bill. Water and wastewater service are usually the lowest percentage utility cost per household, at an average of 12 percent, compared to gas/oil at 18 percent, telephone at 33 percent and electricity at 37 percent, not to mention what we pay for cell phone and Internet service! At the cost of about a penny per gallon, water is a tremendous value, especially considering that the average price of a gallon of milk or gas today is creeping toward $4.
While it may not be common knowledge, leaking pipes are a major cause of water loss today in the U.S. In fact, the water industry collectively loses about 7 billion gallons of drinking water each day, enough to fill 10,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, as water moves through the vast 700,000 miles of pipes used to deliver it to the nation’s water customers. This is why investing in the maintenance and upgrading of our nation’s pipes and other water infrastructure is critical. This investment also includes leak detection technology which has the potential to save up to $4.6 billion a year. Investing now will keep the water flowing in the future.
Frank Sinatra once sang, “Who knows where the road will lead us?” While none of us knows for sure, we should all be prepared. Whether you’re saving up to buy a home or to pay for your children’s education, budgeting for these demands is essential to your financial stability. The same holds true for the water industry. Water is a precious resource that must be treated and delivered with quality and efficiency.
Dr. Mark LeChevallier is the Director of Innovation & Environmental Stewardship for American Water in Voorhees, NJ. He received his Bachelor of Science and Masters degrees in Microbiology from Oregon State University in 1978 and 1980 and his Ph.D. in Microbiology in 1985 from Montana State University. Dr. LeChevallier is also known around the industry for his talent for making complex ...