clean water, the value of water, Water Footprint

Outta Sight Outta Mind or Outta Mind Outta Sight: Clean Water and Why We Forget About It

Today we introduce a new blog series focusing on communicating the importance of clean drinking water to the consumer. Our guest blogger is Seth Johnstone. Seth works in the water industry helping to make water utility systems more sustainable through innovative technological applications, data-driven decision making, and business process improvement.

and here we go…

It’s a concept that’s been beaten to death in the water utilities sector: consumers don’t think about clean water until they don’t have access to it or until something is wrong with it. In the US, there’s not much that prevents water from getting to the end-user aside from the occasional boil-water advisory that occurs after a main break. But when drought hits or snow comes later and ends earlier, water moves a little higher up in the mental pecking order of the average citizen. Add to that reports of lead, PCEs, or pharmaceuticals in drinking water, and drinking water will occupy almost as much mental bandwidth as a 30-minute episode of the Big Bang Theory (for me that’s a pretty heavy allotment of brain power; for my wife that’s negligible).

So why does something that each of us uses on average 578.3 pounds of per day (69.3 gallons x 8.3454 lbs/gallon) occupy such a small portion of our available attention span and brain power? For this, we have to thank our local water utility, and their ability to deliver clean water 99.99% of the time. Sure we may have watering restrictions now and then, but every time I turn on my faucet the water comes out clear and tastes, smells, and behaves the same as the last time I turned on the faucet. As long as there are no negative news reports (Outta Mind), then I have no reason to look any closer at the clear liquid coming out of my tap (Outta Sight).

And that’s where the problem comes in. It’s not cheap to deliver clean, consistent water to customers 24/7/365. The cost of producing clean water in the United States far outstrips the price we pay for it, and that cost varies drastically across the industry depending on factors such as proximity to source water, cleanliness of that source water, energy costs, age of the piping infrastructure, and costs to treat that water after it’s been used.

So Consumer, where does that leave us? Well, since water has such an impact on our ability to live, I recommend the following:

  • Pay attention to your water bill each month (or in my particular case, every other month). If you really want to be nerdy about it, enter your monthly consumption in a spreadsheet and track your water usage.
  • Look for ways to reduce water usage in the house (e.g., every dish doesn’t need to be pre-rinsed, make sure you have low-flow toilets and showerheads, repair running toilets)
  • Look for ways to reduce water usage outside (e.g., collect A/C condensation and use for gardening, rain barrels, water your lawn less)
  • Vote for public officials who actually understand that water is a finite resource, and understand the complexities involved in delivering clean water
  • Get involved with your local water utility – take a tour, meet a manager, talk to a repair crew – anything that helps you understand what they do
  • Be prepared to pay more for the clean water we all rely on

This is just a start, but I guarantee the above guidelines will help you appreciate the water out of your tap at a whole new level.


About noahmorgenstern

Entrepreneurial Warlock, mCouponing evangelist, NFC Rabbi, Innovation and Business Intelligence Imam, Secular World Shaker, and General All Around Good Guy


2 thoughts on “Outta Sight Outta Mind or Outta Mind Outta Sight: Clean Water and Why We Forget About It

  1. A Better Community For All (ABC4All) is working to eliminate the consumption of polluted water in the world. See SAVING LIVES

    Posted by Burton Danet, Ph.D. | February 6, 2012, 3:15 pm
  2. There are very few places in which water is properly priced. It is taken for granted because it has historically been very cheap and the same public that gladly pays over $100 USD/month for cable TV balks at rate increases for water and wastewater treatment. What complicates the matter is short-term thinking by elected politically-driven potentates who think they’re doing their duty and serving the public by suppressing critically-needed rate increases. It is therefore no surprise to anyone familiar with the business side of utility operations that infrastructure is not renewed or replaced as it depreciates and eventually breaks down. The costs for such irresponsibility is lost water, interruption of water service and streets which cave-in by broken water mains. But, the elected officials continue to be elected because, after all, they’ve managed to control rate increases!

    Posted by John B Cook | February 6, 2012, 4:21 pm

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