As our climate changes and our infrastructure ages, new challenges arise to keep ratepayers confident in the water flowing from their taps and for water managers committed to keeping drinking water supplies reliable and affordable for all residents. Traditionally, water utilities have relied on human-designed infrastructure – concrete and chemicals – to engineer their way to safe drinking water but as the risks grow, so do costs.
At Working Waters, we help communities capitalize on the original engineer: nature.
We know that healthy watersheds store and filter water more effectively than many human-designed systems. By incorporating nature-based solutions into water infrastructure management, we can reduce pollution before it enters any pipes thereby lowering water treatment costs, offsetting the burden of infrastructure maintenance, and supporting environmental health while preparing for a changing climate.
And we cannot wait any longer:
In national polls, American consistently rank drinking water quality and safety as a top environmental concern. At the same time, polls also reveal that few Americans actually know where their drinking water originates. These facts highlight how important it is for drinking water utilities to communicate regularly with their customers. Ratepayers who understand and care about their drinking water supply are more likely to support the utility’s source water protection efforts.
Finding the right means to reach customers and deciding what to say may seem like a challenge, though. That’s why the American Water Works Association (AWWA) commissioned a report to help small- and medium-sized utilities more effectively communicate on source water protection issues in their Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs). The CCR is a unique opportunity to connect with and educate customers since every utility is required to send one to every customer each year.
Towns and cities throughout Oregon and Washington provide safe, reliable supplies of clean drinking water to their residents, day in and day out. However, small and rural towns provide this amazing service with far fewer resources.
Protecting drinking water at its source is the first line of defense in a multi-barrier approach to ensuring safe drinking water. But small drinking water providers do not have staff dedicated solely to source water protection. Operators are busy treating water to regulatory standards and keeping it flowing in its pipes. There’s no doubt that their job would be a lot easier if they had some help to protect and enhance water quality before it enters their treatment plant.
Fortunately, in the Pacific Northwest we have many groups that can provide the critical services needed to plan and implement source water protection activities.
Working Waters' Director Cathy Kellon was invited to write an article in the Washington Department of Health's newsletter for drinking water operators, "H2Ops."
The March 2018 issue, "Better Safe," focused on source water protection and we were happy to share our thoughts on how partnerships make source water protection possible for utilities of all sizes.
Read the full newsletter here (Kellon's piece is on page 6)