Fix a leak week reminds us of the nexus between infrastructure and securing a resourceful future

Fix a leak week reminds us of the nexus between infrastructure and securing a resourceful future

The rate of treated water that is wasted around the U.S. and the world provides for a shocking statistic: up to half of treated water supplied to urban areas around the world is lost during distribution.   And, closer to home, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reminds us that U.S. households leak 1 trillion gallons nationwide every year.  That’s enough water to supply 11 million homes.   Consider this: every day, approximately 6 billion gallons of water are lost to avoidable leaks––enough water to supply the entire state of drought-stricken California.   During #FixaLeak week, utilities and individuals across the country are encouraging their customers and decision-makers makers alike to think globally and act locally.   As individuals we can all take action to fix that dripping faucet or replace our appliances and showerheads with WaterSense products.   As communities, we need to raise our expectations for infrastructure maintenance and replacement. So frequently, water leaks are out-of-sight and out-of-mind until they spring to life and disrupt order in the form of a costly and wasteful water main break.   So chime in on Twitter at #FixaLeak and add your voice to raise awareness!   As we face a future with increasingly scarce resources, we have to consider the state of our public infrastructure and that which supplies our homes. Our infrastructure is the key to using the resources that we depend upon but it can also be a culprit for unnecessary...
How does a large water utility prepare for inclement weather?

How does a large water utility prepare for inclement weather?

The United Water Blog sat down with Tom Neilan, senior director of operations for United Water New Jersey to find out.  United Water Blog:  A new winter storm that is expected to bring significant snow and severe cold is coming to the region. You provide water service for 800,000 customers in Northern New Jersey. What do you do to prepare for something like this? Tom Neilan: Well, our priority is to keep the water flowing, despite any conditions that may arise. Since the storm came onto the radar, we have been carefully monitoring the weather and taking necessary action to protect the integrity of our facilities and water supplies. Moreover, our emergency crews are aware that despite the weather, they must be available 24 hours a day to respond to any situation that may occur. United Water Blog: You said you have been taking actions to prepare – can you give us some examples of what that might look like at one of your major treatment facilities and throughout your network? Tom Neilan: We have been testing backup generators. In the event of an electricity loss, we have invested significantly in backup sources to keep the water flowing. Water storage facilities – such as reservoirs – are kept full.  And we have an extra supply of water treatment chemicals on hand. In the event of prolonged road or rail closures, water quality will not falter. As I mentioned before, our dedicated emergency personnel will be vigilant and available around the clock. United Water Blog: It sounds like you have good preparedness measures in place. But I know that mother...
Public investment – minus the politics

Public investment – minus the politics

By Bertrand Camus, United Water CEO  Forty years ago this month, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act to protect public health by regulating the nation’s public drinking water supply. This milestone, which helps ensure that clean, fresh water flows from every tap in America, was created by a shared sense of political vision. Today, that progress is at risk from lack of political ambition to finance infrastructure projects. Ever since November’s mid-term elections, President Obama has worked to put investment in America’s roads, bridges and water systems back on the agenda as a priority that elected officials of all stripes can naturally get behind, saying: “Both parties have been for creating jobs rebuilding our infrastructure.” Visiting China, early December, he marveled at how major construction projects happen. “One thing is that if they need to build some stuff, they can build it,” he said. America can build it, too… Read the complete article on how we can accelerate investment in water infrastructure by tapping untapped funding resources on The Hill Congress Blog:...
How water and waste innovations make cities possible

How water and waste innovations make cities possible

What do toilets and iPhone’s have in common? How did water, sewer and solid waste innovations make cities possible? And why is big infrastructure essential to make cities function? If you want answers, we recommend you watch this fantastic PBS video. Part of a six part series titled “HOW WE GOT TO NOW” with Steven Johnson, “The Story of Clean” is a captivating one that traces innovations in the water, sewer and waste industry that can be credited for the making of the modern world. The narrator connects seemingly unconnected developments in high-tech, fashion, law and order and health to the so-called “heroes of clean.” Johnson also animates the story of our own United Water forefathers who took then-radical water treatment measures to eradicate cholera and typhoid in the early 1900’s. We know now that access to clean drinking water and the prevention of its contamination through waste management is the backbone for the circular economy. But it is gratifying to look at our daily work through a broad historical lens.  ...
Pennsylvania’s commitment to infrastructure investment benefits environment, economy

Pennsylvania’s commitment to infrastructure investment benefits environment, economy

  Pennsylvania’s state leadership got it right. When Governor Corbett announced the availability of $41.7 million in loans for water infrastructure earlier this year, he was quoted as follows: “The investments that we make today in our environment and economy will improve the quality of life for Pennsylvanians in all corners of the Commonwealth.” In addition to the State’s leadership, Pennsylvania has several water companies that are also able to finance water investments. United Water will do our part, in partnership with the state and communities where we do business, to invest nearly $46 million over the next 5 years in the areas we serve – for reliability purposes. Our customers in several communities including Bloomsburg, Mechanicsburg, Dallas, Hummelstown and the suburbs of Harrisburg will benefit from these reliability investments. Our improvement initiatives are especially timely as changing weather patterns make infrastructure ever more vulnerable to the whims of nature. It should come as no surprise that states which prioritize public investments and seek public-private solutions are able to attract more money than those that don’t. Pennsylvania has not been complacent with the state of its infrastructure for quite some time. A line of Pennsylvania Governors have lead on this issue. In fact, since 1996 Pennsylvania has utilized an infrastructure replacement financing program, a rate mechanism, that has effectively directed private companies like United Water to proactively make major investments to the oldest underground water pipes that are most vulnerable and most likely to cause water main breaks, degradation in water quality and service disruptions. Several states – most recently New Jersey – followed Pennsylvania by enacting a similar program...
United Water supports Sustainable Water Infrastructure Act

United Water supports Sustainable Water Infrastructure Act

In support of the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Act—legislation that would stimulate private sector investment in water infrastructure by modifying the tax code—United Water participated in a press event on June 2 alongside bill sponsors Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09), who each emphasized the need for this change. In the background, United Water construction crews worked to replace a broken underground valve leading to a 24-inch main that provides water to Cliffside Park residents. When the crew reached the valve, a ten-foot high jet of water shot out of the ground, creating mayhem as businessmen and members of the press frantically scrambled to avoid being sprayed by the geyser. Ironically, this reaffirmed the need for increased investment in the nation’s water infrastructure. “It seems like every week a pipe bursts somewhere in New Jersey, destroying property and disrupting lives,” Sen. Menendez said. “We’ve under-invested in our infrastructure, certainly we’ve underinvested in water systems, and now we’re paying the price.  These systems are old and badly degraded.  Many of them are waiting to fail, and they need to be fixed.” The bill, which sponsors will propose alongside a highway funding act, would remove caps on issuing private activity bonds (PAB) for water and wastewater projects. It comes at a time when the American Society of Civil Engineers has given America’s water infrastructure a D-rating, as some of it has been in place for almost a century. Passage of the bill would benefit local economies, both by providing jobs and by preventing unplanned infrastructure shutdowns that could disrupt commerce. “Our common sense solution not only invests in...