Water is a solvent, not a trash can

There is a social stigma associated with littering. If you saw someone toss an empty coffee cup on the ground in front of you, chances are, you’d find that behavior odd.  But our water and wastewater professionals know a secret: the oddest things are still flushed or dumped into our waterways.  Although it is a natural solvent, water is not a trash can. Our employees across the country routinely volunteer their time to clean up waterways in their area – and you wouldn’t believe the junk that they find. A diver in Delaware found a bowling ball a couple of months back. Someone must have had a frustrating night at the bowling alley. A group of employees recently joined hundreds of volunteers along the Connecticut River for the Source to Sea Cleanup hosted by the Connecticut River Watershed Council. They turned up dozens of propane tanks – a regular piece of litter that lurks in and pollutes our waterways.  Fishing gear also frequently turns up. Tons of household garbage is dumped when no one is watching.  And to top it off, huge items including a cement mixer and a junk car were also uncovered by our recent efforts on the Connecticut River. Even more troublesome are the personal care products that show up at our waste treatment facilities or are detected by our wastewater treatment processes. Facial wipes, baby wipes and dental floss are routinely responsible for costly clogging in underground sewers; they don’t break down like toilet paper. Prescription and over the counter medicines are frequently flushed and they end up in our streams and rivers.  Fish and...

The Price of Sustainable Water Service: a Not-So-Simple Calculation

Circle of Blue, a leading information source on water issues, published an article earlier this summer entitled “The Price of Water, A Comparison of Water Rates and Usage in 30 US Cities” by Brett Walton. The article explores the different factors determining the cost of water services. There are countless factors contributing to the cost of water service: customers’ proximity to the water, the cities’ per capita water consumption, the regions’ yearly precipitation, government subsidies, and many more. As expected, the cost of water service varies dramatically across the country.  For an average family of four using 150 gallons per day or 4,500 gallons per month; the monthly cost of water service ranges from $27 to $224. In most American cities, water use is declining while rates charged are rising. Since less water is being used, utility companies must raise prices for customers to provide for their costs. Western states, however, may feel the present changes less than other states. The federal government invested in major water infrastructure projects in the West over 50 years ago. The price of water service is artificially low in these areas and customers are more likely to experience “rate shock” to bridge the cost gap when investments and infrastructure repairs are made. Proximity to water also determines water rates. Moving water takes energy and therefore energy costs are higher in drought-prone regions. Whereas the Great Lakes region, for example, may have lower energy costs associated with water delivery because of its close proximity to its water sources. Also contributing to water service costs is crumbling water infrastructure; some of which has been in...

Environmental Charter – Our Commitment to Sustainability

    Achieving environmental excellence is our goal – each day – in the way we manage and protect the precious resource of water.  Preserving the environment is as the heart of our business and we believe that making the planet sustainable is the best job on earth.  We put this philosophy into action every day in the way we operate our businesses. That’s why we have adopted an Environmental Charter that lays out our specific commitments to excellence in our environmental performance. If you would like to learn more about our environmental charter click here. In our future posts we’ll drill down on each of our Environmental Charter to talk about the specifics of what we are doing.  ...