On the 40th Anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act

On the 40th Anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act

4 things we know to be true about the next 40 years in water management … Safe drinking water is available from nearly every tap in America. Yet there are many areas across the world where this basic need is still viewed as a luxury. And when you consider that nearly 1 billion people globally lack access to water, you can understand why our environment and public health system here in America is a proud accomplishment. We know that many take safe drinking water for granted today. But did you know that when the Safe Drinking Water Act was signed into law 40 years ago, 40 percent of our nation’s drinking water systems failed to meet even basic health standards? Thanks to the Safe Drinking Water Act and the work and innovations of employees like ours at United Water who make the water safe and the source water clean; customers can trust their taps and businesses can reliably operate. As we look to the next 40 years, we know that we will face different challenges and opportunities as water managers.   We know that significant infrastructure maintenance, repair and replacement needs exist in our service areas and in cities across the country. Municipal leaders are facing these challenges with increasingly limited budgets. We know that major companies will locate where water will be clean and plentiful. Those same businesses will require innovation to develop sustainable operations and will place a premium on responsible management of this resource. We know that to continue to provide safe, reliable drinking water we have to understand water issues as part of a circular economy; that...
United Water continues to work towards ambitious energy reduction goals

United Water continues to work towards ambitious energy reduction goals

The United Water blog sat down with our company’s Energy Manager Elizabeth Watson to learn more about the goal to reduce energy usage by an additional five percent by the end of 2016. This goal is particularly ambitious since the company has already marked significant progress in this area:  since 2009, we have reduced greenhouse gas emissions in our operations by 16.5 % and shown a 28.5% improvement in energy efficiency. Elizabeth Watson, United Water’s first Energy Manager, has a dirty, little secret: Most clean water in this country is delivered with the help of dirty, coal-burning power plants. That’s because water requires pumping, and pumps require electricity, and almost half of U.S. electricity is produced by burning coal. Watson readily shares the secret in the hopes of pulling the plug on as much energy usage as possible. Right now, United Water uses 520 million kilowatt hours per year—enough to power 48,000 homes—to process and distribute water and wastewater. The company’s goal is to reduce energy usage five percent by the end of 2016. That’s enough energy to power 2,400 of those homes for a year. Why is United Water so invested in reducing energy? United Water cares a great deal about energy and sustainability, and we’ve done a lot over the years. We’re just stepping it up a notch. We already cut the company’s annual energy bill by $1.3 million and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 5,500 metric tons. But we still need to do more, and we are committed to make it happen to reduce energy usage by an additional five percent by the end of 2016! That is a...
United Water’s SOLUTION goes to business school

United Water’s SOLUTION goes to business school

We know that American cities and towns need to invest hundreds of billions of dollars – between $400 billion and $1 trillion to be exact – in their public water and sewer systems. And we know that investors are keen on investing in efficiently operated systems that will provide a steady return. That fact is what brought us to University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School, one of the most prestigious business schools in the country, to discuss how we can collectively make more public-private partnerships work for water. Panelists at the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership conference suggested that it is a moral imperative upon which the sustainability of cities hinges, to find ways for the public and private sector to work together in planning and financing to begin tackling the ever-widening investment and thereby sustainability gap. With water projects, as with any public initiative, public support is a key ingredient for success. Financial capital, in many cases, is more readily available than political capital. Implied in the name, the success of “public-private partnerships” depends on striking an appropriate balance between the interests of uncommon allies by providing for a return on investments while safeguarding the public interest. And the many municipal leaders who are considering a public-private partnership should expect to engage the public and various interest groups in the plan at many levels. A new model – recently used in Bayonne, NJ by United Water – emerged as a viable option for meeting the needs of both public and private partners. The architects of the SOLUTION model simply built it upon the financial and political lessons of...
Leaving nothing to waste in Edmonton

Leaving nothing to waste in Edmonton

Hunting practices that use all of a hunted animal’s body parts so as to leave no waste come to mind when you hear about the state-of-the-art waste management operations – or lifestyle really – that exist in Alberta, Canada’s capital city of Edmonton. Our Canadian sister company, SENA Waste Services, is excited to have been selected to operate and maintain the Edmonton Waste Management Centre, the largest waste processing and research facility in North America.  Our team is eager to expand its presence in the community of Edmonton, which is one of the world’s most sustainable cities. Waste disposal is a challenge for many booming urban areas; nearly 70 percent of the earth’s population dwells in highly concentrated city environments.   In the U.S., for example, the average amount of waste generated by residence has tripled since 1960.  Americans generate between 250 and 400 million tons of garbage each year — approximately enough trash to fill 63,000 garbage trucks each day! Sustainable cities like Edmonton are tackling waste management head-on.  Currently, 60% of municipal waste is diverted away from landfills through composting and recycling.  Residents can recycle at depots throughout the City.  An electronic waste facility breaks down relics of innovation, such as 8-tracks, CD players and fax machines.  The remaining landfill waste has an afterlife as well.  Organic waste is converted to electricity, producing enough to power 4,600 homes. Edmonton is living proof that for an innovative and rapidly growing region of about 1.2 million people, sustainable development is not only possible, but economical.  Sustainable development is a regional economic driver:  one out of every 10 jobs created in...

Partnering to meet sustainable development goals in California

We manage water professionally – it is what we do. Many companies and cities have a component of water management in their sustainable development commitments and targets. And we frequently use our expertise to help others design and meet sustainable development goals. United Water has contributed to arid Los Angeles County’s ability to save nearly 100 billion gallons of water over the past 10 years. Through a partnership with the West Basin Municipal Water District that has been extended, we have managed and will continue to manage the largest water recycling facility in the world.  Check out this video to learn about this very cool water recycling facility and to learn about all of the beneficiaries of this project: from sea lions to oil refineries to Californians.     West Basin from United Water on...