Water Heroes Come To the Rescue In Times Of Need

Whether you watch your news on TV, read the newspaper, or follow the latest updates on social media there is usually a touching story of someone getting help from an unexpected source. A cab driver delivering a baby. A store customer stepping in to prevent a robbery. A motorist stopping on the way to work to change the tire for an older person alongside the road. While these stories may not have the “thrill factor” of the superhero deeds produced in Hollywood, they nonetheless give our day an emotional boost. 

I think we could all speak of a time when we viewed utility workers as one of these “everyday” heroes. Most of us can share a story of a time when a storm knocked out power but, thanks to linemen working around the clock, power was restored to every home within 24 hours. Or of a water main break that was fixed before area residents were placed in a dire situation.  

However, instances like these, while demanding extraordinary dedication, skill and talent, are par for the course for utility workers. We often expect this work to be done as part of the “job description” and wouldn’t necessarily categorize the actions as heroic. No, when we think heroes, we think of people taking extraordinary measures, putting their lives in danger to help others, and stepping up when no one else will.  

These types of coming-to-the-rescue heroics happen among utility workers more often than you may realize. Here are just a few examples:

Certainly, extraordinary actions like these happen because workers are at the right place at the right time—and because the worker-heroes have a work ethic to serve their community.  . In addition, though, utility workers frequently have training—including CPR and rescue—specialized knowledge, and equipment that allows them to be of service in emergencies. This was the case in a recent situation handled by a Pennsylvania American Water employee who aided two fellow restaurant patrons during a flash flood, moving one’s car to higher ground and then assisting the other who had become trapped in her car as waters were rising. By first ensuring his own safety and then keeping calm while assessing the situation, he was able to be there for others in need. 

When weighing whether or not utility workers can fall into the heroes category, consider the list of the 25 most dangerous jobs in the world. In a group that contains everything from firefighters and police officers to astronauts and alligator wrestlers, you’ll also find sanitation workers (number 7) and linemen and power workers (18). Every day, these utilities workers go to work knowing they may be putting their lives at risk so that the communities they serve can have the resources they need to live and thrive. So, I say, move over Aqua Man and Wonder Woman, and make room on the docket for the American Utility Worker!

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Make a Smart Splash and Stay Hydrated at Local Parks This August

As a hub of physical activity, local parks play a vital role in a persons’ mental and physical health as well as providing for social interaction—especially during the summer. And, of course, water is essential to utilizing parks for exercise, fun and relaxation. 

Here are just a few examples of what different parks can offer who love the water. 

In addition, no discussion on physical activity and beautiful parks is complete without a reminder on staying hydrated. Whether you are engaged in a water-based activity or something more land-focused such as hiking… headed out in a cooler autumn month or the scorching days of August, you need to take care to remain hydrated.  

For your hydration needs, purchasing a reusable water bottle rather than a disposable plastic one, is a great way to contribute positively to your environment and save money. When deciding on a reusable water bottle, remember to consider the different materials available and your intended use for the bottle. Each material, whether it’s stainless steel, glass, or plastic, serves a different purpose. For instance, glass can be seen as a safer and cleaner-tasting alternative to plastic, but it can also be more fragile to handle and not ideal for certain activities.  

So, when planning your outdoor activities for the remaining weeks of summer, keep local water-centered activities in mind as a resource for fun and exercise. And, don’t forget to bring along your reusable water bottle so you can stay hydrated as well as help keep our parks and recreational areas looking great and safe for the environment.

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Johnny’s On The Spot And Teaching Lessons On Smart Irrigation

Each year, there any number of events that I write about where the importance of the message goes far beyond the “official” month of observance. One of these is Smart Irrigation Month. For the past few years, when I think smart irrigation, I think of Johnny Georges, so this year I decided; why not give Johnny his due?  

If you’re a fan of Shark Tank like me, you may remember Johnny for pitching his Tree T-Pee on a 2014 episode. A humble entrepreneur and farmer, Johnny innovated his Tree T-Pee to help farmers save plants from frost, as well as save money lost through inefficient irrigation systems, which delivered only about 10 percent of the water used to the trees and plants. Moreover, under standard systems, farmers were consuming—and paying for—enough fuel to run their pumps 10-12 hours every day.  

We know that Johnny is in good company with many others working continuously to increase the efficiency of irrigation systems. These innovators are further supported by companies such as American Water that are increasing the capacity for recycling treated water for use in irrigation as well as business applications such as manufacturing. And, once again, these groups are supported by advocates working to get more people, businesses and governments on board as “responsible irrigators.” 

Sometimes it’s the simplest things that can make a large impact. Johnny’s Tree T-Pee provided a solution that delivered 3” worth of rain to plants in as little as 30 minutes, and reduced water usage from 25,000 gallons per tree per year to only 800 gallons per tree per year. With a simple piece of plastic, Johnny developed a way to conserve water, reduce farmers’ carbon footprint and help them financially.  

As a final bit of food for thought on the topic of smart irrigation, I share just one example that should drive home why the quest for greater water reuse and more efficient irrigation is so vital. It takes approximately 11 gallons of water to produce one pound of tomatoes—and more than 60 million tons of tomatoes are produced every year. That’s 120,000,000,000 gallons of water just for tomatoes alone! And we haven’t even calculated the water needed to irrigate and maintain everything from athletic fields and sports stadiums, to parks, golf courses and more. 

There’s no denying that irrigation is a major-league player when it comes to water use, which is why all those involved in conserving our water resources will continue to give it significant attention and invest in its improvement. 

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Your Headphones May Be Water-Resistant, But Your Music Most Certainly Is Not!

Have you ever stopped to consider how large a presence water has in your music selection? Whether it’s directly in the title (Adele’s “Water Under the Bridge), alluded to in the title (Peter Gabriel’s “I Go Swimming”), in the lyrics (The Who’s “I need a drink of cool, cool, rain”), or an overall theme (Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou”)… you may be surprised to discover just how often water seeps into your play list, workout sound track, favorite road trip tunes and more! From today’s pop, hip-hop and country songs, and traveling all the way back to the 18th century and Handel’s Water Music, water has played a significant role in society’s musical pleasures. 

In fact, I bet you could rattle off at least 5 water-song examples with barely giving it any thought. And, after you read this blog, I’ll ask you to check out the water playlist we’ve already started here on Spotify.  

BUT FIRST, let’s take a quick look at why water plays a large role in music we all listen to. Of course, no one knows for sure why an artist chooses to bring water into his or her composition. But there are some common attributes that make water a popular component in music. Here are just a few: 

We frequently discuss the importance of water on top-level topics such as being critical for a strong economy, business and life in general. But, far from being frivolous, looking at the abundance of water in our musical selections just underlines the significant impact it has on society—and has had through the ages. Water in music is not trendy, but it’s had a permanent presence because it simply is part of who we are as individuals and communities. 

Now, take a listen to that water playlist we started on Spotify and give us your suggestions of songs you’d like us to add.

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Key’s Star Spangled Banner, Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers, Worthington’s Water Meter

Did you know July 24th marks an important anniversary for the water industry?

On that date in 1855, a patent was issued to Henry R. Worthington for his “water metre.” At the time, it was billed as “a new and useful meter for measuring the quantity of flowing liquids,” and it is considered the first successful water meter made in America. If you’re sarcastically musing right now, “wow, how exciting!”—that’s a little understandable. After all, water meters have become as innocuous as clothes dryers, electric fuse boxes, and the Internet. But as commonplace as it may be now, the water meter is as indispensable as any of those items.

It’s hard to imagine a society in the mid-1800s that had yet to benefit from motorized vehicles, telephones or electricity in the home, to possess a great concern for measuring water use, let alone water conservation. It probably comes as little surprise that the first water meter patent came at a time that few American households were experiencing the joys of indoor plumbing. As industrialization and urbanization took off in the U.S. so did the need for the reliable delivery of clean water, coinciding with the development of public waterworks facilities, and in turn the demand for Mr. Worthington’s water meter.

Of course, more than just a “cash register” for measuring water consumption, the water meter can detect water leaks and help manage water loss.  A meter flowing backwards can alter operators to a potential contamination to a water system.  When water is metered, communities use about 20% less water than when households are unmetered – thus Mr. Worthington’s invention helps promote water conservation and helps to lower costs. 

Long gone are the days when someone had to walk down the street to read your meter. Most of today’s meters are read automatically, either using a car or van that just drives down the street and wirelessly picks up the readings, or like E.T., today’s meters can phone (or radio) home to report their status.  But like everything else meters are now (or soon will be) connected to the web through wide area internets so water usage can be continuously monitored.  This “backbone” of data transmission opens the door for collecting a wide range of other information on water pressure, water quality, and pipeline integrity.  At the center of this digital revolution in “smart” water is Henry R. Worthington and his patent #13,320.

Housed within the National Museum of American History—along with other national treasures tracing all the greatest and most significant influences shaping American society and prosperity (including Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers from the Wizard of Oz as well as the original crash test dummies) is Worthington’s first patented water meter. And, this meter is not alone! His is one of 108 water meters in the museum’s exhibit, which follows the evolution of the water meter and celebrates the progress water metering has made possible in America.

Make more room Smithsonian!  We’ve just started and there is more innovation in the water meter to come!

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A Vacation Through Water History This Summer

Okay, I have to admit it—I wasn’t always Dr. Water. As a kid, if someone floated the idea of taking a “wet and wild” summer vacation, my mind immediately went to the thrills of a water park, carefree days on the beach, or waterskiing at the lake. But, as I became more focused in my life and career, I grew to appreciate the historical significance, beauty and sheer awesomeness of America’s water landmarks. And today, I am thrilled that so many of these sites have become tourist attractions. Here are three of my favorite water-centric vacation destinations showcasing the power, the resilience and longevity of water.

Power: The Hoover Dam

If you want to witness water as one of nature’s most powerful resources, vacation at the border of Arizona and Nevada. And while you’re planning, be prepared to be amazed at the man-power that went into its construction! The Hoover Dam represents true grit, as its building required workers to work long hours in extreme conditions. The dam was built in under five years by thousands of determined Americans. Little did they know then that their creation would become one of the biggest Dams of its time—and produce enough hydroelectric power to serve 1.3 million people… in three states… every year! In addition, the dam’s towers are adorned with breathtaking Norwegian artwork and sculptures, and the site also offers paddle craft and rafting, private tours, special events , and even a wedding venue.

Resilience: The Chicago Water Tower

One of the only buildings to withstand the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the Chicago Water Tower remains an iconic piece of American water infrastructure. Utilizing the tower and tunnel system to Lake Michigan, the Chicago Water Tower’s Chief Engineer, Ellis S. Chesbrough, successfully provided an ample supply of clean water to the growing population in the Windy City. Today, the 859-foot tower stands proud as an engineering marvel and offers tourists and educational, inspirational celebration of water infrastructure as well as Chicago history, art and culture.

Longevity: The Knight Foundry

A trip to Sutter Creek California will bring you face to face with an important piece of water infrastructure named by The National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the most endangered historic places in America. A factory constructed to mold metal, one of the Knight Foundry’s historical claims to fame is being the last water-powered machine shop and foundry built in the U.S. In addition, it is credited as being a monumental contributor in the construction of the state of California—with the foundry used to create everything from turbine systems and other key aspects in building California cities, to light fixtures. If you tour only one Registered Historical Landmark this year, let it be this water-powered wonder!

So, as you look for interesting and unique vacations—this summer or any time of year—remember America’s water infrastructure, and look into visiting destinations with historical pieces of the country’s water industry.

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Advancing Global Water Efforts Dollar by Dollar

Muscular Dystrophy has long been supported financially by the Jerry Lewis Telethon, childhood cancer has been helped by Alex’s Lemonade Stands, and the Salvation Army’s bell ringing and red kettles are ubiquitous during the holidays. So, when it comes to fundraising for “a cause” what does water have?  

The fight for access to clean water for everyone globally may not have iconic TV shows or a designated color for an awareness ribbon, but our progress depends on the same type of grassroots fundraising that has become synonymous with other causes. So, to answer the question, “what does water have?”— water has all of us. 

Frequently, in my Dr. Water blogs I talk about scientists, engineers and advocacy leaders and what they are doing to drive innovation and progress in the water industry as well as the communities we serve. But today I put the focus on the people who may not be experts in water or even in a water profession, but who nonetheless could be considered the heroes of water and are making quite an impact.  

These water heroes, in fact, fuel the work of water charities such as Water for People. And they depend on a grassroots network of fundraisers. 

A few weeks ago, American Water had the honor of standing beside water heroes from Water For People. Water for People aims to assist the 1.8 billion people around the world don’t have access to safe water and 2.4 billion who lack access to adequate sanitation. Through our companywide giving campaign, American Water presented Water For People a check for $232,000.  

Fundraising in support of charities takes time, planning and commitment, and is supported often by donors who have personally been touched by the cause. Those challenges can be significant for water charties because our donors may not have had to personally deal with the hardships of having to go without water on a daily basis.  

So who will stand up for water?  Everyone has a role to play. It is through the combining of all the individual efforts and contributions that we make an impact. Just as 4,520,000 individual drops of water can fill a bathtub, dollar-by-dollar we can help advance charitable water missions.  

When it comes to the global water effort, there simply is no drop in the bucket! Every act of giving is vital and can make an impact on the global water effort.  If you’d like to support Water For People, please visit them at their website at www.waterforpeople.org.

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It happens with every new presidential administration in modern times, the promise to “do more about the nation’s infrastructure problems.” But, what happens after these words are spoken? Who becomes the voice of the people and makes sure that these promises are kept? The United States Conference of Mayors plays a major role in not just ensuring that administrations “make good” on the promises, but in helping to shape infrastructure plans and make the most efficient, effective use of federal funding. 

So who exactly are the U.S. Conference of Mayors? They define themselves as, “the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more.” Currently there are 1,393 of these cities in the U.S., and each one is represented in “The Conference” by its mayor. The U.S. Conference of Mayors recognizes that the country’s economic health, physical health and leaders depend on addressing infrastructure issues immediately and strategically.

This is why at The Conference’s 85th annual meeting this June infrastructure will occupy notable space on the four-day agenda. In preparation for this meeting, the CEO and Executive Director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, prepared an eye-opening report that offers 40+ pages of case studies that, together, demonstrate how city governments are the fuel for achieving infrastructure goals better and faster than through state and/or federal programs.

The report—titled “On Task, On Time, On Budget: How Mayors Build, Maintain and Renew America’s Infrastructure”—looks at projects ranging from water, wastewater and flood control, to transportation and energy. And in my opinion this report makes a great argument for expanding partnerships between private utilities and public municipalities to not only update infrastructure itself, but also spur economic growth and job creation as well. 

There are over 50,000 community drinking water systems in the U.S., all facing numerous challenges, from access to capital, to basic operational efficiencies. The needs of every community are unique, which is why when American Water works with municipal partners to create solutions, it dedicated to local involvement, improving the quality and reliability of customer service and community water or wastewater systems, updating pipes and treatment plants to handle new growth, and being a good neighbor in the areas we serve.  

The U.S. Conference of Mayors report illustrates the many different options that can be used by cities to leverage:

Lastly, it’s important to look at the last two words of this report’s title, America’s Infrastructure. What makes the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ infrastructure mission so exciting is the fact cities are working together to provided building blocks for a better America. Together, they operate with the knowledge that one city’s infrastructure achievement is a valued piece completing the puzzle. And, therefore, all the mayors work together to influence policy and changes that can benefit everyone… and that keep the promise on track to driving nationwide infrastructure progress.


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Sharing. It’s one of the earliest lessons we’re taught in life and as we grow up, we learn the powers and the benefits it brings. Sharing makes us feel good about ourselves and helps others. It can result in us having experiences we otherwise might not have had. It brings variety to and enhances our lives. This is why sharing is also the foundation of the One Water movement and the upcoming 2017 One Water Summit (June 27-29).  

Perusing the 2017 Summit list of 115+ speakers—which includes American Water’s President and CEO, Susan Story and Executive Vice President and CFO, Linda Sullivan—One Water seeks to mobilize the country in embracing the concept of one shared water resource for all. That is, One Water is driving a view in which everyone realizes the water they use ultimately comes from a single shared source.  

One Water is also working to mobilize the nation — from the highest government officials to water companies and corporations to individuals — to share one responsibility of water sustainability now and for the future.  

For example, If you live in Ohio and John Doe in Texas over-waters his 1,000 acres of crops, you won’t notice an immediate impact, but the planet will. And if the negative path of water waste continues, you and your grandchildren will feel the impact in food prices. Just look at the impact water withdrawals have already had on the Ogallala aquifer – an area that produces 20% of our nation’s food!  

However, achieving the vision of the One Water movement presents a much different scenario in which you in Ohio, and John in Texas, and everyone in between acts responsibly and practices water conservation techniques, creating an equitable water future for everyone! There’s no denying, the goal of One Water is epic. So, how is the movement setting out to achieve it? Aggressively.  

You could say, One Water’s M.O. is not to make progress drop-by-drop, but instead by bucketfuls! Scanning through the session themes for the upcoming One Water Summit illustrates this:

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to find that the first and foremost the summit is about… you guessed it… sharing of ideas, best practices and action plans for driving continued progress! At a time when much of the water conversation seems to focus on what is wrong, One Water is painting a hopeful picture by focusing the nation on returning to an innate concept—the power of sharing.

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2017 AWWA Conference—I think we’re going to need more lawn chairs!

The American Water Works Association Annual Conference has one concise and clear description: Uniting the World of Water. This year from June 11-14, in Philadelphia, that world will be uniting right in our own back yard. It is altogether exciting and humbling for American Water that all of these individuals representing water companies, scientists and engineers, organizations and other interest groups will come to Philadelphia for the event that in many ways sets the stage for a full year of strategies and work dedicated to the world’s most important resource. 

It’s interesting, as well as inspiring, to me that ever since we learned about the 2017 conference location, everyone at American Water has referred to it as happening “in our own back yard.” We haven’t said that the conference “will be coming to Philadelphia,” or “is happening in our area” or even “taking place here.” From the first moment we used the term in “our own back yard,” we have embraced this as an opportunity to make the Conference even more memorable and empowering for those attending, much as other cities have done for us over the years.  

One of the ways we’re enhancing our role as “neighbor” is by opening the doors of our Delran, NJ treatment facility to conference attendees for a tour. This tour, in fact, is already completely booked! That our tour is filled to capacity is, certainly, a source of pride for American Water. But, more importantly, it has us excited to know that so many people are eager to learn about the technologies we are putting to work every day. Some of the features we’ll highlight include 3,000 solar panels being used to supplement the electrical supply, as well as the processes we are using to increase the environmentally friendliness of our facility.   

The Delran facility also houses our R&D laboratory. Visitors will be able to see how we are doing advanced testing for microbes in water – among a number of other exciting projects! During the for days of the conference, American Water will also have nine experts—including myself—presenting on fifteen different topics. Our group will join with other industry professionals to cover everything from advanced leak detection techniques and goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, to solutions for water-supply and infrastructure challenges and innovations in treatment technology.  

There is one last reason why I’m happy that the American Water team uses the “in our back yard” reference. And that reason lies at the very spirit of this annual Conference—exchange of ideas. Every year, the AWWA Conference fosters discussions, sharing of best practices and conversations about where we are, where we want to be and how to get there. I don’t know about you, but in my experiences some of the most insightful, motivational and productive discussions come when people get together in a comfortable and open environment… in one’s own back yard over a refreshing drink or a good barbecue. Along with AWWA we look forward to helping create that atmosphere and, together, take additional strides forward in protecting our water resources.  

I look forward to letting my readers in on more of the experiences and outcomes of the conference in future blogs.

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