TROUBLED WATERS: Water Sustainability Under Threat

Almost every one who lives or has lived in the United States has heard of “Earth Day”, which is an annual event held on April 22 and has been recognized as such since 1970. Beyond a time to simply appreciate all things natural, it’s a day when the nation demonstrates support for events and ideas promoting environmental protection. As it happens, there’s another day just for water, but it’s not called “Water Day” – which would seem to naturally follow and feels rather appropriate. Rather, the name is decidedly less celebratory and functions as a gloomy portent. It’s called “Imagine a Day Without Water” and it falls on October 21, marking an opportunity to scare ourselves a full ten days before Halloween. It’s shocking in and of itself that a holiday where Americans traditionally disguise themselves with frightening costumes isn’t even the most terrifying day of the year and speaks to the gravity of the situation. 

Among the issues associated with such a day is the estimated 650 water main breaks that occur each day along with thousands upon thousands of miles of leaky pipes. There are also environmental compliance issues faced by numerous treatment facilities due to aging water/wastewater systems that threaten important projects aimed at water sustainability. And with an estimated $1 trillion needed to meet increased water demands over the next quarter century, crumbling conditions and old technologies of water and wastewater infrastructure are in danger of crippling the progress of current programs of sustainability. 

Obviously, improving the national water infrastructure requires significant funding. More importantly, projects that are designed to upgrade or build new plants and infrastructure must utilize innovative solutions to increase sustainability and actually improve water services. Funding and innovation is not only critical for the success of these projects, such solutions provide an opportunity to build value through “alternative project delivery methods”. Thes methods involve three basic breakdowns: as a collaborative approach to design and construction called Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) which saves time and maximizes efficiency, a single entity that maximizes intuitive design and new technologies called Design-Build (DB), and a progressive version which further helps ensure alignment of project goals. 

The water sector has been on the forefront of adopting these methods, with an increasing number of municipalities getting on board. Attractive are the ways in which a project can leverage the low interest and tax-exempt financing of federal funding. The key is in the value realized through a collaborative environment where common goals can extend beyond their original scope and risks are shared. The low-bid nature of traditional infrastructure projects will always tempt, but it’s important to focus on the actual value of quality and collaboration attendant with alternative delivery. The key is in the execution, design, planning, budgeting and construction happening concurrently rather than sequentially which saves time, controls costs, and facilitates the necessary flexibility to make adjustments.

Professionals in the water industry will have to seriously review traditional attitudes and approaches to truly affect the kind of change required to address the design and construction of critical water and wastewater infrastructure. Time is of the essence. Alternative delivery can play an integral role in incorporating a withstanding solution – one that focuses on the value of the system as a whole towards building an improved and sustainable future.

Graver Technologies is recognized worldwide as a company that incorporates innovation in the design of our high-performance filtration and purification products for a wide array of water services. That is what we do. Why we do what we do involves our passion to create a brighter, cleaner world – and that starts with protecting our most precious natural resource: water.