By Jim Lauria
Speaking at the Water 2.0: Digital Transformation for the Water Industry Conference in San Diego in early August was an exciting challenge. Here was a tech-savvy, deep-thinking audience that clearly saw the challenges and opportunities presented by America’s need to invest $2.5 to $4 trillion for water and wastewater upgrades over the next 20 years.
Of course, those numbers are so huge it’s hard for even the most sophisticated executive to get his or her head around them. And if you think it’s hard for us to get a handle on the enormity of what needs to happen in order for us to move and manage a healthy water supply, imagine what those figures sound like to taxpayers.
That’s why we have a huge challenge ahead, and why one of our colleagues needs our help.
In my presentation at Water 2.0, I discussed George Hawkins’ description of wastewater as a resource to be tapped for its energy, nutrients, and water, and his model for the water utility of the future.
George Hawkins is CEO and general manager of the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority, and a man of great vision. He was recently named by President Obama to the National Infrastructure Advisory Council. That’s the body of infrastructure experts chosen from across the nation to advise the president through the Department of Homeland Security on the security of critical infrastructure.
Think about that. George Hawkins has the ear of the president on the topic that is central to our industry’s future… and our country’s. He’s got a tough job to do — every one of the other 29 national infrastructure advisors around the table has a case to make about his or her key infrastructure issues, too.
As water professionals, we need to speak up. Now. We need to lend our voices to George Hawkins’ so when he tells the Secretary of Homeland Security, the president, and the voting public that our water and wastewater infrastructure needs trillions of dollars in upgrades and repairs, they’re already aware of what’s at stake. When they Google the topic, they need to see perspectives straight from the water industry — the stories only we can tell, the visions we can share and the cases we can make. They need to see wherever they look that our water infrastructure is a national security matter. It needs investment, and it deserves it.
In short, we have to convince America to invest the needed money in water. It’s up to water experts to float water to the top of taxpayers’ priorities.
That’s something each of us needs to do, starting right now. So get involved. Say something. Tap into your networks — whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn Pulse, Our Water Matters, your email contacts list, Rotary Club or your monthly poker game. Share your expertise. Spread your passion for the water industry. You know what’s at stake — make sure you tell whomever you can about it and inspire them to act.
The bottom line is that everyone in the water industry must step up and educate the public on water. In the biggest, broadest picture, you’re helping society, you’re helping the water industry, and you’re helping our new, highest-placed water champion bring our message to the top levels of government. And along the way, you’ll be doing your own business some good, too.