What Would A Day Without Water Look Like?
By Warren Tenney
It happens every day, in every city around the country. A firefighter opens a hydrant to stop a fire from spreading. A surgeon washes his or her hands. A hiker turns a spigot to refill her water bottle. A mother turns on a showerhead to bathe her kids.
Now imagine this. The fire hydrant is opened but nothing comes out, the hospital faucet turns on but nothing comes out, the hiker’s spigot, nothing, the showerhead, nothing.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Water Alliance asks everyone to stop for a moment and Imagine A Day Without Water in your life. Seemingly unimaginable in modern America, the aftermath of hurricanes Maria, Irene and Harvey and the disaster in Flint, Michigan has brought the harsh reality to many Americans and to our televisions and social media.
Bringing clean uninterrupted water to your home 24 hours of every day requires community leaders willing to invest in constructing and maintaining infrastructure to the highest standards. It requires hiring and retaining trained and certified people to operate and oversee the system. It requires developing new and multiple sources of water to flow through a redundant system that continues to deliver even when there is a break in a line. It means hiring engineers and geologists and chemists to check and recheck the quality of water sent through those lines every day.
Just as important, cities collect the water that flows from your sinks, toilets, bathtubs, showers, dishwasher, and clothes washer and whisks it away from your neighborhood. In the Phoenix Metro area that water is treated and recycled to cool the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station and to irrigate HOA common areas, parks and crops. State regulation allows reclaimed wastewater to be further purified and used directly as a drinking water source.
The 10 AMWUA cities maintain 28 drinking water treatment plants and 20 wastewater plants, 18,000 miles of drinking water distribution lines and 13,000 miles of wastewater collection lines. The cities maintain more than 1 million water meters and 135,000 fire hydrants. City utilities operate this vast unseen network sending you water at about one-third of a penny per gallon.
Now, Arizona and our cities face shortages of Colorado River water because of drought and over allocation of the river among states. The Colorado River provides 40 percent of the state’s water and in 2017 provided the AMWUA cities with 45 percent of their water supplies. AMWUA cities have collectively invested more than $400 million to store more than 2.4 million acre-feet of water underground to use in shortages. That's enough water to meet the needs of the AMWUA members for three years. The stored water would not be used up that quickly because our cities have diverse water supplies, such as water from the Salt River delivered by Salt River Project and recycled wastewater.
During Imagine a Day Without Water, millions of Americans will participate in raising awareness about the value of water and the need to invest in water infrastructure so no community has to live a day without it. Arizona cities can continue to meet that goal with your help - every day. You can help by conserving the drinking water delivered to your home and business and by supporting investment in your city’s infrastructure and the city employees who operate and maintain it.
For 49 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit www.amwua.org.