Submitted by Melissa Mullins
Imagine a Day Without Water is a national day of action on Oct. 21 to raise awareness about the value of water. Have you ever thought about where your drinking water comes from? What about where your wastewater goes?
For the seventh annual day, we may take a few steps beyond imagining the reality of going without a resource as vital as water. We may take action by learning about the systems that deliver water to our homes and businesses each day.
According to the 2021 Annual Value of Water Index, a majority of Americans across all demographics support a strong investment in our nation’s water infrastructure. A bipartisan agreement can be a rarity, but in this case most people agree that reliable water service and supply are crucial.
Meaningful investment in our water systems would provide access to quality water for everyone, resilient infrastructure, and more jobs. In fact, closing the water infrastructure investment gap would increase the GDP by $4.5 trillion over 20 years.
As an individual, you may wonder where you fit into ensuring a day without water doesn’t become a reality in our community. It’s a daunting task, but our collective voice can make a real and lasting impact.
Education is key. Take some time to learn about local water sources and what our water and wastewater utilities are doing to invest in our community. Consider joining like-minded people and reach out to decision makers and find where they stand on investing in water infrastructure.
Here in McLennan County and Greater Waco, you can:
- Contact us at the Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research if you are interested in partnering with us on activities such as community water festivals and community water forums or follow us on social media @bu_crasr.
- Join Keep Waco Beautiful or other groups such as Group W Bench Litter Patrol for a creek, river, or lake clean-up.
- Attend a monthly meeting (3rd Thursdays at 4 p.m.) of the Sustainable Resource Practices Advisory Board.
- Find out how to contact your local officials and when they meet at any of the 21 cities in McLennan County – what’s going on with water where you live?
- Read the annual drinking water quality report, learn how zebra mussels have been eradicated from Lake Waco and more at Waco Water Utility Services. If you live in another city, similar info should be available to you on that city’s website.
- Live in an unincorporated area of the county? Learn about water and sewer improvements and more at the McLennan County website.
No matter your reason for participating in Imagine a Day Without Water, continue the conversation with your friends, family, and co-workers about the value of water. A day without water doesn’t have to be inevitable. Let’s work toward a reality in which a day without water is something we only imagine.
For information on Imagine a Day Without Water and how you can participate, visit the event website.
Melissa Mullins is environmental education specialist with Baylor University’s Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].
Drinking Water Week offers consumers an opportunity to recognize the hardworking people performing various roles ensuring tap water is “There When You Need It.” Drinking Water Week is May 2-8.
The City of Waco and partners throughout North America are observing Drinking Water Week by recognizing the vital role tap water plays in daily life, the infrastructure that is required to carry it to and from homes and businesses, and the important work of water professionals “behind the scenes.”
The City of Waco Water Utility Services Department’s staff of 150 water professionals is proud to serve the Waco community, ensuring the continuous delivery of safe, high quality drinking water to all customers.
Whether an engineer designing a capital project, an operator ensuring the safety and quality of drinking water, or a member of a pipe crew maintaining the infrastructure in our community, water professionals work around the clock to ensure tap water is there when you need it.
“The coronavirus pandemic continues to make evident the hard work performed by the people in the water sector,” said American Water Works Association CEO David LaFrance. “The work they are performing throughout the pandemic, often sacrificing time with their family, is nothing short of heroic. I am proud to be associated with them.”
“Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been proud of our employees here at the City of Waco,” said City Manager, Bradley Ford. “Particularly during the recent winter storm, Water Utility Services staff did an incredible job, working day and night in extreme circumstances, to keep our water system functioning. That work will be remembered for years to come.”
To commemorate the week, water utilities, water organizations, government entities, environmental advocates, schools, and others throughout North America and beyond encourage consumers to learn more about the importance of water and water infrastructure, especially in times of crisis.
About Drinking Water Week
For several decades, AWWA and its members have celebrated Drinking Water Week, a unique opportunity for both water professionals and the communities they serve to join in recognizing the vital role water plays in daily lives. Free materials for download and additional information about Drinking Water Week are available on the Drinking Water Week webpage.
By Melissa Mullins
Waco and the suburbs and rural areas in McLennan County are home to about 250,000 people. Our tap water comes from water sources such as Lake Waco and the Trinity Aquifer. Visitors contribute to our tourist economy and may experience the Brazos River downtown. Manufacturing and agriculture are both strong economic sectors for Greater Waco and depend on water. In fact, access to water and sanitation can be considered one of the most basic and fundamental human rights, no matter where you are in the world.
Although water may be a basic human right, here in the U.S. we can point to many examples involving water that demonstrate unfair treatment and access for people in our society. Exposure to lead contamination in drinking water in Flint, Michigan, in 2014 among mostly low-income and minority populations represents one of the best known recent examples of water-related environmental racism in our country.
Hurricane after hurricane in recent years, from Katrina to Harvey to most recently Laura, have shown that flooding disproportionately harms black neighborhoods, and the impacts of floods can exacerbate existing racial and social inequality. And, federal disaster money is not distributed fairly following disasters.
Here in Waco, we have fortunately not experienced a drinking water catastrophe like Flint, and we are too far inland to have major impacts from hurricanes. Many organizations are involved in planning to make sure that all water users in our community have water. However, population growth is expected to continue, and changes in the timing and intensity of precipitation events, flooding, droughts, and extreme heat are likely to be a part of future climate conditions. We may experience changes in water quantity and quality, as well as declining water infrastructure (such as dams, pipes, and treatment facilities).
Our priorities in 2020 have, rightly, been centered on the global coronavirus pandemic, and you may be thinking that issues like water planning can take a backseat. But this year has only highlighted the fact that impacts from the pandemic, like climate impacts and other environmental impacts, are not fair and are not felt equally by all people.
Deaths from COVID19 are much higher among people of color than among whites, and for many, COVID19 has increased the sense that environmental racism and climate change are inextricably linked. The Black Lives Matter movement has named environmental conditions as one of their top concerns for 2020, and 2020 saw a relaunch of the National Black Environmental Justice Network. Water issues are not only environmental issues, they are part of the larger context of our current social and economic realities.
Talking about issues like water, the environment, climate, justice, and economic inequalities can be difficult. How can we all come to the table and engage around these issues in our community?
This summer, the Mayborn Museum and the Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research at Baylor University received input via surveys and online meetings from people in the Waco community regarding their concerns about water in the future. As an outcome, the Just Waco Waters Forum will be hosted by Mayborn Museum online 4-6 p.m. Sept 10, and you are invited.
The Just Waco Waters Forum has a great line-up of speakers including the Rev. Vernon K. Walker, with Communities Responding to Extreme Weather in the Boston area, as well as local speakers.
Participants will work in small, facilitated groups to voice their thoughts on what we can do to prepare for Waco’s future water challenges. You can register here – space is limited, but all residents of Waco and McLennan County are welcome.
Melissa Mullins is a water educator with the Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research at Baylor University. Along with a partner from the Mayborn Museum, she is a fellow in the pilot program of the 2020 Public Interest Technology Community Innovation Fellowship. The program trains science-engagement professionals to collaborate with local civic, government, and university partners to engage the public on issues that matter to their local communities.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected]for more information.
by Alan D. Northcutt, Waco Friends of Peace
Like most Wacoans, I used to purchase bottled water periodically. But then I learned the truth about this product:
- In the U.S. tap water is safe and is subject to more stringent federal regulations and inspections than bottled water.
- About half of bottled water brands are simply municipal tap water, but cost up to 1000 times the price of tap water.
- At a time when droughts are widespread, 3 liters of water are required to produce 1 liter of bottled water.
- The production and transportation of one bottle of water requires energy equivalent to the oil of a one quarter filled bottle. This process added 2.5 million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere in 2006.
- 75% of water bottle plastic ends up in landfills, lakes, streams and oceans, and requires centuries to decompose.
- The planet’s oceans are contaminated by five gigantic circulating patches of plastics and microplastics, the largest covering 500,000 square miles.
- Because animals mistake plastic for food, annually an estimated 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals die from plastic, and 2/3 of our fish stocks ingest plastic.
Since I became aware of these facts I have never purchased bottled water. We can all easily take steps to conserve precious natural resources while protecting the biosphere and its inhabitants by drinking water in reusable metal or reusable BPA-free plastic containers. I believe bottled water should be reserved for natural disasters and other emergency situations only.
This week’s blog is by Alan D. Northcutt. Alan has lived in Waco for 28 years. He is a physician specializing in skin pathology. He has been active in the anti-war movement since college days, and heads the Waco Friends of Peace. Alan believes the most important issue facing mankind is climate change, which has become the primary focus of Friends of Peace. If you would be interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco blog, please contact Ashley Thornton by email at [email protected]