By: Peter Nicol, CH2M Global Water Business Group President
Can you imagine going a day without water? Neither can we, but we recognize the consequences this could have on our community. A day without water means no water would freely flow from your tap to brush your teeth or wash your dishes. When you flushed the toilet, nothing would happen. Firefighters would have no water to put out fires; farmers wouldn’t be able to water their crops and doctors couldn’t wash their hands before they treated patients. A day without water is nothing short of a crisis—a crisis our water professionals around the world are dedicated to preventing, not only in America, but globally.
Today, CH2M is proud to join elected officials, drinking water and wastewater providers, community leaders, business and labor groups, policy experts, advocacy organizations and infrastructure experts for Imagine a Day Without Water, a day specifically designated to educate the public about the water infrastructure crisis currently facing the United States. As a founding member of the Value of Water Coalition, we are thrilled to join them and hundreds of organizations across the country raising awareness about the crucial need for investment to ensure that no community in America is left without water and that the infrastructure that brings it to and from homes and businesses is properly maintained or replaced when it fails to get the job done safely and effectively.
Though we may not always realize it, water and wastewater systems work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, to bring clean, safe water to us and take it away after we use it to be treated before it is safely released back into the environment. Because many of America’s water and wastewater systems were built nearly a century ago, several are failing due to old age. Therefore, the need to invest in water infrastructure is crucial as deteriorating water systems present a major hazard to human health.
In honor of Imagine a Day Without Water, many of our clients are hosting special events in their communities to raise greater awareness of local initiatives and projects being done to secure water resources. For instance, CH2M and Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD) are partnering on the Sustainable Water Initiative for Tomorrow (SWIFT), an innovative water purification initiative designed to ensure a sustainable source of groundwater while addressing environmental challenges such as Chesapeake Bay restoration, sea level rise and saltwater intrusion. Today, CH2M will participate in an event at HRSD’s York River Treatment Plant to call attention to this project planned to help ensure that Virginians never have to “Imagine a Day Without Water.” Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward and a host of other state and local officials will be present to celebrate the preliminary success of a SWIFT pilot project at the plant. The multi-year SWIFT initiative would take highly treated wastewater that would otherwise be discharged into area waterways and purify it through additional rounds of advanced water treatment to produce drinking-quality water. The purified water would then be treated to match the existing groundwater chemistry and added to the Potomac Aquifer, the primary source of groundwater throughout eastern Virginia. This forward thinking solution will proactively address water, environmental and economic needs not only for today, but for generations to come.
In the central US, the City of Houston recently began a major expansion project at its Northeast Water Purification Plant (NEWPP) to help secure Houston’s future water supply. The Houston Waterworks Team (a Joint Venture of CH2M and CDM Smith) was selected as the design-build contractor for this $1.2 billion Project in December 2015.
The NEWPP project includes expanding the City of Houston’s existing NEWPP from 80 mgd to 400 mgd through two construction phases, while exceeding high water quality and production rates to meet the needs of its growing population. The Houston Waterworks Team is responsible for designing and constructing the expanded water facility, as well as start-up and commissioning activities.
The City of Houston has been proactive in future proofing its water needs, and the NEWPP expansion will ensure that the city can make use of its renewable and reliable surface water supplies.
Its projects like those being done in Virginia and Texas that remind us of the importance of investing in our water resources and the infrastructure that supports it. We are proud to be working with so many forward-thinking clients to ensure that no one ever has to imagine a day without water.
Additionally, CH2M supports industry organizations, like Water For People, a nonprofit organization founded by former CH2M employee, Ken Miller, that has provided clean water and sanitation to more than 4 million people in nine countries to date. This year, employees donated more than $200,000 to Water For People through our annual Employee Giving Campaign to further the organization’s Everyone Forever mission. CH2M’s passionate support for Water For People demonstrates the deep commitment to provide sustainable water not only nationally, but to people around the world.
By advocating for investing in our nation’s water and wastewater systems, we are laying the foundation so that we never have to imagine a day without water. And while we can imagine the horror of going a day without water, we never want anyone to live through it. Also today, in support of our clients and partners, we’ve asked our employees to #TapIn, taking a pledge to drink from the tap rather than purchasing bottled water. So far, nearly 350 employees (and counting) have taken the pledge.
Join us as we continue to raise awareness about the value of water, and learn how you, too, can support the movement, here.