A day without water: Why infrastructure matters | Opinion
There is a clear opportunity for businesses to participate as they learn that proactive investments in water infrastructure and innovation will save them from unaffordable rates, costly reactionary repairs, and business interruptions.
New Jersey voters may have different opinions on health care and tax reform, but when it comes to water, residents have a lot in common. In fact, according to one survey, 90 percent of New Jerseyans, across parties and regions, think investment in water infrastructure should be a priority for the governor and Legislature.
Can you imagine a day without water? Without safe and reliable water infrastructure, this could become a harsh reality. On Oct. 10, the Imagine a Day Without Water campaign asks Americans and elected leaders to take action that promotes our often-overlooked water systems.
Our water infrastructure supports every facet of our daily lives, but it is facing a constellation of challenges: increased demands, deferred investments, aging infrastructure and workforce, rainfall flooding, and more. In 2017, New Jersey's wastewater and drinking-water infrastructure received grades of "D" and "C," respectively, by the American Society of Civil Engineers. These challenges may look different across our communities and require local solutions, but it's clear; reinvestment in our water systems must become a priority in New Jersey.
We have the responsibility to leverage our collective power, educate our decision-makers, and inspire our communities to make water investments and innovation a high priority. There is a clear opportunity for businesses to participate as they learn that proactive investments in water infrastructure and innovation will save them from unaffordable rates, costly reactionary repairs, and business interruptions.
Investment in water infrastructure and water innovation has not been a priority for decades. Here in New Jersey:
Our water infrastructure needs an estimated $28 billion in upgrades over the next 25 years unless we find better ways to provide safe, affordable, and dependable service.
And yet, we continue to flush our toilets with pristine potable drinking water.
We can't afford to rebuild the same systems and hope for a better outcome. We need to seek better solutions that address increased risks with new technologies. Here in New Jersey, organizations like the New Jersey Sustainable Business Council and Natural Systems Utilities are working collaboratively to protect the business community from a day without water through various initiatives. Jersey Water Works is a state-wide, cross-sector collaborative whose mission is to transform and upgrade New Jersey's water infrastructure by investing in new concepts that offer sustainable, cost-effective solutions. Clean Water Is Good for Business is a coalition of businesses that advocate for smart policies to be implemented to protect the Delaware River Basin.
No matter what the cause, a day without water would be a crisis for the economy, public health, and the environment. That's why public officials at the local, state, and national levels must prioritize investment in water to build stronger drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems while demanding that these systems achieve higher levels of performance. Investing in our water is investing in a future where no one will have to imagine a day without water.
Ed Clerico, P.E., is the former chief executive officer of Natural Systems Utilities, a national leader in on-site water treatment and reuse solutions.
Richard Lawton is executive director of New Jersey Sustainable Business Council, a coalition of businesses advancing market-based and policy solutions for a more vibrant, sustainable, and fair economy.