Water Services

More than electricity, gas, or telecommunications services, modern cities depend upon water services – access to clean, reliable water. While an interruption in electricity service can frustrate our daily lives, upheavals in water supply or quality result in flood, drought, or illness.

While some Americans receive their water from privately-owned companies or extract it from small wells on their own property, most of the population drinks, cooks, bathes, and runs its industrial processes with water from publicly-owned water utilities. These entities are responsible for keeping our water safe and clean, but they also bear a responsibility to the environment. The modern water utility company strives to balance their duty to the public and the planet.

Water Services – Drinking Water

water servicesThanks to the high quality of U.S. water treatment facilities, we can live our entire lives without ever suffering from waterborne diseases. This high standard of living is a relatively recent luxury, which we can trace directly back to the London cholera outbreak of 1854. After John Snow’s discovered that the intestinal disease was being transmitted by water from a contaminated, the public realized that the infrastructure that brings us our drinking water must not simply provide us quantity, but also quality.

Modern water utilities treat drinking water in a variety of ways. Processes like sand filtration, settling, and aeration remove unwanted minerals and solid matter, while chlorination and other chemical treatments removed harmful microorganisms.

While the cholera bacterium is rarely seen in the settled world today, water utilities must stay vigilant for other contaminants and hazards. The dangers of aging infrastructure are obvious when we consider the lead that leached from aging pipes in Flint, Michigan, and new dangers, like the algae blooms that left half a million residents of Toledo without water in 2014, require water services from public utilities companies to constantly monitor the quality of their region’s water.

Water Services – Wastewater and Sewage

Wastewater and sewage treatment focuses on returning used water to the environment and the water cycle. Chemicals, pollutants, and other hazardous was are removed from the water or broken down. Once treated, wastewater can either be disposed of as effluent, or immediately reused as reclaimed water. As the global demand for drinking water increases, more water service utilities are contemplating new methods of water reclamation. Treated wastewater is already used for irrigation and industrial processes, but new treatment technology may soon be able to convert wastewater to high-quality drinking water by a process known as “potable reuse.”

Future Challenges for Water Services

As the global climate warms, American water utilities will face new challenges. Already, we see glimpses of the changes this new world demands. During the 2012-2016 California drought, Governor Jerry Brown created a tax rebate that offered citizens money for every square foot of lawn they replaced with drought-tolerant landscaping. In early 2018, Cape Town, South Africa, faced the spectre of being the first modern western city to simply run out of potable water. The modern water utility must look forward to the future with determination and creativity when contemplating their continuing duty to provide the public with safe, abundant water.

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