Water everywhere…but not a drop to drink
With the continuing extreme drought conditions in California and severe drought across much of the western US, many are beginning to question the limits of availability of our most precious resource and the activities to which it is allocated. Foremost among the primary parties is industrial operations, which consume a great percentage of available resources, while the agriculture industry is not far behind. As the primary food producer for the US and a significant food exporter to other nations, this segment is being asked to make better use of their resources. Enter the third aspect, decaying and decrepit infrastructure, and all the elements of potential disaster are in place.
Sustainability is seen as a key factor to preservation and conservation of our planet’s potable water. To that end, many industries are developing ROI tactics that include water reuse in their operations. Desalination plants are popping up in Texas and California and water harvesting is gaining traction in urban as well as rural areas. To meet these needs, third-party certification operations are now defining standards for sustainability that will (hopefully) bring about additional solutions to water crises. But how do those impact the water treatment industry? In many more ways than we anticipated. And what about the multitude of emergencies that are prompted by that which is completely beyond human control…weather? When the lights go out and the pumps stop working, the need for water does not abate. In fact, owing to fear that water availability may be compromised, people tend to panic. Every emergency supply list contains reference to potable water supplies and notes the need for one gallon per person per day. Bottled water is often the only source available to disaster areas and plays a special role in how we view being prepared.
In this issue, we cover the water cooler and vending markets and the bottled water industry, with sustainability as part of that coverage. For the bottled water industry, there is controversy about bottled water operations taking immense amounts of water from drought-stricken California. It’s not the only place that is viewing bottling operations on the whole. IBWA’s Chris Hogan offers a glimpse of the bottled water industry, including legislative issues on which the organization has taken the lead. W. Kent Kise reviews US EPA’s new Energy Star standard and how it impacts home office delivery (HOD) companies. There may be unintended consequences that cause disruption to this segment of the water cooler/bottled water industry that change a company’s way of doing business. Hella Frankel and Anat Kartaginer delve into the challenges of taste and this is where most questions arise. In order to meet the needs of consumers who are seeking safe, good-tasting, high-quality water, especially in light of the worsening condition of water infrastructure throughout the country, water cooler manufacturers and bottlers are trying new methods to address those concerns. Dr. Kelly Reynolds discusses AWWA’s state of the industry report and while she acknowledges that our part of water treatment industry and municipal water treatment has had a bumpy road, all of the issues surrounding water availability must be met head on by both camps.
As we near the end of summer and the high temperatures begin to recede, take inventory of what you expect to do to meet the myriad challenges posed by the need to understand and conserve our limited sources of potable water. How can you make a difference for your clients? How can you make a positive impact on the water treatment industry? There will always be changing dynamics but certainties exist that cannot be overlooked. If we don’t act now to resolve problems when they are manageable, we will suffer the consequences later at a much higher price. Just look at the water transport problems and it is evident this country has suffered losses to its most valuable resource as a result. Consumers expect better and they pay for it, not just at the cash register, but in their homes as well.
Kurt C. Peterson