Apr 02, 2021

This is Water Infrastructure

It’s not invisible. It’s right there

A large blue water pressure pipe runs through a mountain valley. This is water infrastructure. It's not invisible. It's right there.

The water industry has a visibility problem. Often the only time that water professionals are contacted is when things have gone wrong. 

Calls come in when a pipe bursts. Angry emails from a local homeowners' association detail how sewers are backing up in basements. Lawsuits are filed when contamination is found in drinking water.

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If you followed the news, you would think there are only problems and few successes with water infrastructure in the U.S. But that’s not the case. Part of the visibility problem with water infrastructure is that the industry does such a good job of making things work. In most situations things are not falling apart. Contamination is not an issue. Sewage backups are solved or eliminated, and people spend their game day blissfully unaware of the infrastructure keeping their finished basement dry. 

These are successes we tell ourselves within our bubble, but they aren’t told to a wider audience. It is time to change that.

There is beauty and art in the engineering of these systems. Whether it is an array of aerators for a new mixing tank, the reflection of the sunrise in an open-air clarifier, or the organized jumble of purple pipe at a water reclamation facility, water infrastructure is not invisible. It’s right there.

Below is a growing and updated list of examples of water infrastructure throughout the U.S. Tag @WWDmag or @BCrossen on Twitter with your pictures of your infrastructure to be included in this ever-evolving and growing list. Or send an email to [email protected] with the subject line “This is water infrastructure” with your location, facility name and what you admire about your local infrastructure.

This article was last updated on April 29, 2021.

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US Water Alliance On 60 Minutes

While the majority of what is posted in this article is a celebration of water infrastructure, we also recognize the importance of looking at history to understand how we got to where we are now. History shows us why these things are to be celebrated. In this interview with 60 Minutes, Emily Simonson, US Water Alliance director of strategy, explains how funding for U.S. Water Infrastructure has changed since 1977. What used to be around 60% of capital spending went to water, now less than 10% is spent on water. This is — for better or worse — water infrastructure. This status quo of funding is what this post aims to directly combat by showing what water funding can do for communities and the country.

DC Water Receives $156M for Water Infrastructure

Infrastructure investments are not cheap, but they come with several benefits. For example, the investment into DC Water noted by Mayor Muriel Bowser notes some of the key things this investment will bring. First, it will improve drinking water and rehabilitate sewers. This raises the sanitation floor for the entire community of Washington, D.C. while also reducing the impact of extreme weather events, notably flooding and sewer overflows. Additionally, it is estimated more than 1,000 jobs will result from the design, engineering and construction of these projects. Infrastructure traditionally has been seen as equipment and constructed items, but it is also the people that make those things operate and function over the long term. Workers are also infrastructure.

EPA Hosts Round Table With Water & Wastewater Utilities

This tweet doesn't show the engineering, the equipment, the processes or a treatment plant, but it is still water infrastructure. Instead this image shows the people who are guiding the vision and the future of water and wastewater infrastructure in the U.S. This is water infrastructure! Without the intelligent, visionary drive of these people leading the industry, there is no telling where water would be. And that these minds come from diverse backgrounds only furthers a deeper message that water is for everybody.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris Tours Water Treatment Plant

In the past month, infrastructure has been one of the top priorities for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Social media posts from them as well as other administrators at the highest levels of the federal government continue to mention water as a critical issue of their plan. In this series of photos, we see that Harris is being told this is water infrastructure. She's witnessing first hand how these systems work. She's seeing the engineering and operations behind the processes that make a faucet and toilet operate normally. This is water infrastructure.

Barranquilla, Colombia Picture Perfect Water Infrastructure

This is water infrastructure. In this image there is so much to admire. The engineering for all these systems working together is artful, not to mention how the color of the railings, the clearness of the sky. Water infrastructure isn’t just about clean drinking water or moving sewage away from homes, it’s about establishing a clean environment so we can enjoy nature in its splendor. This image marries the idea of that natural splendor with the mechanical beauty of wastewater engineering.

San Diego County Water Authority Infrastructure Financing

Water infrastructure isn’t cheap. It takes a lot of capital, planning and political will to make large projects a reality. Without strong bond ratings, it can be difficult to even get the funding necessary to complete the work. Projects of this scale require deep partnerships across multiple stakeholders. These water infrastructure elements are so large that they’re impossible to ignore, yet people overlook just how important they are to the sink or toilet in their home.

Charleston, West Virginia Sunrise Clarification

Sunset above a clarifier. It’s one of the prettiest sites in all of water infrastructure. The water looks still, but is being smoothly skimmed while the sun reflects off the clean sheet of water. It is common to find ducks, geese and other waterfowl swimming in clarifiers. Without clean water discharge, what would happen to the local waterways, habitats and environments these animals call home?

Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District Size & Scale

This thread of tweets from the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District show the scale of water infrastructure projects from the large to the small. From digging up dirt for new underground pipe to sample water quality in local waterways, this is water infrastructure. It’s not invisible. It’s right there.

 

About the author

To submit an image for publishing in this article, email [email protected] with the subject line "This is water infrastructure" along with information about the location of the photo (city and state), a facility or plant name related to the image, and why the image is an important representation of water infrastructure.

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