Jul 07, 2017

Seeing Water Through Fresh Eyes

Elisabeth Lisican

Scrolling through my Twitter feed recently, I spotted an inspiring Tweet shared from an unlikely handle: Metra, the operator of the commuter rail I take to work each day. The inspiring message wasn’t from Metra, but from a first-time train rider expressing her love of trains. “We need more trains!” the excited rider exclaimed.

As someone who’s been a faithful train rider for more than seven years, I often have less-than-positive thoughts about riding the rails. Delays are daunting. Noisy summertime crowds are soul crushing. And why the heck do they keep raising ticket prices?

While Metra undoubtedly is not perfect, that train-loving Twitter user’s sentiment struck a chord with me: What if we approach more things in life as if we were experiencing them for the first time?

Take, for example, water. We’d be hard pressed to find something more underappreciated in this world, yet if we take away safe, clean water, even for just a short time, all is lost.

I just came back from the American Water Works Assn.’s Annual Conference & Exposition (AWWA ACE), and, from the show floor traffic to the astounding special events like pipe tapping, it’s apparent that our industry understands the importance of water. But I think even we need to take a look at water through fresh eyes and figure out how we can better communicate its importance to those who don’t focus on it each day in their work.

In her letter to ACE attendees in the show program, AWWA president Jeanne Bennett-Bailey wrote that the water challenges we face today—failing infrastructure, water quality threats and workforce concerns—are a reminder of how important it is to continue to learn and improve as a water community. This industry needs advanced technologies to thrive in the coming decades, and we must get used to buzzwords like “analytics” and “big data.” AWWA took this to heart at ACE and included an education session track called “Technology & Innovation,” featuring topics such as using data to optimize operations, hydraulic modeling, SCADA integration, advanced metering and more.

So, to keep up with a changing world, it would seem we all should become students of innovation, but we also must certainly embed the value of water into everything we do.

The better we communicate this value proposition to those around us, the more likely we’ll have younger folks joining this industry and we can begin to tackle the monumental infrastructure challenges we face.

Going back to Metra, the company has used words like “magic of a train ride” in its marketing campaigns before. Well, what if we applied this same whimsy to our utilities and the industry at large? Let’s appreciate the magic of water flowing by insisting it stay top of mind—not out of sight.

What are some successful public outreach campaigns you’ve come across recently? Email us at [email protected] or Tweet your responses @WWDMag.

About the author

Elisabeth Lisican | Editor-in-Chief | [email protected]

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