No water to drink, or even to make coffee with. No water to shower, flush the toilet, or do laundry. Water is our most precious resource, and Imagine a Day Without Water (IDWW) is a nationwide day to raise awareness and provide education on the value of water through different points of view.
To honor Imagine a Day Without Water, TruePani teamed up with The Water Tower to host a virtual panel discussion on the value of water. #ValueWater
Read the transcript here:
Shannon (00:00): The value of water campaign is supported by top leaders from across the water industry committed to raising awareness about the importance of water and the often invisible water challenges threatening our community. The value of water campaign host "Imagine a Day Without Water 2019," which this year is today, October 23rd. While many people often take it for granted, daily access to clean and affordable water is not guaranteed. This is the fifth annual day to raise awareness and educate America about the value of water. Last year, over a thousand organizations came together with events for imagine a day without water and we're excited for this panel discussion featuring three leaders in the Georgia water community to be part of the conversation this year. Our first panelist is Rich Cavagnaro, the CEO of AdEdge. He has nearly 30 years of international business experience. Adedge Water Technologies, which Rich has led since 2002 is recognized as a market leader for installing drinking water systems.
Shannon (01:01): AdEdge has expanded its portfolio to treat over 20 contaminants using 20 different product lines, including two innovative biological filtration technologies and an ultra high recovery reverse osmosis process. Adedge has been recognized with a lot of awards, most recently the Partnership Gwinnett 2018 Innovation Award, and the Georgia Department of Economic Development GLOBE award in 2018 as well. Rich, thanks so much for joining the panel. Is there anything you want to add to your bio and could you give a little bit more background on your organization and its role in the water industry and the North Georgia community?
Rich (01:41): Sure. Thank you. Shannon. AdEdge is a company that is involved in the removal of contaminants from primarily in the drinking water space from groundwater wells. We have earned the privilege of having more assistance systems for arsenic removal than any company in the world in addition to arsenic being removed from the drinking water, we also get involved in other contaminants such as iron manganese, radionuclides, and now PFAS are some of the things that we're involved with. Our activity in Georgia has been primarily focused in areas of removing iron and manganese from drinking water. Adedge builds, manufacturer,s and designs everything here in North Georgia, Gwinnett County, and we have over 50 people. The company is growing rapidly and one of the biggest challenges that I'm sure we'll talk about coming up is trying to recruit and bring in the individuals into the company to continue to help us grow with the expectation of execution and customer service that we expect to provide to our customers.
Shannon (02:49) Next we have Melissa Meeker. Melissa is the Director of The Water Tower, which is currently under construction, but will focus on addressing water resource resiliency through applied research technology advancement, workforce training and public engagement. Melissa has a lot of experience in many areas of water. She previously served as the CEO of the Water Research Foundation, the Executive Director of WateReuse and the executive director of South Florida water management to name a few. Melissa, thanks so much for being here.
Melissa (03:20) Yeah, thanks so much for having me today. Just really excited to be here. Really excited to talk about The Water Tower. We've been gaining a bit of momentum over the last year and, and things are pretty crazy right now. You mentioned that we're in construction, really focused on creating a campus for those of you in our area. It's very close to the Mall of Georgia off 85, actually between 85 and 985 Adjacent to the F Wayne Hill Water Resources Facility. It is a series of buildings we're going to bring on water-related businesses like AdEdge, the County DWR, which of course it's their property and they're letting us use itbut really excited to have these two key partners that are so innovative themselves as founding partners in the campus and in The Water Tower. Again, thinking about water, water, workforce, how do we make the water industry sexy and bring people in? Really from GED to PhD. So we've got a full range of job opportunities all contributing back to society and our communities and making, you know, our water safe and our environment protected through water quality protection. So just a neat, innovative campus is what we're trying to create. So very excited to be here. Thanks for having me.
Shannon (04:47): Thank you. And our last panelist is Eric Swett. Eric is a section manager at Gwinnett County overseeing preventative maintenance for the department of water resources. Eric has extensive stormwater experience including implementing computerized maintenance management systems, creating performance metrics, investigating citizens, storm water complaints, and implementing a County stormwater asset inspection programs. Eric, is there anything that you'd like to supplement to that bio and can you give a little bit more insight into your work and the role in the North Georgia community?
Eric (05:19): Okay, sure. Thank you again for having me today. Currently I am over the preventive maintenance programs over our water and sewer infrastructure, specifically over our water loss prevention program. So everything from leak detection to preventive maintenance measures such as valve assessment, hydrated assessment in order to identify areas where we could have sources of potential water loss. In addition, I also oversee our sewer preventive maintenance.
Eric (05:58): When people think about water, they seem to always think about what comes out of the tap. But wastewater is a large component of our water cycle. So keeping the water in the pipe where it belongs is extremely important to us. So we do have a robust preventive maintenance program with our sewer department or wastewater inspection program, preventive maintenance for cleaning and flushing. We want to ensure everything collected, gets to the proper place, whether it be a pump station or a wastewater reclamation facilities to make sure we have the opportunity to capture everything we can, treat it, and put it back into our drinking water source, whether it be Yellow River, Chattahoochee River, Lake Lanier. We want to ensure that we're able to convey and collect and treat all of all the water we can from our users or our customers, I should say. As far as how we play a role in North Georgia, Gwinnett County is the most populous county within, within the state.
Eric (07:00): We serve at last check over 900,000 residents. We are one of the top water suppliers in the state of Georgia. So we serve a very large population within the state and we look to be leaders in the water industry. We like to be innovative. We like to be recognized as the, as a leader in the water industry.
Shannon (07:27): Yeah. Great. Thank you. So the first question that I have for everyone, what led you to decide to work in water, and what you think needs to happen to engage the next generation?
Rich (07:40): I got involved in the water industry... Primarily due to... I was in a startup company and we were developing some materials science technologies for the removal of arsenic in groundwater. And going back about 20 years or so, the EPA in the US decided to lower their standard of arsenic in drinking water from 50 parts per billion down to 10 parts per billion. And during that period of time, we were developing a lot of different technologies that might be able to assist in lowering the expected costs of arsenic removal versus what the EPA was claiming the cost to be. So we were benchmarking different materials and in fact my company that I was working with at that time was struggling as a startup company to make ends meet. So we were benchmarking against the technology from Germany that was better than the one we were developing.
Rich (08:32): So I decided to take the risk and start my own company and contact the company abroad to see if they would let us participate and bring in their technology into the U S market to coincide with the rule change that took place in 2002. So long story short they said, "Oh, okay, why not, I'll work with a US company." And,uso therefore that led to us getting involved in starting a company. In the early years of our business, we were focused primarily on private wells and point-of-use, whole house,reatment systems and dabbling into some very small,usystems around the country, schools and churches and just camps and some very small systems. It took a while to build a resume. One of the things in the water industry is bringing innovation into the marketplace doesn't happen quickly like it can and other industries. So we built our footprint by going after small systems and then gradually growing to larger. I'm proud to say that right now in 2020, we will have the largest groundwater project in the United States. In 2020 that's going on. So the evolution of starting that, the very smallest systems to now the largest groundwater project in the United States, took 20 years, basically for that effort to occur.
Shannon (10:01): Do you think that helps to engage the next generation of workers to have an overview of where you've been and where you are now and where you're continuing to go? Or are there other strategic decisions that you've made as a company to engage that next generation?
Rich (10:18): So culture has always been a pretty dominant impact throughout the company in creating the right work environment. The experience that I had prior to AdEdge, and working with the chemical industry and different companies and, and picking and choosing the right managers that provided the right motivation and the right environment to assist in creativity were always things that when I started AdEdge, I wanted to make sure that I created the right culture environment to attract people. And actually when you're in a startup, a company, you've got to sell a vision and a dream. And it's important you know, to do that to employees that you're trying to come in to compete against larger operations organizations. So for us, you know, creating a company environment was crucial. We're fortunate that, you know, a lot of the millennials who have come into the industry in the last couple of years, they have a purpose to try to do a little social corporate responsibility beliefs that they're bringing in with those.
Rich (11:21): So it's not hard to sell the passion of clean water, which is one of the core values of AdEdge. We get to have the joy of seeing us put systems in communities where we can change the level of arsenic in that water and make safe drinking water. That's a powerful motivator for us to be involved with. We recently installed the system up in Vermont and it was a TV interview on the community and the one lady was just in tears of joy knowing that she's going to be able to drink water without arsenic in it. We see that impact in other places around the world as well, where we've had a community say in Argentina where their arsenic levels were so high that grandparents didn't have a relationship developed with their grandkids. And knowing that we can improve the life expectancy of women from say, 37 years of age and doubling that life capacity by taking the arsenic out of that water is a powerful connector and motivator for people to want to be involved in those kinds of success stories.
Shannon (12:24): That's a really powerful story. Thanks for sharing that. Melissa, do you, you kind of want to go next?
Melissa (12:30): Yeah, I mean we could go on about our past. For me, I was born in water. People always say, did you choose water or did water choose you? I was, I was born in water. I didn't have a choice. So, unlike others who have made career changes based on water, I just knew from day one what I was going to do. And it was working water. So changed a bunch of things along the way, but always I'm in the water field. So just exposure to a whole host of different jobs and, and understanding what the water industry is, which is not just water utility, water, wastewater or a treatment system. It's ecosystem protection, it's river keepers. Water covers almost everything that we do. It's sustainability at large corporations.
Melissa (13:27): Water is involved and underlying literally everything that exists in the world today that we all value. So for me, the water industry and bringing exposure to the opportunities that are there, is just a key passion. So when you think about all the different opportunities, as I said earlier, that GED to PhD. Our goal at The Water Tower is really to bring in companies with a great passion, like AdEdge onto a campus with a whole bunch of other companies who have that workforce need so that we become a pipeline for workforce so that we can set up internships with those companies or with the County and surrounding counties for that matter. Internships, apprenticeships going into the high schools and taking advantage of the work release programs that they have for their seniors to get them real life exposure so that they can instantly, when they graduate, take their exam and become operators at utilities and go into the workforce at companies like AdEdge. So just creating that environment that really focuses on any level and any level of interest, but all contributing back to making our communities better. I come from a family with a long line of veterans. That's another target area that I think is ripe for bringing into the water industry. So there's so many opportunities that we have. And we're going to explore those and really create, like I said, a pipeline that will help the industry.
Shannon (15:05): Yeah, that's, that's really exciting and I can't wait to see what happens with that. Eric, do you want to share a little bit more about your story?
Eric (15:13): Sure. My path was a little different. I suppose. Mine came a bit by happenstance. I actually started working at Gwinnett County, right after college. I was looking for a job right out of school. I recently graduated with a biology degree and throwing a lot of fields or positions looking for biology majors. My stepmother at the time was working at the Clerk of Courts Office at the time, and she said, why don't you look online at Gwinnett and sure enough, there was a position available. I started as an intern working, doing inspections, doing detention pond inspections, erosion and sediment control. They were looking for someone with an environmental degree. After working in that group for well over a year. I was actually hired full time and my career has, has grown over the last 15 years. Having many opportunities to advance within our department.
Eric (16:13): It's given me an opportunity to see all the different roles and positions that are available at a water department. When I came in fresh out of college, I just assumed the water department was a bunch of guys digging ditches and fixing pipes. But there are so many job opportunities here at DWR from accountants, engineers, skilled labor, heavy equipment operators, operators at the treatment plants, planners, people with business backgrounds, financial backgrounds, management. I mean we essentially cover, in my opinion, almost every single basic job function one organization could have.
We need HR support. So there's many, many different opportunities here in or at department of water resources that provide jobs. Currently we are trying to seek and retain staff, which has been pretty challenging over the last several years we're experiencing or have experienced a large number of our longterm employees retiring.
Eric (17:23): We are trying to fill those gaps, but we ended up losing years worth of field experience and knowledge and replacing it with brand new staff. Our department has tried to help new hires, get all the training and education they need to bring them up to speed. We've currently started an employee skills development program, which allows and employee to come in as a trades associate one and work their way through some qualifications, getting some skilled labor and within the course of four years have the opportunity to advance two times without having to go and seek another job and get them on a path for management, getting them to be crew leaders, supervisors, and be able to be the next generation of leaders here in the water department.
Shannon (18:16): Yeah. And that raises a really good point around all of the different opportunities that are available. You know, you mentioned a wide variety of positions that need to be filled for the water industry to advance. And that kind of leads into my next question, which is what do you think the biggest misconception around water is? From a public perspective, from outside the water industry.
Eric (18:52): This is Eric. Personally, I've, I feel one of the ones, one of the big misconceptions we fight day in and day out is: Is it safe? There was actually a really good article in the consumer reports I just read about the bottled water industry and how they tried to portray public water as maybe not being the best, the best option. I see it all the time. I'll be in the grocery store and I'll see people buying bottles and bottles of water thinking why on earth are people buying all these bottles of water? Do they not take their water is safe? Are they preparing for a day without water? Possibly. (Haha).
Eric (19:30): I feel though that some people think it's not safe. It doesn't taste good or it's too expensive. You know, we have a monopoly on the water, but when people really do the math and think about it, what they're paying per thousand gallons of water and then what they're buying per gallon of water or 20 ounce bottle of water at the store, I don't think they understand the value we provide. Not only will we take it, clean it, treat it, we will deliver it to your home for pennies on the dollar. And I think that's something that people don't actually take the time to think about. They're "no problem" to buy, you know, a dollar bottle of water at the gas station. But when it comes time to pay their water bill every month, they don't miss maybe necessarily see the value that we provide to them every day and every month.
Melissa (20:27) It's interesting on that point, just a couple of things pop out first to me, it's the value of water, right? People, they see it everywhere. They see it in Lake Lanier, they see it in the river, it rains, it ponds up at the end of their driveway. So of course there's plenty of water. We're not worried about water on the, on the safety piece and buying bottled water. The best thing that's happened in our industry is this push on plastics. I mean, that to me at least has people considering tap water as a viable option and a safe option and using a reusable bottle. So to me that's one of the cool things that's happened really in the last year is this focus on single use plastics and bottled water as a, as a no-no for our community. So all of those things working together, we'll get to a value of water, which is really what I think we're lacking in society.
Rich (21:24 ): Yeah, of course. So all these, all these points that Melissa and Eric just mentioned, they are spot on. I think another real major misconception that we battle all the time is the cost of affordable water. Right? I mean, consumers think it's expensive. Eric alluded to it, somebody will go out and spend a dollar for a bottle of water. And yet we're talking about we provide water to the homeowners home kitchen faucet at pennies on the dollar. I mean, it's just a ridiculous situation that people can afford bottled water and complain about the costs of their tap water. So we still have to win the public perception here. And of course we're faced with the, you know, problems when you look at the US is a population approaching whatever close to 400 million or whatever that number is.
Rich (22:15): You know, we have, every day, millions upon hundreds of millions of people drinking safe tap water. And unfortunately, when you get a story like a Flint or Newark, New Jersey, those stories can be harmful for our industry. But the, but the other aspect of that is just the challenges that we face as a country on infrastructure. And we have to pay for that infrastructure. It comes at a cost. So we need to get people to realize: one of the best deals that exist in this country is the cost of your tap water. And it can afford to go a little bit higher to assist us on paying for the infrastructure needs that are required throughout the country.
Melissa (22:58): That's a great point, Rich. And Eric, when he was talking about what he does at the department talked about this buried infrastructure, you know, sewer pipes that people don't see, they flushed the toilet and it disappears. A distribution system, which brings them fresh water, they turn on the tap, it comes out. So you have this huge amount of infrastructure that people just don't consider because they don't see it. It's that unseen. I'm sure it's fine. Imagine the challenges that Eric and his group had though. Really understanding, the, the status of that infrastructure. You can't dig it all up and look at it. You've got to use creative and innovative ways to figure out to make sure those pipes are intact and that we don't have leaky pipes and those kinds of things. So, it's a phenomenal industry when you think about the challenges that we face.
Rich (23:54): Yeah. And I don't want to, you know, we support all water industries because we, we put treatment systems on bottled water companies too. So, you know, they, the aspect is, is that this nomenclature, that bottled water is healthier. Well that's just a misperception because, you know, well, water doesn't have the same kind of regulations that Gwinnette water has to go through to serve water to the public. So, you know, there are, there are some moments of discovery that consumers don't even realize and you know, whether those small impacts of plastic and bottled water are well as well as Melissa was alluding to, you know, do we really know the health effects on all those aspects of longterm as well? So, you know, it's not necessarily that, you know, there's an advantage to one area versus another area. I'm very comfortable obviously wherever I go in United States ordering tap water.
Melissa (24:50): Absolutely.
Shannon (24:52): Yeah, that's a really good segue into infrastructure. We kind of briefly mentioned it, but what is the biggest threat to our water infrastructure and what steps need to be taken to improve infrastructure in the US and how can we learn from what has happened in communities like Flint in New York to influence how we approach water infrastructure moving forward?
Eric (25:21): This is Eric. I think one of our biggest challenges currently is funding. We've all mentioned just in the last few minutes about how much of a bargain our water, our water actually is. Fortunately, here in Gwinnett, we don't have a lot of bonded projects or a lot of infrastructure projects that are being taken out on loan essentially, but across the country having infrastructure that has been in the ground more than a hundred years, well exceeding its expected useful life. Starting to see the difficulties for a replacement in busy metropolitan areas. All the challenges that go along with increasing the size of the water system. Certain areas they're seeing development. Well, if you need to bring more water, inevitably you have to have bigger pipes. And in order to do that you have to replace the ones you have. And they're typically not in the most convenient places for residents, people commuting in and around their communities.
Eric (26:30): So I see for, for our group specifically, it's funding, it's disruption to people's everyday life - when you have a road closed for sometimes weeks or months on end to do large scale pipe replacement projects. It can become disruptive to people's everyday life. And they, they do get at that point, the opportunity to see just the sheer size of our, of our infrastructure that we have. But I, I truly think it is, it is funding and in some cases scarcity of water sources. Back in the not to distant past, I believe it was Athens Clarke County, I think it was the Bear Creek reservoir that almost went dry. Having limited access to water supplies is going to continue to be a challenge as well moving forward. You need to be innovative on where we can get our water, how we can better return our water. Are there other ways we can look at having additional sources for drinking water? Is also going to be a challenge moving forward.
Rich (27:39): Yeah, I mean there's so much in this area of aging infrastructure when communities around the country have known leaks, maybe 30% of their pipes are leaking but are faced with the decision that it's cheaper for them to continue to operate with leaks versus repairing their pipes. You know, I'm not sure that that's advanced thinking for our industry. We've got to get to the point where we have systems out in the marketplace that are being able to be upgraded and we can detect leaks, we know where they are, the technology exists for all that. So understanding pipes and pipe replacement is certainly a disruptive area. I think there's a lot of confusion out there too. Another challenge that we face in the industry is the confusion certainly on regulated contaminants, and this switch right now that's going on right now in the public of lessening the impact of the federal EPA and pushing it down to states. We face a real problem where the states are just not equipped to be able to handle the level of activity that that is forcing on them. They're understaffed. They can't get to all the things on their to do list. So one of the real challenges we face is that bring in new technology into the marketplace is really suffering because the states are not equipped to bring it, to allocate bodies to understand the benefits of those new technologies. It's a risk-averse industry. So what this term of cooperative federalism and pushing things out of the federal EPA down to the States, it's causing a lot of confusion. And we see that right now in the PFOS and PFOA arena where you've got something like 25 States coming out with different standards on what to do for that contaminant. And it's not regulated by the federal government, whereas arsenic was regulated by the federal government to a standard and the States adopted it. We've got the reverse situation happening on PFOS and PFOA and that's gonna cause a lot of confusion over what is the right approach and how to tackle that problem.
Shannon (29:59): Yeah, that's a really good point and kind of leads into... I've got two more questions for you guys. Second to last question is we've kind of been talking about how the water industry is risk adverse and at the same time there's been this emergence of the idea that everything has to be like innovative and innovation is this buzzword in the water sector right now.
So what does that mean to you when we're in a traditionally risk adverse industry? But we also want to promote innovation. How does that work in the context of the work that you do?
Rich (30:38): Well I'll jump in first again. For us, we kind of zero it down to a very kind of simple little phrase. And that is: "finding ways to lower the capital expenditures and operational expenditures in an environmentally friendly way." So when we're looking at what we can do for our customers, if we can't lower cap ex and op ex costs and do it in the right environmental sustainable way, then that isn't necessarily a pursuit worth going after. It's why we're so excited on a couple of the technologies that we are bringing to the marketplace, whether it's biological treatment program, water wells, which is an exciting way to bring environmentally friendly approach to solving our contaminate issues or something that we're doing with flow reversal RO where we can take, existing technology and make that technology better and have dramatic impact on RO, on lowering energy costs, lowering brine discharge costs and improving the efficiencies of RO. Those are all things that we kind of put on our criteria to bring innovation into the marketplace.
Eric (31:56): This is, this is Eric. One of the things that I always think about when it comes to innovation is obviously technology. We're in a place now where we are empowering our workforce with computers or tablets to take information out with them in the field. We hope that integrating technology in our industry will help us work more efficiently. A lot of our facilities are run automatically through program logic controls or PLCs. We are looking to automate where we can. Become more efficient, monitor where we can. I mean, how, how great is it that we can have devices that are run on small little computers or little sensors that can just constantly monitor a process, constantly monitor water quality, constantly monitor our system pressures within the distribution system, for instance. We have opportunities to take all this information, share it with stakeholders, whether it be operators of the plant, our director, being able to have information at our fingertips is extremely helpful.
I actually have this hanging up on my office right now. It says the most dangerous phrase in the English language is: "Well, we've always done it that way." And if people continue to think about what we've always done it this way, we've always done it that way.
I like to write this down on a piece of paper. I like to put this in my log book. I like to keep what I know close to my, you know, hold the cards close to my chest and I don't want people to know what I'm doing. We're finding ourselves in a space now where information is available everywhere. We have the opportunity to collect, disseminate information through the internet. I mean we are literally on the cutting edge of technology in the water industry.
Eric: 34:00 There are so many ways we could work smarter more efficiently or in some cases have that peace of mind knowing things are going well. We've got monitors and all of these strategic locations. We know things are working. Whereas in the past it was more if you don't get a complaint or if you don't see something physically happen, then you just assume everything is fine. Right? So I think for us, innovation is going to continue to drive other career paths. Whether we need more electricians. Heck, we might need people that are really good at creating apps or mobile applications on handheld devices to help collect and share information about our system, about our water system. So for me, I think it's extremely exciting.
Melissa (34:54): And you know, there's a reason why water utilities and really the water industry is so conservative, right?
It's no water, no life. I mean, it really is the water industry that's got the back of every community that exists. I think one of the things that we're trying to do at The Water Tower is create a space where new technologies and new innovative, whether it's a software or it's an actual treatment technology, can be demonstrated.
And not just demonstrated on live flows. So think different water quality flows, whatever you're looking for, we'll have available. But also visualizing that. So taking that output from that technology and putting it into the databases and the GIS based systems or the SCADA-based systemsthat water operators use everyday. So they can see what they're going to get from that technology. Does it address their major concerns and their major issues? Does it make them more efficient? Does it treat the water better than the existing treatment processes? So this demonstration and visualization of those technologies... It's our belief that that will greatly enhance the ability of utilities to bring on and implement new technologies. So really exciting times.
Shannon (36:17): Yeah. That's really exciting stuff.
Rich (36:19): Yeah. To add, I think our industry probably we get a low scorecard on data sharing and I think this is going to be one of the things in the, our industry is going to advance quite a lot in the next couple of years is the information that can be shared. Not only to say a vendor like me who puts in a treatment system that wants to know how my system is operating from afar, but also to consumers. You know, right now we get our annual consumer confidence report, which comes out once a year. You know, Gwinnett is testing their water every day. Why can't that information become more readily available to a consumer to be able to, you know, have an app at his fingertips that says, no, the water's great. You know, the water, consistently performs great, you know, you show the charts and we overcome the stigma of that tap water isn't as healthy as bottled water because there is obviously information sharing that our industry is going to have to catch up to, that other industries are starting to do. And we're just a little bit behind the curve on that. So there's plenty of opportunity I think for innovation, not always to just from my standpoint of bringing new technology to the marketplace, but different ways of sharing the information that we're gathering and getting and that I think is going to be one of the things that's going to be a big change in the next couple of years in our industry.
Meliss (37:45): I agree Rich , and it's not that utilities are hiding that information. It's that it goes into a database that they don't access on a day to day basis. You know, the monthly report that goes to the state of Georgia is what comes out of it. So it's that where Eric was talking about what are those new professions of the future. Data managers are going to be a key one - that are just critical in our industry, have got all this data and it's never really been analyzed. How can we pull it? Where is it sitting even you wouldn't believe the conversations I have around where is that data even sitting that we're just now getting our arms around. Solots of changes coming. I agree. And that transparency is key.
Shannon (38:28): Awesome. So my last question is, how can those outside of the water workforce help to close the gap between our current water supply and our water supply needs of the future? How can we engage the public and what's the call to action there?
Rich (38:49): So more articles about water and not only the value of it, but the affordability of it. And then the challenges that we face in our industry. We're in the industry. It's our responsibility to get out there and make our voice heard. You know, we have every right as a industry to be as vocal about our needs as every other industry. So we have to do a better job of getting one voice on one water issues around the world and around the country. And we're seeing that in cases. I mean, I think, you know, there's a movie coming out in the next few weeks. I think it's either called Deep Water or Dark Water and it's going to deal with a modern day Erin Brockovich story. Instead of being Chrome, it's going to deal with the PFOS PFOA issue.
And we're seeing communities not wait for federal regulations to come into effect. They don't want contaminants in their water. We see private water companies that are taking initiatives that recognize: "Hey, they want to get lower standards of health effects in their water and not wait for the federal government to come in." So we're seeing that movement happening out there. Communities are getting more aware, individuals can raise the flag that: "Hey, we don't want these contaminants in our water" and that that movement itself, you know, gains attention and those are good things. I think it's a positive thing that, we can use hopefully digital media and social media in positive ways that can allow us to advance a need faster than the ways we were doing it previously.
Melissa (40:37) I agree. Rich. I I would say that I think the media is often.... Just like it is in politics and every other issue that's out there on the extreme. So my request of people who don't work in the water industry is to: 1) Be open and 2) Seek out information. Don't just go to one source, go to a bunch of sources, ask the questions. And I'll challenge my industry and say we need to do a better job of communicating, which I think goes right along with what you just said, Rich. So if you add all those things together, I think we'll have a much more educated public who values water and as you said, wants clean water, which we all do. But understands, you know, the, the pluses and the minuses are that, which gets back to Eric's comment about the need for funding of infrastructure. So it all is weaved together and we just need to do a better job of getting the message out there.
Eric (41:34 ): I agree. Melissa. I know we have tried our best to do education campaigns, host open houses that are water filter plant water reclamation facilities. Bring people in, show them our doors are open. If you want to, you can call and schedule a tour for your church group, your Kiwani's club or whatever organization you have. We take schools on tours. We try to get into the schools and talk to the children and let them understand water isn't just water that comes out of your faucet, right? So if you litter, you throw trash in the ground, that it's going to end up in the storm drain and then into the creek,ame thing with other pollutants. You know, you want to make sure people understand that just because it's out of sight, out of mind, doesn't mean it doesn't go somewhere. And a lot of it does go to education. What you should put down the toilet, what you shouldn't put down the toilet, you know, how to properly dispose of cooking grease. I mean all of these things play a huge role to protect source waters. We want to keep it as clean as possible. So there are all sorts of ways to let folks understand not just the water cycle specifically, but how they interact with water in a day to day basis. So I think if people understood a little bit better about where their water comes from, how we treat it, how we clean it, and we put it back and how we can reuse it. These are all great things that we can start educating people and have a generation of kids hopefully growing up with water in the back of their mind all the time.
Eric (43:07): I grew up, I didn't want to be a litter bug. You know, I saw the commercials on TV and it was, it really stuck with me. I don't, I don't litter. Right? I think a lot of that had to do with how I learned about it growing up. I mean, we can get water in the back of these children's minds about how important it is and how they can all be a part and protect it. I think it can be real promising in the future to have a whole generation of kids that are thinking about water. So I think it's, again, to Melissa's point, just education, sharing information, not being scared to bring people in.
So I think as a water utility we can absolutely do a better job. Go to all the local festivals that we have here in Gwinnett and have it just have a table out, have people come up, not be afraid to have somebody come and start complaining about some water issue they have. And hopefully by the end of it, you educate them on what the issue might be, help them resolve issues and they might walk away feeling a little bit better about their, their water concerns or issues and they, than they did previously because they had the opportunity to come and talk to someone.
Shannon (44:20) I really appreciate all of your final thoughts. This has been awesome. I've learned a lot and I think this is going to be a great resource. So thank you all for taking the time.