Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Worth of Water

"When the well is dry, we know the worth of water." Ben Franklin stated that in 1746. That was made all too real for approximately 500,000 in the greater-Toledo area last summer, when they could not drink their water for three days. Here in Avon Lake, we asked you to cut back on unnecessary usage at the onset of subzero temps—not the same, but not something we like asking you to do.

Some ask why I promote water conservation—irrigating only when necessary, keeping grass longer to shade roots, filling clothes and dishwashers before using them, installing efficient appliances… After all, the more you conserve water, the less revenue we receive.

I promote water conservation because I want to help break something called the "paradox of value (or the diamond-water paradox)." The philosopher Adam Smith wrote in 1776, "Nothing is more useful than water: but it will purchase scarcely anything; scarcely anything can be had in exchange for it. A diamond, on the contrary, has scarcely any use-value; but a very great quantity of other goods may frequently be had in exchange for it."

Nearly 240 years later, the same is still true. Water is something without which we will die. Yet, it costs less than a penny a day to get all you need to drink—about a dollar a day for the average family's needs—and that includes the costs to treat it and put it back into Lake Erie after you are done with it.

I want you to believe that is your best dollar spent each day. For that dollar per day, we are:
  • Removing algal toxins and other contaminants from the water we take from Lake Erie in order for you to drink high-quality tap water that meets all EPA standards;
  • Treating wastewater so that the water may be safely returned to the lake per EPA standards;
  • Maintaining and safeguarding the system to keep your water flowing without interruption, even during water main breaks.

During the recent past and foreseeable future, we will be continuing incremental rate increases to pay for new projects to make the drinking water system more resilient to icing, algae, and other issues; to improve the quality of treatment at the wastewater plant to reduce our contribution to Lake Erie algae;  and to separate sewers to reduce the frequency and amount of untreated sewage overflowing into the lake, which should help improve water quality at Veterans Beach and elsewhere.

We are incredibly fortunate to live beside 84% of the United States' fresh water. We take it for granted at our peril. With proper care and promotion, Lake Erie will be a reason industry considers relocation to Ohio and the Great Lakes region, especially as California, Texas, and other parts of the country continue experiencing some of the worst droughts (and highest water costs) in history. We want you to love your lake for all the things it means for your family and this area, from drinking water to recreation to tourism income. So, in 2015, we’ll be rolling out a “Love Your Lake” campaign to help remind you how much it means, and why you should help protect it. You will see more and more of it, leading up to our second annual Lake Erie WaterFest, happening August 8, 2015.