May 07, 2015

WaterWater and wastewater is an essential part of our lives, yet we rarely think about it. When we wake up in the morning, usage of water and wastewater is among our first activities. However, water/wastewater is the last thing that comes across most of our minds.  It’s not until something goes wrong, do we value its importance. 

In a brief conversation, Andrew Vitaterna, Operations Manager with ASI Water answers four questions about the importance of re-thinking and reprioritizing water and wastewater?

 

1. Why do people not think about water and wastewater as a priority?

For most people, water and wastewater management isn’t their core business, so their concentration lies in other areas of business. People have come to expect a consistent, reliable supply of clean fresh water and wastewater infrastructure that efficiently collects and cleans the water before returning it to nature.  The design and operations/costs associated with these functions are not well understood unless your core business is water/wastewater.

Water becomes a priority when costs escalate, water quality worsens or the MOH/MOECC determine your system is out of compliance.

 

2. What are some of the consequences of being out of compliance and when do people start to think about water and wastewater as a priority?

There is one answer to both of these questions, which is an MOECC or MOH investigation.  There are three things that the MOE can discipline to a company.

1. An MOE inspection.  Inspection reports outline a list of action items that need to be conducted by a company to correct non-compliance situations.

2. A Provincial Officer Order.  More serious than an MOE inspection report, these include deadlines to complete specific tasks.

3.  A Charge or Fine. A business may be charged and fined for not meeting compliance, although it is rare for the MOE not to take the first 2 action items in to account first.  A fine is a serious penalty assigned that can hinder the operations of a business, and in certain situations can lead to jail time for owners and operators.

3. Is the low priority a cultural issue?

Yes.  There is a misconception that there is an abundance of water in the world, when in reality there is only a mere 1% of freshwater use that is adequate for human consumption.  In Canada, we are fortunate that we have significant freshwater resources; however, that does not mean that there is not a limited supply and that water issues can be ignored. In a recent article written for the Globe and Mail, Dustin Garrick (Philomathia Chair of Water Policy at McMaster University) states, “Never waste a crisis but do not wait for one. A 2014 paper in Science suggests it’s freshwater variability that matters, not a black and white world of abundance versus scarcity. The floods in Toronto and Calgary in 2013 illustrate this vividly, with the Calgary flooding alone causing almost $6-billion in damages – one of Canada’s costliest natural catastrophes.”

4.  Why is it important to re-think water and wastewater?

We need to re-think water and wastewater because it is necessary.  We need to be proactive instead of reactive. Thinking reactively will prove too costly. We cannot wait for problems to arise before we start to plan for solutions. Not only is it an essential service to allow a business to fully function and operate, it is essential to each and every one of our daily lives. Aside from that, it is an environmental stewardship – the responsible use and protection of the natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices.  It is our social responsibility to protect our future generations.