Posts

09Aug

Tap water: JUST DRINK IT!

Written by: Sandi Blanton

Photo by Catherine Sheila from Pexels

Recent news reports have called our attention to unacceptable levels of arsenic in bottled water sold in popular markets, and to PFAS contamination in bottled water sold in New England.

This seems like a really good time to outline exactly what the differences are between bottled water and tap water. 

Safety

Many people are under the impression that bottled water is safer than tap water. This feeling is perhaps bolstered by all those ads of high mountain meadows with clear sparkling springs. However, recent news reports highlight one of the most important drawbacks of drinking bottled water, namely that these products are often not as pure as advertised.  This stems from the fact that bottled water is not held to the same standards as tap water supplied by public water systems.  EPA requires that the water delivered to your tap be tested for over 80 potential contaminants and that remedial action must be taken whenever any of those contaminants exceed allowed levels. Further, your public water system must tell you where your water comes from and what is in it.  Bottled water on the other hand is not regulated by the EPA, but by the FDA, which does not have the same standards or the same regulatory authority.  It gets worse. The FDA has ruled that water that is bottled and sold within the same state is exempt from its rules.

Cost

The average cost of tap water across the United States is about $2.00 per thousand gallons. That works out to about a quarter of a cent per gallon!  A 1.5-liter bottle (about a quart) of imported water can cost up to $5, depending on where it’s purchased. Sure, you can get bottled water a lot cheaper than that, but even those 99-cent bottles of unknown origin are still 1600 times as expensive as tap water.

Americans spend about $12 million per year on bottled water, or an average of $250 per person. Think about what that money could do for community services across the nation.

The Environment

Two liters of water are used in the production of every liter of bottled water. So, every liter of bottled water you buy represents 3 liters of water, 2 of which are wasted.  And all those plastic bottles!  First, the resources to manufacture the bottles. The Pacific Institute has estimated that 17 million barrels of oil are needed to produce the plastic to make the 29 billion bottles used in the U.S. each year (enough oil to fuel 1,000,000 cars for a year). In fact, 90% of the cost of a bottle of water comes from making the plastic bottle itself. Add to that the oil needed to label, cool and ship it around (sometimes from the other side of the world).  It’s like filling every bottle ¼ full of oil.

Then there is the issue of disposing of the bottles. Sure, they are recyclable, but only 1 in 5 is actually recycled.  Many end up in landfills where they take 1,000 years to degrade and leach toxic additives such as phthalates into the groundwater.  But that’s not all.  About 10% of the bottles end up in the ocean, where they contribute to pollution and destroy sea life.

Convenience   

Many people cite the convenience of bottled water as a reason for buying it.  And we have all found ourselves in a situation (out walking or shopping or in an airport) where we need water and it’s easy to grab that bottle.  But convenience comes at a cost.  And that cost is a lot greater than the few dollars you pay for the bottle of water.  When you add in the cost to the environment, it’s huge. Many airports, universities, and other public places have installed filling stations where you can fill your own bottle. Empty bottles can be taken through security at airports and filled before boarding the plane.  So kick the plastic bottle habit, get yourself a good re-usable stainless steel or other BPA free water bottle, fill ‘er up with tap water and JUST DRINK IT!

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19Jul

Benefits of Training

Written by: Dawn Nall

Water and wastewater system operators are typically required by their licensing state or regulating agency to show regular continuing education to maintain their certification. Often, certified operators are the only staff in a water or wastewater utility attending training classes. The reason for this limited training is almost always money. It takes time and money to send personnel to training, and there often isn’t enough money in the budget to send several people. However, research shows training can increase productivity and revenue. So, the money argument isn’t supportable. Why should you want to train employees?

In the day-to-day operations and management of a utility, it is possible to overlook the significant value of the utility to the surrounding community. Water and wastewater utilities are complex systems that provide life sustaining services to residents and businesses. The health and well-being of a community depend upon the water and wastewater utilities running efficiently and effectively, while remaining affordable. A training program helps a utility maintain a well-qualified workforce with the knowledge needed to operate, maintain and manage the utility’s infrastructure and supporting systems.

Regulatory compliance is necessary to insure the utility is focused on public health and safety. Training is essential to maintaining compliance, meeting customer expectations and staying up to date with developments in the industry. Technology and regulations change, sometimes quickly, requiring on-going education throughout the utility. All employees can benefit from training, although different types of training will be needed for different experience levels and positions.

It is important that training be viewed as an investment in the employees and the utility, rather than a cost or burden to the utility. Increased knowledge of how to accomplish the necessary tasks in a safe, effective, and efficient manner will benefit the utility considerably in the long-run.

Some specific benefits of a training program are discussed below.

1. Money

Investing in training can increase efficiency resulting in financial gain. A study by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) found that companies that spent on average $275 per employee per year on training earned an additional $121,000 per employee, while those that spent $900 per employee earned $168,000 per employee. Spending an additional $625 in training per employee resulted in 38% more revenue per employee or an additional $47,000 . – Reliabilityweb.com

When employees are well trained, they are able to complete their work more efficiently and effectively, leading to less money being spent on fixing mistakes. Poor performance is often the result of employees not knowing what they are supposed to do or how they are supposed to do it. Training can resolve these performance related problems and reduce the involvement of others to correct the mistakes. This improved performance leads to many financial benefits: reduced staff turnover, lower maintenance costs, fewer customer complaints, less need for supervision, increased worker confidence and increased worker output.

2. Staying up to date

“We all know that change is a constant in life, but the changes we see in technology today aren’t just rapid—they’re exponential. If the average car had advanced as quickly as the computer over the last 35 years, cars would get 3,666,652 miles per gallon and cost less than $5,000 today! And if you were to build an iPhone using the technology available in 1991, it would set you back $3.56 million, rather than the $1,000 MSRP of the iPhone X today.” – Awecomm.com article 1/3/18

Utilities need to be able to keep up with technology changes in order to meet customer expectations, to understand best management practices, and to improve efficiencies. A well-trained work force will help a utility keep up with changing software programs, technology changes, customer service skills, leadership trends, new strategies and creativity.

3. Job satisfaction and employee retention

Training workers allows them to feel qualified, valued, and able to perform assigned tasks. The training creates a supportive workplace, encouraging employees to stay at the job because they know they will continue to grow. This leads to better morale and improves the utility’s culture overall.

Employees who feel appreciated and challenged through training opportunities may feel more satisfaction in their jobs. Employees typically don’t want to become stagnant and, after a period of time, will begin to look for opportunities to grow. Well-trained employees are easier to promote as they have continually developed their skills. Employee training increases internal talent. Hiring needs and associated costs will decrease as staff retention increases. Retaining well-trained employees reduces turnover costs such as exit interviews, administrative functions related to termination, severance pay, unemployment compensation and employee replacement costs including advertising, interviewing, testing, moving expenses, administrative expenses, etc.

4. Enhanced company image leads to better recruitment

A successful training program helps make the utility more attractive to recent graduates and mid-career changes, as well as to new recruits that are looking to improve their skills. Your utility becomes more than a place to earn a paycheck, but a place where an employee can develop skills and grow. This helps when hiring in a competitive market.

Training can come in many forms and can be offered at a variety of skill levels. Training can include:

– On-the-job learning
– Mentoring schemes
– In-house training
– Individual study
– Off-site workshops
– Time to attend webinars

When economic times get tough, training budgets are usually one of the first areas that get slashed. This is an unfortunate phenomenon considering the impact it has on an organization’s recruitment, retention and employee morale.

Does your organization offer employee training benefits?

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