What if you didn’t have a drop to drink?

I grew up on a desert farm where we watered our fields to grow crops. We parceled the water into little furrows between crop rows, and it was so dry the rivulets would raise puffs of dust on the way down the fields.

That’s where I learned how valuable water is in places where it’s scarce. In the American West, people live only where they can get water.

We’re luckier here in the Midwest, especially in Duluth, on the shores of 10 percent of the world’s freshwater. Water shortages aren’t our problem. But anywhere you live, clean water is a valuable commodity that we can never stop working on.

We all have heard about the problems in Flint, Mich. In farm country, some towns are struggling with groundwater pollution.

And everywhere, we have pipes, drinking-water plants and wastewater treatment plants that need constant attention.

This Wednesday, Oct. 10, we ask you to consider something: What if you turned on your faucet and nothing came out? Can you Imagine a Day Without Water?

The drinking water and wastewater treatment systems in the United States are among the best in the world but we can’t rest on our accomplishments. A decade ago, the American Water Works Association declared the “Dawn of the Replacement Era” in the United States.

Thousands of miles of pipes deliver water to our homes and take it away to be cleaned at wastewater treatment plants. Even in rural areas where homes have their own wells and septic tanks, the septage is often hauled to a wastewater treatment plant for final cleaning.

Those pipes and those plants need to be maintained. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Minnesota alone needs about a $7.5 billion in investments in its water system, and about $4.4 billion of that is for pipes under the ground.

Spending money on underground pipes and low-key treatment plants doesn’t lead to big headlines and news conferences. But this is the type of basic spending that makes our lives easier and healthier.

I fretted only occasionally about having enough water on our farm out west, but we always kept the possibility in mind. Likewise, we all should keep in mind the possibility of not having the pipes and plants to deliver water to our homes and businesses, or to clean it up after we’ve used it. We need to pay attention to the investments we need in order to keep water available and clean.

By Craig Lincoln, Environmental Programs Coordinator


Imagine a Day Without Water is sponsored by the Value of Water Campaign, which is a coalition of organizations and companies in the drinking water and wastewater professions. Find more at thevalueofwater.org and more on Imagine a Day Without Water at imagineadaywithoutwater.org.