Never take clean drinking water for granted
October 25, 2010

Americans are easily lulled into a false sense of security about the quality of our drinking water. A century of safe and reliable service across much of the country has caused us to think of clean drinking water as a birthright, rather than as a responsibility. Occasionally, we get glimpses of what could happen if we fail to maintain and invest in our infrastructure, and the tragic spread of cholera in Haiti is an example we cannot responsibly overlook. Hundreds of people have already died of the disease, and there are serious fears that the 1.3 million people living in tents around the capital -- without a serious drinking-water infrastructure -- could be victimized by the spread of the disease, which is easily transmitted via contaminated water.

Sometimes we seem to recognize that we're not doing enough to maintain the infrastructure that keeps most of us safe from waterborne diseases like cholera, but recognizing the problem is a far cry from taking action -- and when utilities do, they're often loudly criticized by customers for daring to charge just a little more for the safe water infrastructure that we need. Last week's story about a water-rate hike by the Des Moines Water Works included a classic case of that kind of angry criticism. Challenging those critics with the facts is a necessary part of the job of delivering clean water to customers today.

October 2010
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last revised October 2010