VALPARAISO | The future of water and, indeed, the future of life in Valparaiso and the rest of the planet is a combination of finding an adequate supply, conserving water to make the supply last and restoring the infrastructure needed to bring the water to homes and businesses.
As part of the series of stories for National Drinking Water Week, the issue of water infrastructure was addressed earlier this week. Valparaiso hopes to address the supply issue with a study now underway that will look at whether more wells are needed or if the city needs to switch to Lake Michigan water, probably through Indiana American Water.
"Valparaiso's first water source started in 1885 with wooden mains," Utility Director Steve Poulos said. "Times and technology have changed, and, as we look at the current infrastructure for water, we are looking at the aging wellfield at the airport site. We felt we needed to take a holistic look at the complete system to make sure we are making the right choices for the next 20 to 30 years."
Poulos said the existing system needs to be upgraded, but before spending money to do that the city wanted to explore all the viable options. The study is looking at water hardness, presence of organics, regulatory compliance and even the taste and odor of each option and the impacts on the community.
"We will look at the economics of one versus the others. If we go to lake water, we would still have to maintain the existing system, except for the treatment plants. The big issue is capacity: How much water will we have with wells and how long will it last and how will each impact the future growth of the city."
The study will be completed in 45 to 60 days. Then it will be up to the city's Utilities Board to make a recommendation to the City Council.
On the issue of conservation, we've heard a lot about the need to reduce our carbon footprint to reduce pollution, but we also need to reduce our water footprint. Most people know how many miles per gallon their car gets, but few know how much water they use in their daily lives.
According to the World Health Organization Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply and Sanitation, one-eighth of the world's population lacks a reliable source of drinking water and a third of the world doesn't have proper sanitation.
The result is the water that is essential for life is instead related to 80 percent of all sickness and disease with 2 million people dying annually of diarrhea, most of them children.
"Just like recycling has now become a part of our daily lifestyle, water conservation needs to become the standard that we follow every time we use water, so water-efficient behavior becomes second nature to us," said Jim Pingatore, Valparaiso's wellhead protection administrator.
"If we use water wisely every day and save enough for tomorrow, we are being good stewards of the environment that we will pass on to future generations," Pingatore said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates the average American household uses about 400 gallons of water a day. When the water needed to grow the food we eat, including that for farm animals to drink, and uses outside the home, the individual footprint can exceed 1,000 gallons per person a day.
The goal of National Drinking Water Week is to get people to reduce those Bozo brogans to baby booties.