Imagine your typical morning and the multitude of finely choreographed steps you take to get out of the house on time.
You wake up, turn on the tap to wash your face and give your teeth a brush. You turn on the shower, adjust the temperature so it’s just right. After finishing up and getting dressed, you fill and turn on the coffee maker, the warm toasty coffee aromas filling the air. That first sip simultaneously relaxes and propels you out the door, prepared for whatever else there is to come.
Now imagine that morning routine without water. You turn on the taps, try to flush and — nothing.
What if you own a business, a restaurant, or hotel, or you run an institution like a hospital or a university, and there’s suddenly no water? There’s no doubt that just a day without water can range from minor inconvenience to crisis, and while unimaginable for most of us, there are many communities that are living right now without access to clean and safe water — from man made tragedies in Flint, Mi., to water shortages in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
With all the emphasis on what divides us, a concern for water and water infrastructure is among those issues that cuts across political and geographic boundaries.
Some 91 percent of New Jerseyans put protecting the drinking water supply at the top of the list of priorities, according to a 2011 Monmouth University poll. Imagine — New Jersey residents ranked clean water more important an issue above reducing property taxes. We know how much New Jerseyans care about that.
Across the country, Americans also value the importance of water infrastructure to reliably and affordably deliver this vital resource to our homes and businesses. Some 71 percent of Americans polled in a recent U.S. Water Alliance study deemed it “very important” to improve and modernize the water infrastructure system.
So, why then, do some of New Jersey’s cities still rely on water infrastructure built over 100 years ago?
Want to read more about this issue? Check out New Jersey Future’s Ripple Effects report.
The problem is multi-faceted, and solutions are expensive. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that New Jersey will have to spend $27 billion over the next 20 years to modernize our water infrastructure. That’s a big price tag for any state, but especially daunting for one with New Jersey’s budget woes and tax fatigue.
But let’s, for a moment, consider the cost of not investing in our water systems. An economic study conducted by the Value of Water Campaign found that just one, single nationwide day without water service would put $43.5 billion of economic activity at risk. And certainly, the experiences of our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico right now should serve as a serious wake-up call to us all as to the connections between water infrastructure and resilient communities.
Water is a public health issue, an economic issue, and an environmental issue, and every New Jerseyan is dependent on a safe, reliable water system.
That is why on Oct. 12, we are joining with hundreds of groups across New Jersey and the country to Imagine a Day Without Water, because we want people and decision makers to pay attention to our water systems.
We will share our thoughts on a Day Without Water on our Facebook page and Twitter accounts, using #valuewater, and we hope you will join us and tell your water story.
What is the value of water to you?