November 12, 2009

Sustainability and the Future of Clean Water

by Bob Murphy

Sustainability has become a topic of increasing discussion within the drinking water industry. It is referenced as part of the every day operation of water utilities; however, there is still some confusion about what being a sustainable utility actually means. Water utilities, their customers, regulatory agencies and Congress are asking what the drinking water industry is doing to respond to the increasing demand from water utilities for guidance and information about becoming a sustainable utility. In response, AWWA President Craig Woolard created an ad-hoc committee that was charged with crafting a strategy for AWWA to respond to the water industry’s growing interest in the topic of sustainability. As part of the charge, the Sustainability Ad Hoc Committee was asked to review current AWWA sustainability activities, identify additional short and long-term activities for the association and develop a draft strategy for implementing the recommended activities.

The first steps taken by the Committee were to develop a mission and to define sustainability. After significant discussion, the following mission was agreed upon:

AWWA will establish a leadership position amongst drinking water professional

associations on the issue of sustainability. AWWA will develop products and

services that help members become more sustainable, and identify functional units

that will be responsible for developing them. AWWA will collaborate, as

appropriate, with other leading associations to develop these products and services.

The Committee developed the following definition of sustainability based upon extensive review of definitions and writings from other associations and experts in the field:

Sustainability means providing an adequate and reliable water supply of desired

quality — now and for future generations — in a manner that integrates economic

growth, environmental protection and social development.

Sustainable practices in the water industry will be a focus of the upcoming AWWA Annual Conference and Exhibition in Chicago June 2010.

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