by Jeffrey L. McIntyre, president of Texas Utilities
Across the ages, any contemplation of survival and flourishing often leads to the need we all have for safe, reliable drinking water. While the public health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic is changing a great deal in our lives and across industries, I can assure you that it has not changed the water industry’s singular focus on water quality and safety.
Water and wastewater utility workers are essential, and nothing will stop us from doing what it takes to keep water flowing to your homes and businesses—including service for the many first responders and front-line workers battling this coronavirus daily.
Before you read any further, you should know that per the World Health Organization, there is no evidence of survival of the COVID-19 virus in drinking water or sewage. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated all Americans are safe to continue drinking and using water directly from their taps as usual. There are still important things you should know and do about our water at this critical time.
First of all, we’ve got this. Thanks to the hardworking water utility workers across Texas, drinking water is treated and disinfected before it arrives at your tap. Wastewater is treated before it returns to our beautiful lakes and rivers, which in turn are often sources of our drinking water. At SouthWest Water Company, we are working hard to do what is required to ensure your water stays safe—and that our workers are healthy and protected so they can keep it flowing.
You and your family can do your part to keep these professionals focused on water quality, making sure we all have the water we need. Be conscious of the things you are flushing down your toilet. Whereas toilet paper is designed to break down as it moves through your plumbing and the wastewater collection system, wet wipes and disposable masks are not. These items will remain nearly intact when moving through the plumbing and collection systems, causing clogs and blockages.
Conserving water is always important, but especially now. When you are washing your hands, groceries or dishes, turn off the water faucet. For reference, turning off the tap when brushing your teeth, you can save up to 200 gallons of water per month. Also, you do not need to stockpile bottled water. Please leave that for frontline workers and those in need. And please be mindful of the chemicals you use on your lawn and in your pool, which can wash into storm drains and become part of our groundwater.
At a time when 38.6 million Americans have sought jobless aid (2 million in Texas since mid-May), I want you to know SouthWest Water Company is hiring across the state. These are meaningful jobs—many with the ability to work remotely and independently in the field. As a company, we are exercising extreme social distancing practices and using masks and gloves whenever possible. If you see us out in the field, please maintain our employees’ health, and your own, by respecting social distancing.
As the only utility that provides a resource that people ingest, and given COVID-19 along with the need for hygiene, what we do each day is even more important to society right now. It takes more time, equipment, people and expertise than I can describe here, but as someone who has been in the water industry for 35 years, I suggest that instead of focusing on the cost of water, we should be talking about the value of water.
Our employees take their responsibility to your well-being very seriously. I hope you will join me in thanking these steadfast stewards of water for their tireless efforts by doing your part. We will see you around the neighborhood… from a safe distance, naturally.