Sustainability – What does this big fancy word have to do with you? EVERYTHING! Sustainability, simply defined, means, “to endure.” Everything human beings need to survive comes from our natural environment. Water, materials and natural resources must be used cautiously or they will be not be available for future generations. The function of organizations like the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to protect human health and the environment. They take into effect human consequences on our natural resources and are able to implement plans and policies to ensure endurance.
Last week I attended a San Antonio Women’s Chamber of Commerce presentation by Kelley Neumann, a key engineer from SAWS. Neumann spoke to the group about the importance of sustainability and how SAWS takes action to ensure resources for the future. She broke up her presentation into two categories: water and wastewater. As a plumber, this makes a great deal of sense to me (supply line/drain line; water line/sewer line). I will summarize her points as I understood them:
- SAWS now has an underground reservoir. During the hardest of droughts, SAWS can use water that’s kept in an underground bubble from the Carrizo Springs Aquifer.
- SAWS is always looking for new water sources. The utility is talking right now with other companies or groups that control aquifers to acquire water rights from them. SAWS does admit this is sometimes risky and expensive, however, so the benefits need to be major to justify the costs involved.
- It’s no secret that San Antonio’s sewage infrastructure needs work. In fact, the EPA has used the threat of a $1 billion fine as proof that improvements need to happen. Right now, SAWS is inspecting 6,000 miles of pipes to look for any breaks or leaks.
- What we, homeowners and residents of San Antonio, put down our drains is the biggest cause of pipeline problems. You know those “flushable” wipes? They’re not actually flushable. They, along with stuff like grease, cause lines to back up and fail. So SAWS has started some major publicity campaigns to help spread the word.
Now you know what San Antonio is doing about sustainability. What can you do? Well, SAWS stressed “the power of one.” It believes whether conserving water or crafting plans for sustainability, one person doing the right thing can make a huge difference. SAWS also recommends writing your local politicians about water and energy sustainability and its importance to your community. Also, you can contact SAWS and join its customer committees that meet regularly to promote sustainability efforts.