World Water Day falls on March 22 each year, and serves as a time to celebrate all things water. It is also a time to acknowledge water’s pivotal role in our daily lives, to recognize the global population that still lacks access to adequate water supply and sanitation, and to focus on sustainability so that we can protect our world’s most precious resource. While most of us recognize that water is essential to life, many of us don’t realize that water is just as essential to our economy and is responsible for employing half of the world’s workers, or 1.5 billion people. And while half of the world’s workers are directly employed in water-related sectors, a majority of the other half are also reliant upon water for their jobs. The theme for World Water Day 2016 — Better Water, Better Jobs — reflects this reality.
First, let’s look at some facts:
663 million people — or 1 in 9 — don’t have access to safe drinking water.
The average American uses about 100 gallons of water a day, which is 10 times more water than the average rural resident in sub-Saharan Africa.
In Africa and Asia, women and girls walk an average of 3.5 miles a day carrying water that weighs more than 40 pounds, or the equivalent of carrying two cases of soda.
Each day people, mostly women and girls, spend 125 million hours collecting water.
66 children die from diarrhea from water-related disease every hour.
Globally, one third of all schools lack access to sanitation and drinkable water.
160 million children suffer from malnutrition, which has lifelong impacts on health, education, and economic potential; 50% of this malnutrition is directly linked to lack of clean water and sanitation.
And thankfully, some really good news:
2.6 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water since 1990.
2.1 billion people have gained access to an improved sanitation facility since 1990.
Over 90% of the world’s population now has access to an improved water source.
Since 2008, more than $27 million federal dollars have been invested in projects to build up water distribution systems in Navajo Nation, which will will allow about 800 homes to benefit from new pipe systems and improve water quality for about 1,000 homes that already have running water.
Quality and availability of water have a direct effect on peoples’ lives, including workers. Yet millions of people who work in water are not recognized or protected by basic labor rights, and do not have an adequate clean water supply. In fact, over 340,000 of the world’s workers die each year from lack of clean water and sanitation. Many of the world’s workers, including farmers and fishermen, depend wholly on water for their livelihoods. Also, women and girls in developing countries are typically responsible for fetching water, often from miles away, which leaves them no time for education or employment. The adequate quantity and quality of water can significantly change workers’ lives and livelihoods, and can even improve societies and economies.
Water is also an integral part of our jobs here at Tata & Howard. As a water engineering firm, we strive to improve our water supply and to create a safe, sustainable future for generations to come. As we have recently seen in communities like Flint, Michigan and Sebring, Ohio, unsafe water directly affects the health of both residents and the economy. We accept that it is our diligent duty to provide the most efficient and meticulous engineering service to municipalities and water companies to safeguard our nation’s water supply and the health of residents. We work cohesively as a team to foster innovation and to provide a series of checks and balances, while each and every project on which we work is technically reviewed by a senior engineer not associated with the project.
In addition to our daily work, we actively support numerous water organizations, including Water For People, whose goal is to bring a clean, sustainable drinking water supply to everyone forever, and the Navajo Water Project, which works diligently to bring safe, accessible drinking water to the residents of Navajo Nation. It is our belief that safe water is a basic human right, and through our work and our works, we actively sustain that belief.
On World Water Day, we invite you to join the 2016 campaign to get informed, engaged, and take action. There are many ways to get involved. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s website to learn about water, or make a donation to a reputable water charity. Water For People, Charity: water, Navajo Water Project, and Matt Damon’s water.org are all water charities with superior ratings. You can also contribute on social media by using the hashtags #WaterIsWork and #WorldWaterDay. Together we can help the people of the world to have an adequate supply of safe drinking water, improving the health of workers, the economy, and our environment.
Fix a Leak Week is celebrated in the United States each March in order to remind people to check their homes for leaks, both indoors and out. Household leaks account for more than one trillion gallons of wasted water annually in the United States. To put it into perspective, that’s equal to the annual household water use of over 11 million homes. Fix a Leak Week encourages homeowners to repair their dripping faucets, leaky toilets, old showerheads, and faulty irrigation systems in an effort to save our nation’s water. But that’s only part of the problem.
10-30% of our nation’s clean, treated drinking water is “lost” before it ever even reaches the consumer. In fact, about seven billion gallons of water are lost in this way every single day. Lost water, also called non-revenue water, accounts for billions of dollars in lost revenue each year. Most of this non-revenue water is the result of our nation’s leaking, aging pipes, which received a grade of D+ on the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2013 Report Card.
So while fixing the leaks in our homes is certainly valuable, fixing the leaks in our nation’s pipes is critical to a sustainable future. Not only will repairing our nation’s crumbling underground infrastructure save money, but it will also increase water availability, lowering operation and maintenance costs, reducing the need for new sources and treatment plants, and diminishing impacts from drought and climate change. Unfortunately, repairing and replacing pipes is costly. Therefore, utilities need to accurately pinpoint the most problematic areas in the distribution system so they can invest their limited infrastructure dollars where they are needed most. Water audits, which take into account both real and apparent losses, are the most efficient, cost-effective way to accurately assess non-revenue water.
Feel free to share the infographic below, with attribution, download a printable PDF, or request a printed poster. During Fix a Leak Week, let’s not only repair our faulty flappers, but also our nation’s leaking underground pipes. The future depends on it.
Proactive Preparation: A Small Community’s Approach Toward MS4 Compliance
The Town of Leicester is similar to many small towns in Massachusetts in terms of the search for funds and resources for compliance with the impending new MS4 Permit. The Town is currently using a small yearly stormwater-dedicated budget and any free municipal worker time to start proactively working towards compliance rather than waiting for the final Permit to be administered. The webinar discusses tasks ongoing and completed working towards future Permit compliance, as well as available and used resources from a local stormwater coalition, Central Massachusetts Regional Stormwater Coalition, in which Leicester has been an active member for the last three years. Topic include components of an IDDE Program, ordinances, good housekeeping in municipal operations, communication with municipal leaders, and collaboration with local stormwater groups. Jon Gregory, P.E., Project Manager, presented this webinar on MS4 compliance. The webinar is approximately 30 minutes.
This month marks the ten year anniversary of Hawaii’s Ka Loko Dam failure on the island of Kauai. On March 14, 2006, after 40 days of heavy rainfall, the rising water finally overtopped the dam near the original spillway — which had been filled in by the owner. At the time, the State of Hawaii lacked resources and legal authority to properly ensure that the owner fully addressed safety concerns. The break sent almost 400 million gallons of water downstream four miles until it finally reached the ocean, and the water reached about 20 feet in height, destroying whatever was in its path, including trees, homes, and vehicles. The disaster, which was entirely preventable, killed seven people, including a pregnant woman and child, and caused millions of dollars of property damage as well as significant environmental damage. As a direct result of the disaster, Hawaii increased funding to its dam safety program, allowing for improved regulation of local dams.
Historic U.S. Dam Failures and Legislation
Unfortunately, the Ka Loko Dam failure in Hawaii was not an isolated incident. Dam failures in the United States have caused catastrophic damage and loss of life for well over a century:
May 16, 1874 – Williamsburg, Massachusetts
At 7:20 a.m., the 43-foot-high Mill River Dam above Williamsburg, Massachusetts failed, killing 138 people, including 43 children under the age of ten. At the time, this failure was the worst in U.S. history.
May 31, 1889 – Johnstown, Pennsylvania
Over 2,200 people — more than 20% of the residents of Johnstown — perished in the flood caused by the failure of South Fork Dam, nine miles upstream. To this day, the South Fork Dam disaster is the worst in U.S. history. National Dam Safety Day is celebrated each May 31 in remembrance of the catastrophe.
Around the turn of the century, many more dam failures occurred, resulting in the passing of some early state dam safety legislation.
March 12,1928 – San Francisquito Canyon, California The failure of St. Francis Dam, which killed over 450 people and caused over $13 million in damage, the equivalent of about $180 million by today’s standards, was a landmark event in the history of state dam safety legislation, spurring legislation not only in California, but in neighboring states as well. It was also the worst civil engineering disaster of the 20th century, serving as the catalyst for the engineering licensure requirement in California.
In response to the St. Francis Dam disaster, the California legislature created an updated dam safety program and eliminated the municipal exemption. In addition, the State was given full authority to supervise the maintenance and operation of all non-federal dams. However, even in the wake of such a horrific disaster, most other states had severely limited dam safety laws — that is, until a series of dam failures and incidents occurred in the 1970s:
February 26, 1972 – Buffalo Creek Valley, West Virginia
The failure of a coal-waste impoundment at the valley’s head took 125 lives, and caused more than $400 million in damages, including destruction of over 500 homes.
June 9, 1972 – Rapid City, South Dakota
The Canyon Lake Dam failure took an undetermined number of lives (estimates range from 33 to 237). Damages, including destruction of 1,335 homes, totaled more than $60 million.
June 5, 1976 – Teton, Idaho
Eleven people perished when Teton Dam failed. The failure caused an unprecedented amount of property damage totaling over $1 billion.
July 19-20, 1977 – Laurel Run, Pennsylvania
Laurel Run Dam failed, killing over 40 people and causing $5.3 million in damages.
November 6, 1977 – Toccoa Falls, Georgia
Kelly Barnes Dam failed, killing 39 students and college staff and causing about $2.5 million in damages.
In response to these tragedies, President Jimmy Carter implemented the “Phase I Inspection Program” that directed the US Army Corps of Engineers to inspect the nation’s non-federal high-hazard dams. The findings of the inspection program, which lasted from 1978-1981, were responsible for the establishment of dam safety programs in most states, and, ultimately, the creation of the National Dam Safety Program, which today supports dam safety programs in 49 states. Alabama is the only state in the nation that has yet to pass dam safety legislation, although Alabama State Representative Mary Sue McClurkin introduced a bill on March 18, 2014 which, if passed, would establish a state dam safety program.
Emergency Action Plans
One of the key components of a successful dam safety program for high hazard and significant hazard dams is a comprehensive, up-to-date Emergency Action Plan (EAP). Hazard level does not reflect the condition or age of the dam; rather, it indicates the potential for loss in the event of dam failure. According to FEMA, the classifications are as follows:
High hazard: Facilities where failure will probably cause loss of human life. Such facilities are generally located in populated areas or where dwellings are found in the flood plain and failure can reasonably be expected to cause loss of life; serious damage to homes, industrial and commercial buildings; and damage to important utilities, highways, or railroads.
Significant hazard: Facilities where failure would likely not result in loss of human life, but can cause economic loss, environmental damage, or disruption of lifeline facilities. Such facilities are generally located in predominantly rural areas, but could be in populated areas with significant infrastructure and where failure could damage isolated homes, main highways, and minor railroads or disrupt the use of service of public utilities.
Low hazard: Facilities where failure would result in no probable loss of human life and low economic and/or environmental losses. Such facilities are usually located in rural or agricultural areas where losses are limited principally to the owner’s property or where failure would cause only slight damage to farm buildings, forest and agricultural land, and minor roads.
Unfortunately, about 22% of high hazard dams and 40% of significant hazard dams nationwide still do not have EAPs, meaning that thousands of dams across the United States lack EAPs required by law. And dams are still failing. According to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials, 173 dams across the United States have experienced failures since 2005.
The lack of an EAP could be problematic in the event of dam failure, said Mark Ogden, project manager for the Association of State Dam Safety Officials, who also noted that while such worst-case scenarios are rare, they have happened. “An exercised, well-prepared emergency action plan is a valuable tool to help save lives,” Ogden said.
Ogden also noted that even when dams have an EAP, downstream residents often do not know where to find it. “There have been a lot of efforts in recent years to try to make the public aware of dams and the potential dangers, and to know if they live in an area downstream of a dam, the failure inundation zone, who to talk to – whether it’s the dam owner or more likely the local emergency management officials – to find out if there is an EAP for that dam and what they would need to do,” Ogden said.
The good news is that most states have responded to the need for dam safety regulations and require EAPs for high hazard and significant hazard dams. The most recent legislation came in February of this year, when the State of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) adopted new regulations concerning the preparation and update of EAPs for Class C and Class B dams. In 2013, fewer than 60% of regulated high hazard dams in Connecticut had an EAP, a statistic the State is hoping to drastically improve. The new EAP regulations include criteria for inundation mapping, dam monitoring procedures, formal warning notification and communication procedures, emergency termination protocols, and EAP review and revisions.
Currently, the only states without EAP requirements are Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, North Carolina, Vermont, Wyoming, and — ironically enough — California. Since Alabama still has no formal dam safety program, they also do not require EAPs.
ASDSO continues to work alongside the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), and other stakeholders to promote dam safety and to encourage legislation to protect the public and the environment from disasters such as the Ka Loko Dam failure in Kauai, Hawaii.
“The tenth anniversary of the dam’s failure reminds us of the potential dangers posed by dams and the critical importance of both responsible dam ownership and strong dam safety programs,” said Lori Spragens, executive director of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO). “Most dam failures are preventable disasters. Dam owners must keep their dams in the state of repair required by prudence, due regard for life and property, and the application of sound engineering principles. The quality of dam maintenance, emergency planning, and enforcement programs directly affects the safety of communities, as sadly demonstrated on Kauai. With more than 87,000 dams of regulatory size in the U.S., we all have a stake in dam safety.”
Friday, March 4, is Employee Appreciation Day 2016, a special day of employee recognition originally created in 1995 by Bob Nelson, owner of publishing company Workman Publishing, and one of the founding Board members of Recognition Professionals International. His goal in the creation of Employee Appreciation Day was for all employers from all industries to have one day in which to truly focus on employee recognition, and to have the positivity of the day serve as a catalyst for year-round employee recognition.
Because modern working life can be so stressful and hectic, it is very easy for employers, CEOs, and managers to get caught up in the everyday work schedule and forget to show employee appreciation. Unfortunately, failing to recognize the value and contribution of employees is typically to the detriment of a company, both in terms of morale as well as productivity. Showing employees how much they are appreciated is not only decent and right, but is also one of the simplest, most cost-effective ways to foster loyalty and to keep employees motivated, productive, attentive, and most of all — happy. And this has never been truer than it is in today’s workplace culture, where millennials, who are most motivated by frequent, positive reinforcement, make up about 40% of the workforce.
As a company, Tata & Howard holds its staff in the highest esteem. Our incredible talent base is appreciated and it is understood that our people have been the driving force behind our record growth and continued success. Because Tata & Howard employees are so valued, the company converted to a 100% Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) in October of 2014, giving all eligible employees ownership in the company. The company celebrated one year as an ESOP this past October, and employee-owners have been exceptionally supportive of the plan.
But it doesn’t stop there. Throughout the year, Tata & Howard plans fun events, outings, and activities in an effort to show employee-owners their value. In addition to the fully catered summer outing each summer at Kimball Farm in Westford, Massachusetts, we have enjoyed surprise mid-day work parties, catered luncheons, bowling and beer, and participation in fun days such as Flip Flop Day and National Cookie Day. Also, Flexible Fridays in the summer were so overwhelmingly popular that the company decided to implement the perk year-round. Employee-owners who participate in charitable activities are always supported, both by fellow staff members as well as the T&H Philanthropy Committee, and accomplishments, both professional and personal, are announced in a weekly newsletter. On a daily basis, staff enjoy gourmet coffee and espresso drinks, a positive team atmosphere that fosters creativity and innovation, a supportive and healthy work-life balance, and an open-door philosophy where respect is paramount.
So while Tata & Howard’s employee-owners are all looking forward to Employee Appreciation Day and the fun it entails, the culture at Tata & Howard fosters employee appreciation each and every day. What are some ways in which your company participates in Employee Appreciation Day? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below – and perhaps even incorporate some of the best ideas into future Employee Appreciation Days here at Tata & Howard!
Happy Employee Appreciation Day!
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