What’s the Big Idea? (3)

This is the third post in my “What’s the Big Idea?” series — this time, more of a photo essay or info-graphic. There is method to the madness here – I’m working around to the seven Big Ideas developed by the U.S. Water Alliance as part of their One Water policy framework.

But the sheer scale of water and wastewater management is SO huge, and issues of physical scale are SO important to water use and policy (and cost!), I figure readers can use another bigness to grapple with: How much is a million gallons? That number comes to mind because here in Montpelier, Vermont — a town of about 8,000 hardy souls — we use an average of one million gallons of treated water every day.

“A million gallons” is easy to say, but how much is it, really?  Sometimes I think even the drinking water and wastewater people I work with don’t really get it.

Well, everyone knows how big a gallon of milk (or water) is.  Here’s an illustration of one gallon, in the usual plastic jug, with a young man about six feet tall.

Below, here he is again, having just stacked 1,000 of those jugs. I have made every effort to keep the scale accurate — though I admit those jugs put some air between the gallons.

Below, here he is again, with 100,000 such gallon jugs.

And, at last, with one million gallons.

Here in Montpelier, we use that much, on average, every day.  Makes you think about, say, New York City’s one billion gallons per day – one thousand times more.  If you stacked that amount in one-gallon plastic milk jugs, as I’ve done here, it would look about like midtown Manhattan – many dense blocks of skyscrapers.

A whole city-scape poured, drunk, washed with, flushed, and drained — and replaced — every day. Oh — and it all then goes to a wastewater treatment facility to be cleaned up afterward.

The scale of our water use and pollution is mind-boggling, and the science, engineering, technology, infrastructure, and professional community that manages it deserve our awe and admiration.

To return to GMWEA’s website, click here.

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