Tag Archives: water infrastructure

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.

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Seven Facts About Water Quality Day 2018

Here’s what you need to know about Water Quality Day, August 3:

1. It has been proclaimed annually by every Vermont governor since 2014 because they feel it’s important for Vermonters to recognize the importance of “working water.”

2. Safe drinking water and clean rivers and lakes don’t just happen. We – the citizens – pollute our water resources with every flush, every load of laundry, every car wash, and that pollution needs to be removed if our natural waters are to stay healthy for people, plants, and animals.

3. We couldn’t live the way we do if our drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater treatment systems – all that equipment and high-tech, operated by skilled professionals – didn’t do their job.

4. They DO do their job 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Water quality professionals work hard and with deep commitment because they know we can’t live without clean water.

5. On August 2nd in the City of Burlington, August 3rd elsewhere in Vermont, you can learn more about this amazing, mostly out of sight, publicly-owned infrastructure. We invite you to come to any of the tours/open houses on August 2nd and 3rd to check it out. Tours are FUN, surprising, and educational for people of all ages, and there will be snacks and souvenirs at all locations. 

6. This year GMWEA is coordinating Water Quality Day with the Vermont Dept. of Environmental Conservation’s Clean Water Week. The week features scores of activities, statewide, celebrating our natural waters and the community organizations that protect them. Check them all out at http://dec.vermont.gov/watershed/cwi/clean-water-week .

7. Tours of water, wastewater, or stormwater plants will be offered at the the following:


  • Burlington Stormwater: Meet at ECHO Center! Tours start at 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
  • Burlington Drinking Water: 235 Penny Lane. Tours at 9:45 and 2:15.
  • Burlington Wastewater: 53 Lavalley Lane. Tours at 11:00 and 1:00.

For more information on Burlington tours, contact water-resources@burlingtonvt.gov, (802) 863-4501.


  • Essex Junction Wastewater: 39 Cascade St.  Tours at 9:30, 11:00, and 1:00. For more information, contact: jim@essexjunction.org, (802) 878-6943 ext. 101.
  • Hinesburg Drinking Water: 149 Shelburne Falls Rd. Tours at 10:00 and 2:00. Contact: ebailey@hinesburg.org, (802)482-6097.
  • Middlebury Wastewater: 243 Industrial Ave.  Open house 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Contact bwells@townofmiddlbury.org. (802) 388-6514.
  • Montpelier Wastewater: 949 Dog River Rd. Tours at 10:00 and 2:00. Contact: ccox@montpelier-vt.org, (802)223-9511.
  • South Burlington Wastewater: 1015 Airport Parkway.  Tours at 8:00 and 12 noon. Contact: bob.fischer@gmwea.org, (802) 658-7964.
  • South Burlington Stormwater: Farrell Park, Farrell Street. Tours at 9:30 and 1:30.  Contact: tom.dipietro@sburl.com. (802) 658-7961.
  • Champlain Water District (South Burlington): 403 Queen City Park Rd.  Tours at 11:00 and 3:00. Contact: mike.barsotti@champlainwater.org. (802) 864-7454.

See you there!

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Perspectives on Water Infrastructure

For an alternative to Netflix’s offerings some winter evening, you might try another form of internet entertainment: searching “water infrastructure” on Google. If you work in the water quality field, you’ll probably find lots to learn from the 40 million hits that pop up!

I spent a few hours surfing this ocean the other day, and I can recommend a few sites that I wandered into. Many are not directly related to Vermont, but I found lots of ideas and  examples that might, in fact, be applicable to the Green Mountains.

I can’t help but think that DPW administrators, facility operators, town managers,  legislators, and state agency staff would get some important context from these sites, and might be able to apply other regions’ solutions to our own. If you read these and encounter something you think might interest Vermont colleagues or policymakers, please forward the link to them!

We plan to offer additional winter-evening internet entertainment suggestions in coming blog posts.

Please note that GMWEA does not necessarily endorse any policies or positions stated in the following articles or by the organizations posting them.

The Conversation

Launched in 2014, The Conversation is “an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community.” Its contributors and curators are “professional editors [who] work with university and research institute experts to unlock their knowledge for use by the wider public.”

The site considers an enormous variety of topics and developments – political, social, economic, environmental — from around the world. But with drinking water and wastewater management increasingly seen as among the most pressing issues, The Conversation offers a number of big-picture water-related features at https://theconversation.com/us/topics/water-infrastructure-27794

Typical articles: “More Than Just Drains: Recreating Living Streams Through the Suburbs”; “What’s Critical About Critical Infrastructure?”; “How to Achieve Sustainable Clean Water for Everyone.” Reading these has provided me with some persuasive talking points for my next conversation with my Statehouse representatives.


WaterWorld publishes three magazines intended to be “online news and technology sources serving engineers, managers, and consultants in the water/wastewater industry worldwide.” They provide “daily international business and industry-related news, current issue articles, and access to years of searchable editorial archives.”

Representative articles found at http://www.waterworld.com/topics/w/water-infrastructure.html include (among many, many more) “Will We See Water Infrastructure Funding in 2018?”; “EPA Provides $485,000 to Improve Water Infrastructure in Bartlett, Illinois”; “NY Governor Announces Water Infrastructure Improvement Grants.”

I found that even news about other localities’ ways of coping with water infrastructure needs can be very instructive for our little state.

For prognostications about what’s around the corner, I went to

http://www.waterworld.com/articles/print/volume-33/issue-12/features/eight-water-trends-to-watch-in-2018.html  .

“Eight Water Trends to Watch in 2018,” written by the president of the market research firm Bluefield, addresses likely priority concerns facing water quality management. Of particular interest to equipment and service providers, it details trends likely to create opportunities for growth and profitability in the sector.

If you visit these and find information you’d like to share with the GMWEA community, or know of other sites of particular value, please let us know! Post comments and suggestions here.

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