During 2020, we all heard the word essential. It seems like there were billboards everywhere thanking those who were part of the ongoing efforts to keep services deemed essential available to the public. The billboards mostly touted the efforts of the visible worker: healthcare, grocery and farm workers. However, in the background of all of these industries, were the water workers, making sure all of the essential services were getting uninterrupted water.

As it is with every day, the mission of keeping drinking water safe and readily available remained a priority because for us, water is essential even without a pandemic. Water professionals immediately realized this was a game changer, and the potential for any disruption in the drinking water supply had to be mitigated.

Adapting To The New Normal

Although utilities had emergency response plans in place and ready to be implemented, this situation was unique in that it didn’t affect water supplies directly. It did, however, affect operations staff who keep water systems running day to day. Water professionals quickly learned from the health care field what needed to be done to protect utility workers. Protocols on cleaning, hand washing, temperature taking, mask wearing, and more were implemented to protect the safety of all utility team members, the public, and those deemed critical to the overall mission of protecting the water supply.

Working from home wasn’t an option for many, as water and wastewater facilities require highly skilled, trained, and licensed professionals to operate their systems. Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems at water and wastewater facilities were put to the test. Some operators controlled their systems remotely from home, while others worked in staggered shifts to limit contact and adjust to the new social distancing rules. Adapting to the “new normal” became a top priority.

Keep the faith that we’ll survive the pandemic and the water sector as a whole will be better off for the innovative solutions put in place during these trying times. We’re confident that water professionals will continue to ensure public health and deliver clean, safe drinking water for all.

Source: AWWA Opflow December 2020 https://awwa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/opfl.1467