Wednesday, October 10 was Imagine a Day Without Water, a national awareness campaign that for a single day aims to make people think about how difficult, if not nonexistent, life would be without water. The goal is to encourage support for infrastructure investment. Old infrastructure manufactured with lead and copper materials is at the root of a problem near and dear to our hearts—lead in drinking water. What if there is water but it’s unsafe to drink?
While imagining a world with no water may be a challenge for some, imagining a world without safe drinking water is a reality for some communities across the country. Aging water fountains and plumbing fixtures in schools in older communities are creating concern for parents and educators who simply want to know if the water is safe to drink. Some school districts are taking extreme measures to put families at ease. An article in September 2018 on Water Online reported that Detroit Public Schools are officially removing access to water fountains and other drinking fixtures in all 106 of the schools in the district after over 16 of them came back with elevated lead levels. The school district is spending $200,000 to supply coolers and bottled water to all 106 schools.
Water providers can’t feel good about this drop in consumer confidence. They likely feel conflicted because the culprit of elevated lead levels typically exist in the privately-owned infrastructure the utility has no control over. Regardless, decisions still have to be made. School systems like Detroit didn’t choose to switch to bottled water because it was cost effective or efficient. The decision derived out of fear and concern because there was no data that pointed to a different solution.
As is typically the case, the better the input, the better the output. Technology and effective data management create the tools water customers need to create more effective solutions for their schools, families, and organizations. Lead test kits paired with data management software provide customers with updated inventory information that is easy to view, search, and share.
The EPA offers guidance to customers and schools for lead and copper compliance called the 3Ts—training, testing, and taking action. Without the data or the technology to manage the data, taking action is challenging. With school personnel stretched thin already, where will they find the time to search through file cabinets or manually enter test results? How will this data be shared with parents? Data management makes information more usable. It allows water customers to make more informed decisions which in turn saves schools, families, and communities money, but more importantly, time. Data management simplifies lead and copper compliance which provides safe drinking water for students and more time to inspire for educators.