Gratitude flows more easily in November. This month seems to make us reflect a little longer and focus a little closer on the little things we tend to forget day to day. Sometimes perspective is a gift we only notice when we have such a laser focus on gratitude.
Most entities in the water sector, be it public or private, are at some degree removed from the actual people we are serving. As with any company or organization, we get caught in the day to day, the stories, acronyms, and language of the bubble culture we live, eat, and breathe in. Perspective is a pinhole in the bubble of the mundane.
For us, perspective came from a story we heard out of Kenosha, Wisconsin. The city of Kenosha kicked off their lead service line replacement program in 2018. The program received local news media attention and highlighted the story of a young mother named Selena Mercado. Mercado learned that her home, built in 1908, had lead service lines and she became so concerned for her 18-month-old son that she had stopped using tap water for him at all.
The city’s program covered the $4000 plumbing bill to remove the lead service line and Mercado will be responsible for paying back half of that cost which was covered upfront by a loan from the city. Kenosha is the first city in Wisconsin to hit the ground running with a lead service replacement program following the passing of new legislation that allows them to do so.
While Kenosha can serve as an example for other utilities across the country, the real perspective comes from the family they served through the program. It’s easy to take water for granted in this country. You seldom notice it and very few of us know what it’s like to experience life without it. The brief boil water notice or shut off due to repairs leave a fleeting impression. But stories like Selena Mercado give us pause. It’s easier than to imagine having a young child and feeling unable to use the tap forcing us to take inventory of every time we turn the faucet on.
New programs can feel daunting, but as water professionals, these are the stories that ground us and remind us why we do what we do. They remind us who all of this hard work is for and which stories to tell, not as a publicity stunt but as a reminder to our communities and ourselves of the value of water. Working with our communities to rid our infrastructure, all of the infrastructure, of lead is a tangible way to convey the value of water. Just remember not to miss out on the opportunity of perspective, something that reminds people both inside and outside of the water industry, just how valuable water is.