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March 26, 2015

The Water Haller: Happy World Water Day!

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Sunday, March 22nd was World Water Day and marked a very busy month in the world of water information....and CWWA is very much involved on the national and international scene.

March 18th marked the release of the latest RBC Water Attitudes Survey. Started in 2008, this is the 8th edition of this valuable survey. I was pleased to be an advisor to the survey team as they developed the questions, analyzed the results and prepared their report messaging. We talk a lot about having to change the public attitudes around water and this detailed survey gives us a solid understanding of where those attitudes are today, and how they have bene changing. While water is recognized as our greatest resource and confidence in the quality of municipal drinking water is still strong, that confidence is weakening in the younger demographics (18-34 age range). Meanwhile, very few know where their water comes from, how it is treated or the condition of their water/wastewater systems. Fewer still recognize the need for significant investment.   
See the related story in this Bulletin with the link to the full study report.

At the same time, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and their partners (including the CWWA) are completing the second round of the Infrastructure Report Card. The survey submissions have been received and already we know that the participation rate and ability to respond to the survey is far higher than a few years ago. This report gives a real snapshot of where municipalities are with regard to asset management and the need for infrastructure renewal.  CWWA is working on the Report Card Advisory Board that will help review and interpret the wealth of information. The report is slated for a full release this fall.

Meanwhile, our partners in the British Columbia Water and Waste Association (BCWWA) released a very telling report suggesting at least $13 Billion are needed to address infrastructure issues in that province. Their report, co-produced with the consulting firm Urban Systems, is titled "Are Our Water Systems at Risk?" and really shines a spotlight on infrastructure funding gap and the risks that can pose to communities.
See the related story in this Bulletin with the link to the full study report.

So FCM’s Report Card and the BCWWA Report point to the imminent need for infrastructure investment, while the RBC Attitudes study suggests the public isn’t there yet. So we have a lot of work to do. In our democratic society, we sympathize with the elected officials that are being asked to make these critical decisions when their electorate may not support them. So changing those public attitudes to support, or at least accept, these infrastructure decisions will be a challenge for all of us.  CWWA has partnered with Actual Media (Water Canada magazine) to develop a guidebook, Public Attitudes 2015, for those looking to develop a public attitudes campaign. That report is expected out in April.

On the wastewater front, CWWA is still at the forefront of the debate around flushable wipes. We are working with the wipes industry association (INDA) as well as with our partners at WEF, NACWA and APWA to develop better product guidelines for the industry as well as rules for how their products are packaged, labelled and marketed. We are also leading the ISO effort for an international standard.
See the related story in this Bulletin with the link to the full study report.


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