We all know the phrase “out of sight, out of mind.” If it’s not something you can see easily or often, neglect can lead to a point of disrepair. In the case of having clean water, many people don’t think about the state of the pipes underground bringing that water into their homes. Put in the ground about 100 years ago, many of the thick, heavy cast iron pipes currently delivering our water have served us well, but are coming to the end of their useful life.
With this in mind, New Jersey American Water is currently working to replace the infrastructure in our state, according to Peter Eschbach, director of communications and external affairs. “If we were to allow these pipes to continue to age and wait until they break, it will cost roughly 10 times more than if we had simply replaced them on a planned schedule.”
“About a third of the state gets its water from us, and we take that responsibility very seriously,” says Eschbach. The New Jersey American Water team, about 800 strong, is responsible for providing much of New Jersey with clean and reliable water service, 24/7/365.
According to Eschbach, New Jersey American Water owns and operates seven treatment plants, five reservoirs containing six billion gallons of water, 170 wells and about 9,000 miles of pipe in the state. “All that works together to provide our customers about 330 million gallons of water a day,” Eschbach says.
“When the water mains were installed 75 to 100 years ago, the cost was approximately 45 cents per foot. Today, it can be $100 a foot or more. Every year, we spend more than $100 million on replacing water mains, hydrants, valves and the other infrastructure that gets clean water to your tap. And we can’t replace it fast enough,” he says.
The quality of pipes is much improved, however. Made with more plastic and improved metal materials, the pipes will last longer. For instance, some areas of New Jersey have cement pipes that were installed in the ’60s. According to Eschbach, the concrete is being weakened by aggressive acidic soil. “Sometimes, when we fix one water main break, another break happens one block down,” he says.
For these reasons, New Jersey American Water is working to educate the public about its efforts. Eschbach says people, no matter their age, are always impressed and shocked to find out how much goes into delivering water to their homes.
New Jersey American Water recently created a 10-by-10-foot, three-dimensional floor graphic that, when photographed from a specific angle, becomes a 3D illusion of a real trench with a working crew repairing a water main break. The graphic has been on display in several locations like shopping malls and transit stations, including one at Sahara Sam’s Oasis Indoor Water Park in West Berlin. The floor graphic educates people about the water management process happening underground. “As the weather continues to get warmer, we’re going to be at more community events and we’re hoping to draw more attention to this issue,” says Eschbach.
He continues, “We’re always trying to be respectful of our customers’ desire to keep rates low, but at the same time, these repairs need to be made. We deliver water that meets or exceeds all state or federal standards for less than a penny a gallon. We should keep in mind what we spend for a gallon of milk, or what we pay for cable every month.”
New Jersey American Water hopes that through its educational efforts, the public will have a better awareness and appreciation of water service. “When was the last time you lost water service? You can probably remember the last time you lost power, but do you recall a time when you lost water?” Eschbach asks. “It being there when you turn on the tap is something we take for granted.”
New Jersey American Water’s size, experience and constant attention to detail puts it in a good position to continue to provide South Jersey with the best water it can possibly have, and at a low cost. Residents shouldn’t have to worry about their water, and New Jersey American Water is working hard to ensure they don’t have to.
New Jersey American Water
Voorhees, NJ 08043
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 3, Issue 9 (September, 2013).
For more info on South Jersey Biz, click here.
To subscribe to South Jersey Biz, click here.
To advertise in South Jersey Biz, click here.