William A. Verkest

Protecting the future with wise stewardship

William A. Verkest, P.E.
APWA President

Water sustains life and is viewed so diversely that it is an automatic expectation to some, but an essential daily responsibility to others. Water is collected, carried, piped, pumped and diverted to meet a huge variety of needs. Expectations with regard to water are influenced by our life experiences. Some may experience living with abounding quantities of water falling from the sky, in rivers, streams, lakes and spurting from faucets. Water is there at any time—day or night and in any season of the year. Others experience a life where water is scarce. When water is not abundant, it requires enormous effort to get water even for basic needs such as drinking, bathing, and watering livestock.

As such, international concern about water is growing. Due to population increases, concentration of population and industrial development, there are serious issues such as shortages of supply, pollution, and flood hazards. These circumstances exist in many countries of the world. Approximately half of the world's population can be found living in an unsanitary water environment. Pressures resulting from water problems of all types have prompted international cooperation, as well as international disputes.

Solving broad-based water problems requires a comprehensive approach that includes not only issues concerning drinking water and sanitation, but also involves improvement in water productivity, prevention of disease, disaster protection and water resource management. Fortunately, never before has there been the technology to provide us with extensive amounts of information about the science of water—floods, storms, climate changes and the health of our natural resources.

Use of sound scientific information is important in all programs dedicated to solving complex water issues. Research is the foundation of scientific and technical knowledge on water quality and the global environment. New and expanded research efforts are essential to our understanding of water resources and of human stresses on them. Innovation and development of new cost-effective approaches can enhance water quality, quantity and protection. Reliable data are necessary to meet the global demand for multiple uses of water. The results of research can provide the basis for sound water resources management.

If this information is used wisely, water will remain available for community growth, a healthy economy and to meet important social needs. Water can become the benefactor of the care that human-kind takes in using it. We must be ever mindful of using and conserving a resource that is so important to our existence.

Water resources require protection from activities perilous to water quality. As water quality protection programs succeed in many parts of the world, global water quality is challenged by population growth, urbanization, industrial and commercial activities, agricultural practices and other aspects of modern life. Adequate funding for both watershed management and infrastructure rehabilitation and replacement is vital for sustainable water quality.

Success in managing water, land and the environment will be judged in the long term by the condition of watersheds, ecosystems, economies, and quality of life. The ability of current and future generations to access and benefit from the many functions and values provided by water is essential in the global protection of water resources. Keys to good management and sustainable infrastructure include programs to improve the skills of water quality professionals; funding for a healthy infrastructure; improvements in regulations; pollution prevention; and public participation in decision making. Proper design, construction and maintenance of water facilities are essential to maximize long-term efficiency and ensure water quality protection.

Many challenges lie ahead as a growing population puts increased pressure on our natural resources. These challenges create many questions. Questions create change. The way each of us thinks about water as a natural resource must change. If we ask thought-provoking questions, we can create an atmosphere for developing answers about water that promote superior water stewardship.

The APWA Water Resources Management Committee is a group diverse in its practical experience and rich with knowledge about water and its scientific, social and economic implications. The committee provides APWA members with a forum that can thoughtfully inspire answers to questions about sources and treatment of water, storm drainage, treating wastewater, reuse of treated water, watershed health, stream flow, groundwater science and much more.

I invite you to participate in the activities and actions of the Water Resources Management Committee. I encourage you to take part in activities such as infoNOW Communities, conference educational sessions, and Click, Listen & Learn programs. And, I encourage you to contact members of the committee to collaborate on solving the important issues you face related to water resources.

I would like to thank Mary Meloy, Water Resources Management Committee Chair, for contributing to this message.