WEF's membership newsletter covers current Federation activities, Member Association news, and items of concern to the water quality field. WEF Highlights is your source for the most up-to-the-minute WEF news and member information.

October 2009, Vol. 46, No. 8

Top Story

Return to the Tap
Public Programs Promote Tap Water

The popularity of bottled water has risen to lofty heights in the past decade. As the public becomes more aware of conserving resources and more price-conscious in a tight economy, municipalities and government agencies are looking into utilizing these trends to promote tap water consumption.


Rosie Boycott (left), chair of London Food, and Neil Barron (right), carafe design competition winner, enjoy tap water from the newly designed and distributed carafe at Zilli Fish restaurant in London. Photo courtesy of Thames Water (Reading, England). Click for larger image. 

Advertising Tap Water in Italy



In July 2008, the company Veritas (Venice, Italy) began the Aqua Veritas campaign to promote tap water, touting the slogan (translated from Italian), “I also drink the mayor’s water.” Veritas consists of 28 municipalities serving 650,000 people that live or work in the area.

The campaign reaches residents through circulating information via playbills, posters featuring mayors of the municipalities, leaflets, advertising pieces, and the Web site www.acquaveritas.it. In addition, more than 110,000 carafes have been distributed to area residents, according to the Aqua Veritas press office.

“Citizens have responded positively to the campaign because they know that the tap water is good, safe, and economical,” said Riccardo Seccarello of the Veritas press office. Tap water comes from groundwater drawn from 60 local wells, according to the press office. Veritas constantly monitors tap water, performing 10,000 laboratory tests evaluating more than 200,000 parameters every year to make sure it is clean and relaying this information to the public. 

Venice Mayor Massimo Cacciari promotes tap water in this advertisement featuring the slogan translated as “I also drink the mayor’s water.” Photo courtesy of Riccardo Seccarello, Veritas press office. Click for larger image.  




The company began a second phase of the campaign this spring centering on the slogan translated as, “The mayor’s water has bubbles.” For this promotion, Veritas will provide a discount for people who purchase a unit that makes carbonated water from the tap. This enables people who prefer the taste of sparkling water to generate it themselves from tap water in their homes or businesses. 


The initiative has cost €250,000 (US$360,000), with about €200,000 (US$287,000) spent on purchasing the carafes.

According to the Veritas press office, the program has received only positive feedback, and the company is starting to see some positive trends. The percentage of people who drink tap water has increased from 74% to 78%, and the amount of plastic bottles collected in Venice has decreased from 257 Mg/month to 237 Mg/month since the program began, according to an annual survey by the company.

The carafe pictured has been distributed to Venice-area residents. Photo courtesy of Riccardo Seccarello, Veritas press office. Click for larger image.


Marketing Tap Water to Businesses in London 



The “TapTop” carafe contains recycled glass and features four nondrip pouring spouts. Photo courtesy of Thames Water. Click for larger image. 

Another European country is attempting to promote tap water in a different way. The water and wastewater services company Thames Water (Reading, England), in collaboration with London’s previous mayor Ken Livingstone, launched the London On Tap program in February 2008. 

The program, which promotes tap water to area restaurants, bars, and hotels, centers on the newly designed carafe, which is meant to be used by local businesses to serve tap water to customers, according to a Thames Water news release. The program’s goal is to give citizens the confidence to ask for tap water in public businesses.

“When researching how people felt about tap water,” said Amy Dutton, Thames Water press officer, “we found that 70% of people said the price of mineral water was too expensive, and one in five people were nervous to ask for tap water when dining out.” Since Thames Water had invested money to improve London’s water, the company wanted to demonstrate to the public what this had achieved, she said. “Marketing of bottled water had helped drive consumer demand, but there was nothing comparable to promote tap water.”The program featured a 3-month carafe design competition that began in May 2008. The winning design, “Tap Top,” chosen from more than 115 entries, was created by London-based designer Neil Barron, who received an award of €5000 (US$7060), according to the London On Tap Web site. 




Neil Barron holds his winning carafe “Tap Top,” that he designed for Thames Water’s London On Tap campaign. The carafe features four pouring spouts for a stylized tap spout design. Photo courtesy of Thames Water. Click for larger image.



The first 10,000 carafes are being given away free to local businesses and organizations, Dutton said. Businesses also can purchase carafes, available in clear, blue, or green with the option of a printed or etched company logo, for prices ranging from €10 (US$14) each to €1.91 (US$2.70) each, depending on the number ordered and the type of logo requested. The public cannot purchase carafes, but Thames Water is looking into it as a future possibility, Dutton added.

The program is nonprofit, and once all costs have been recuperated, proceeds from the carafe sales will go to WaterAid (London) for its work in the developing world, the Web site says. To date, campaign costs have been approximately €100,000 (US$144,000), Dutton said. 

In addition to the carafe competition and sale, the campaign includes a Web site, online outreach video, and Twitter account. The program also reaches out to businesses, asking them to pledge to offer customers tap water. So far, more than 3000 businesses have made this pledge, Dutton said. “The campaign has been a real success, and during the past year we’ve seen a real change in consumers’ behavior as they have become more confident about asking for tap water,” said David Owens, chief executive of Thames Water. 

Using Education To Promote Tap Water in Minneapolis 


 BottledMinneapolisSmall In the United States, Tap Minneapolis, an initiative focusing on public education to promote tap water, began in June. In addition to an educational Web site, the city created Facebook and Twitter pages to circulate facts about tap water. At press time, the program had 208 fans on Facebook and 169 followers on Twitter, but this number is growing every day, said Casper Hill with the Minneapolis communications department. Residents are encouraged to sign a pledge on the Web site declaring their commitment to drinking tap water. Web site visitors are encouraged to download and circulate free Web banners and posters to spread the word about tap water. 
Pictured is the Tap Minneapolis logo. Photo courtesy of Casper Hill, Minneapolis communications department.  


In addition, city employees attend local events to educate the public and distribute shirts and reusable water bottles. The city has installed electronic advertisements at the Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport to reach the airport’s 34 million passengers a year, according to Hill.

“We knew there were many public misconceptions about tap water, and we wanted to set the record straight,” Hill said. “Minneapolis makes high-quality drinking water that meets or surpasses all state and federal regulations.” In addition, during this challenging economic climate, Hill added that it is important that families know tap water is safe and costs substantially less than bottled water at less than half a cent per gallon. Consuming tap water also reduces the amount of resources used when compared to the manufacturing, filling, shipping, and discarding of bottled water.

The initiative’s costs will not exceed $180,000, which “is low when compared to similar public awareness campaigns in the private sector,” and are funded by water rates, Hill explained. He added that this expense is well worth it when looking at the alternative environmental and financial costs associated with bottled water production. In addition, the city hopes to expand its wholesale customer base with this education effort. “By generating greater knowledge of the safety and affordability of Minneapolis tap, we are positioning public works to more successfully land future wholesale customers in surrounding suburbs,” Hill said.

“The public response we’ve had so far is great,” Hill said. “Many folks are just unaware of the true value of tap water. It’s certainly important for anyone who drinks bottled water to know that tap water is safe, clean, inexpensive, and [a] more ecologically friendly choice to make.” According to Hill, the city views the initiative as an ongoing effort and plans to continue educating the public about tap water into the future.  

— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights
New Mexico Treatment Plant Unearths Ancient Skeletons



Wastewater treatment officials in Aztec, N.M., had a spooky experience earlier this year when construction crews found human remains during construction at the Aztec Wastewater Treatment Plant.

According to Norman Nelson, archaeologist with the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division (Santa Fe), construction crews were nearing completion on a project at the plant when the remains were discovered after a front-loader removing dirt happened upon the burial site in February.
  Human remains were found at the Aztec Wastewater Treatment Plant construction site. Photo courtesy of Norman Nelson, archaeologist, New Mexico Historic Preservation Division. Click for larger image.


After the discovery was made, construction crews halted work immediately and went through the proper legal procedures. “The construction company was very responsive and involved the local sheriff’s department immediately,” Nelson said. The site originally was treated as a crime scene until the medical investigator’s office was able to determine that the site was archaeological — older than 50 years in age.

The remains were actually much older, dating back about 700 years to somewhere between 1200 and 1350 A.D. Two adult females, five adult males, and two children were found in what is believed to be a mass grave, Nelson said.

The investigating archaeologists believe the deceased were ambushed while working in the agricultural fields, due to evidence of damage to the backs of skulls and legs, Nelson said. It is unclear who would have attacked them, but archaeologists speculate that neighbors buried them in an abandoned pit structure, he added. 

Officials suppose the deceased were villagers who lived on the outskirts of the nearby Aztec ruins that supported a large population of Native Americans during the 12th century.

To the archaeologists’ dismay, the remains already had been too disturbed by previous construction for them to carry out a full investigation of the site. “The burial site was discovered only after the construction crew had excavated several feet of overburden,” Nelson said. A survey of the project area by a professional archaeologist before the work began indicated no signs of a burial site.

According to Nelson, finding archaeological relics at construction sites is not uncommon in the Southwest, “but this is the first time I know of where the discovery of a site was associated with a wastewater treatment plant.” Mass burials also are somewhat rare, he noted.

Investigators found few other artifacts at the site due to the construction, although they did find a stone knife in the excavated dirt.

Local tribes sometimes claim the remains and rebury them, but they have not done so in this case. Though plans have not been finalized, the Aztec Wastewater Treatment Plant might keep its piece of history nearby, Nelson said. “What we generally like to see is if the remains can be reinterred onsite in an area that will not be disturbed.”

— Calder Silcox, WEF Highlights
WEFTEC.09 Goes Green

WEFecoSmallAs thousands of members arrive in Orlando, Fla., to attend WEFTEC.09 this month, the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) is striving to make the event as “green” as possible.

WEF has been working to reduce its impact on the environment through the WEFeco program, culminating with the launch of the Low Carb(on) Diet initiative in mid-2007. Notable accomplishments at headquarters include the installation of a green roof and terrace and reduction in electricity consumption by 50%. WEF’s green efforts extend to WEFTEC through the Federation’s choices in vendors and location.

Orange County Convention Center Green Elements
This year, WEFTEC is being held at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in Orlando, which boasts many green features. “[The center is not only known for being the second largest convention center in the nation and ‘The Center of Hospitality’ located in the heart of Orlando’s tourism district, but it is also becoming nationally-recognized for its green initiatives,” according to the convention center’s “Green Fact Sheet.”

OCCC installed a 1-MW solar photovoltaic system to produce its own renewable energy and has installed light-emitting diode lighting in the building to reduce energy consumption. Toilet tissue and hand towels are 100% recycled content, trash bags are 85% recycled content, and use of Green Seal™ (Washington, D.C.) certified cleaning products throughout the center are additional green features, the fact sheet says.

The center also has utilized Xeriscape™ planting principles, installed a drip irrigation system, and uses 100% reclaimed water for irrigation. It also has two hydrogen-powered shuttles in its fleet to reduce emissions and reliance on gas, the sheet says.

OCCC’s Building Services section received the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14001:2004 certification for its environmental management system. “It is the first convention center in the U.S. to receive this certification,” according to the fact sheet. A couple of notable accomplishments through the environmental management system include 33% recovery on all waste and 1380 Mg (1520 ton) of cardboard and 18 Mg (20 ton) of office paper recycled in 2008.

Centerplate Provides Green Food Services for OCCC
Centerplate, OCCC’s food and beverage provider, has an environmental focus. The company provides all-natural meats which are hormone- and antibiotic-free, and uses organic and locally grown in-season produce whenever possible, according to the Orange County Convention Center Environmental Program fact sheet.

Centerplate employees take part in an environmental education program teaching and encouraging green practices in the workplace. The company tries to use fountain sodas and draft beer to reduce the consumption of plastic and glass bottles. Disposable utensils and containers made from corn are available, and china, glass, and silverware are utilized wherever possible, the fact sheet says. The company recycles paper, cardboard, bottles, cans, and other items in compliance with OCCC’s initiatives.

These are only a sampling of the green features that can be seen at WEFTEC.09. The WEFeco team encourages members attending the conference to help out where they can by reducing, reusing, or recycling when the option presents itself.

— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights
Game Simulates Health of Chesapeake Bay Watershed Based on Players' Decisions

It may not have caused eager teenagers to line up outside local electronics stores, but the first run of the University of Virginia (UVA; Charlottesville) Bay Game was no small feat. Professors and students tested their UVA-made computer simulation of the Chesapeake Bay watershed in classes last April. 


University of Virginia (Charlottsville) students test a game simulating the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey  Plank, University of Virginia. Click for larger image.   UVABayGame1Large


The simulation, sponsored by the UVA Office of the Vice President for Research, will be used for research, education, and outreach to both the public and policy-makers, according to its Web site.

“We also see the game as a laboratory for research on policy options, including unconventional policy options that might combine regulation with private-sector innovation,” said Jeffrey Plank, associate vice president for research at the university. Plank managed game development.

During the weeklong test, 144 undergraduate students took on various roles, including farmers, land developers, watermen, policy-makers, and concerned citizens. The simulations consisted of 10 rounds, each covering a 2-year period, in which players made decisions based on their roles and saw outcomes of other players’ choices, such as unemployment rates and the health of the Chesapeake, measured by the size of the “dead zone” created by nitrogen and phosphorus in runoff from agriculture and development.

The game also divided the bay into seven smaller watersheds, as well as northern and southern regions.

The results of the test run were, in a word, optimistic. According to a summary of the project by the Bay Game Team, students with farming roles generally moved from high-yield techniques toward organic practices, and land developers also made sustainable choices. This decreased nutrient levels in the bay, enabling watermen to enjoy a bountiful harvest of crabs.

However, members of the Bay Game Team noted that lack of actual business experience as farmers and developers gave students an “unbridled enthusiasm to ‘do the right thing’” instead of earn a living.

The program took only 6 months to build under the combined efforts of faculty and student representatives from seven departments at the university. “Each of these faculty members knows a piece of the bay watershed, and a project to demonstrate the power of pooling expertise was very attractive,” Plank said.

“The interaction among and between the different groups — the faculty group, the graduate class, the undergraduate students — strengthened the game, and we believe it added a new dimension to the teaching and learning process,” Plank noted.


Groups of students and faculty participated in the testing and development of the University of Virginia Bay Game. Photo (above) courtesy of Dan Addison. Photo (right) courtesy of Jason Clay. Click for larger images.  



UVA brought in Chris Soderquist, a software development consultant, to help with the project. Soderquist previously helped author a similar modeling game of the Florida Everglades.

The team demonstrated the game for the public on April 22, Earth Day. This summer, the team made several changes to the game based on the test results, including changing the “dashboard” to make information more accessible to the players. The team recruited new faculty to contribute and also is looking to update the models based on recent regulatory changes, such as U.S. President Barack Obama’s executive order for Chesapeake Bay cleanup, according to Plank.

The game will be used in several UVA classes during the academic year. Eventually, Plank said, the game should be available for elementary through high school student use. “We’re keen to improve it and then disseminate it broadly,” he said.

— Calder Silcox, WEF Highlights
Marquette Law School Launches Water Law Curriculum

Marquette University Law School (Milwaukee) offers a new course in water law beginning this academic year for students interested in pursuing careers in the water quality field, according to a news release from the university. 


 MarquetteLogoSmall “Marquette University Law School will be poised to train the next generation of lawyers to serve the water industry here and around the world,” said Joseph D. Kearney, dean of the Marquette Law School.
Photo courtesy of Marquette University Law School (Milwaukee) . The curriculum includes courses focusing on water rights, administrative law, patent and trade secret law, environmental policy and philosophy, land use planning, natural resources law, and agriculture law


Though there is no specific course on wastewater, Brigid O'Brien Miller, director of university communication, explained that the Water Law course would touch on the subject. “As we expand the program and the curriculum, this may be an area where we might develop a specialty course,” Miller said.

The new curriculum is intended to help establish Milwaukee as a worldwide leader in water science and policy and will examine ongoing and emerging issues in the water industry, the release says.

“To truly lead, the Milwaukee region has to have the talent and expertise in all areas of water, including the legal aspect of water issues, which will keep growing in significance,” said Rich Meeusen, chairman, president, and CEO of Badger Meter (Milwaukee) and co-chair of the Milwaukee 7 Water Council.

The law school has enrolled approximately 750 students, according to Miller. Because this is the first year of the curriculum, the university is unsure how many students will follow the water law concentration.

“Since it is a new program, we don't have any set or anticipated number, but we have received positive feedback thus far from a number of students,” Miller said.

— Calder Silcox, WEF Highlights

 ©2009 Water Environment Federation. All rights reserved.