August 2007, Vol. 19, No.8

From the Editors

WE&T Prelude

When Every Drop Counts

Melissa Jackson

The process of recycling and reusing water comes naturally to the Earth: It’s being happening for millions of years. But for municipalities, speeding up the natural process to recycle wastewater is a far more complicated matter. Implementing a water recycling program means navigating new technologies, securing sufficient funds, and — perhaps most challenging — overcoming public perception.

On the other hand, in drier regions, necessity has forced communities to embrace water reuse programs. In popular coastal areas, where booming population is stretching already-limited groundwater supplies, elected officials are taking action. For instance, earlier this year California’s U.S. senators, Dianne Feinstein (D) and Barbara Boxer (D), introduced two water recycling measures that would increase the state’s supply of nonpotable water in the Bay Area.

In this issue we provide a snapshot of water reuse projects underway, from the desalination plant being built in Carlsbad, Calif., to a fast-tracked water reuse project in Queensland, Australia, which upon completion will be the third-largest high-tech water recycling system in the world. While gaining public approval is important to the success of the Queensland project, the water shortage problem there is so severe that “it has come down to accepting this solution or potentially having no water at all,” according to Cindy Wallis–Lage of Black & Veatch, a member of the Queensland project team. See the stories here, here, and here.

* * *

Our sewers say a lot about us. That’s the premise of a new column, “Sewer Sociology,” which debuts this month.

Archaeologists examine the detritus of past civilizations. WE&T’s resident “sewerologist” puts wastewater flows in historical context, and compares typical diurnal flows to flows disrupted by both everyday and catastrophic events. Read more here.

— Melissa Jackson, editor

Authors Wanted

WE&T’s editors are looking for articles for upcoming issues. If you have an idea related to one of the topics listed on the 2008 Editorial Calendar, please send an abstract, outline, or complete manuscript for review by the deadline listed.

Submissions should be sent via e-mail to, or mailed to Editor, WE&T, 601 Wythe St., Alexandria, VA 22314-1994 USA. All submissions must include the mailing address, phone and fax numbers, and e-mail address of the corresponding author.

Feature-length articles typically are 3000 words or fewer (including sidebars), and electronic submissions must be compatible with Microsoft Word. Authors are strongly encouraged to submit photographs and illustrations. For more information, please contact Melissa Jackson at 

Melissa Jackson, editor

Operations Forum Editor's Note

More and Less

Steve Spicer

As I write this, the tech-savvy are still drooling over the iPhone. Without question it’s an impressive piece of technology; it unifies several tools that we’ve all become accustomed to into one small, simple-to-operate handheld unit. But the fervor surrounding its release is all style without substance.

At its heart, this device is a telephone — a remarkably tricked-out phone — but its main purpose still is to help us communicate. You pick it up, dial, and talk. And with cell phones, we are reachable almost anywhere at almost any time, and yet for all of the airtime minutes, text messages, and voicemails, we’re not communicating very well. Despite having more opportunities and tools to reach one another, we seem to misunderstand each other more.

We’ve forgotten that hearing and listening differ. We hear with our ears, but listen with our minds. Or put another way, the key to effective communication is not your cell phone working in the subway or on a remote mountain, it’s interacting with individuals or groups to better understand their points of view and share your own.

"What Is the Public Really Thinking?" explains several methods utilities can use to listen to their customers’ point of view. Sometimes, the hard part of the equation can be interacting with the public to find out what they think. While telephone surveys, focus groups, and interviews have different advantages and drawbacks, all can be used effectively to initiate and foster open communication.

So while we wait in line for the latest and greatest advance in wireless communication, we should all remember that regardless of how clear the calls sound or how many features the new device has, the truly indispensable communication tool is the mind.

— Steve Spicer, editor

Going to WEFTEC®.07?

Operations Forum needs your help with a special WEFTEC.07 project. We’re looking for utility personnel who are going to WEFTEC.07 and are willing to share their opinions. Time commitment will be about 30 minutes. Interested? Send an e-mail to to learn more.

Steve Spicer, editor