On June 30th, we recognized Hampton Roads’ essential water workers for Annual Drinking Water and Wastewater Professionals Appreciation Day in Virginia. These regional water and wastewater employees kept the taps flowing and commodes going throughout a global pandemic. Now more than ever, we are keenly aware of the value of water and how it supports public health, our local economy and our overall quality of life.
In Hampton Roads, our public water systems consist of a complex network of miles and miles of underground pipes. This unseen infrastructure ensures the safe and reliable supply of water to our homes, businesses and hospitals every day of the year.
Collecting, storing, treating and delivering water to and from homes and commercial enterprises are the jobs of the region’s municipal water utilities and the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD). In our region, the public water systems are supported by 12 drinking water treatment plants, with more than 100 wells and 23 reservoirs storing over 34 billion gallons of water. Once this water is used, more than 1,500 pump stations carry sewage to the 13 wastewater treatment plants across the region to be treated for safe release back into local waterways and groundwater.
While the pandemic forced many Hampton Roads services and businesses to close for a time, our water utilities never shut down. We are grateful for our local treatment plant operators and lab technicians, who treated and monitored our water for safety. We appreciate the construction crews and engineers, who kept the pipes maintained. And we thank the employees, who read our meters and took our calls.
Many essential water and wastewater employees worked through difficult circumstances this past year due to social distancing guidelines and staff quarantines. This sometimes meant these workers had to do more work with less help, and yet they never failed to deliver a safe, reliable service to area residents. Our water and wastewater professionals worked tirelessly (often without mention) to ensure their community had an abundance of water during a time when we needed it most.
And for those in Hampton Roads who lost a job, shuttered a business, lacked childcare or were otherwise financially impacted by the pandemic, our local water and wastewater utilities have been able to offer some relief. The Hampton Roads Municipal Utility Relief Program (hrutilityrelief.com) continues to offer assistance to residents and small businesses facing past-due water and wastewater utility bills. In addition, the Help to Others (H2O) Program (shareh2o.org) has been helping customers in Hampton Roads stay connected to water for over 20 years. This regional program is funded by the generous contributions of community donors and helps people experiencing a financial crisis stay connected to vital water services. There are many resources available to help those facing financial hardships during these unprecedented times. Residents who are in need are encouraged to contact their local utility department to learn about payment arrangements and other available assistance programs.
If you are looking for a rewarding career with good benefits and the chance to serve your community, consider working for water. And to the workers, who bring this service to us every day, allow us to raise a glass of refreshing tap water to salute you! Thank you for the essential service you provide and for keeping us going in so many ways.