Friday, February 6, 2009

Dam Scam story viewed by 11,000 water professionals

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My Randleman Dam Scam story has been viewed by 11,027 water professionals in North America. No Water Conservation coordinators have posted any replies. There's a reason for their silence. I am poking at a raw nerve inside the American Water Works Association (AWWA); the extreme tension that exists between water sellers and water conservationists. I will take a wild guess that in the AWWA the developers outnumber the conservationists by a hundred to one. Developers rule in both the AWWA and in local utilities like Greensboro’s Water Resources Department. The conservationists work for the developers---engineer-bosses who often masquerade as conservationists because it is easy to do and it looks good to the public. AWWA writes that its membership includes more than 4,600 utilities (like Greensboro’s utility) that supply water to roughly 180 million people in North America. If we replace the word “supply” with the word “sell,” we begin to get the big picture.
In most utilities water is sold for a profit. Most directors in charge of utilities are engineers who are water sellers and waterworks expanders. The waterworks is their giant Erector Set and their business is all about design, building and construction. They add more of this and more of that based on the assumption that more and more water will be used. They operate water conservation programs because it sounds so good to the public. But their hearts are often in water selling and water works expanding and not conserving.
It would be like executives at the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company openly discouraging smoking for the cameras and at the same time devising plans to sell the maximum number of cigarettes.
Perhaps RJ Reynolds even has a Smoking Cessation program the way many utilities operate water conservation programs. But if the RJ Reynolds anti-smoking effort ever caused a measurable reduction in cigarette sales—OUCH-- it would be snuffed out just like Greensboro’s Water Conservation program was snuffed out.
It’s only for show. Here's the irony. If you are the Smoking Cessation Program Manager and you fail in your mission, they will call you a “success.” You will receive raises and remain employed until you retire. C’mon Greensboro, wake up! We owe a great deal of gratitude to dedicated water professionals for providing Americans with the cleanest and most reliable drinking water supplies available on planet earth. That being said, under our present system a penalty exists for saving water. The utility loses money when water that could have been sold is instead conserved. This has to change. Every utility owes it to the people living downstream ---like those who drink from the threatened Jordan Lake-- to use water wisely. WC Managers and Coordinators vent to each other
When Water Conservation managers and coordinators attend national conferences they often talk across the lunch table about their bosses—water selling engineers like Directors Allan Williams and Ray Shaw. They level charges like, “My director is not the least bit interested in saving water,” or, “I could do a lot more if my director would give me the tools I need to do the job.” Or, "Mine will only allow me to talk to fifth graders." Acting much like a victim support group, everybody at the table nods in sympathy. WC staff working inside water-selling utilities know that WC is just for show. That's why I would not go to work inside another utility. It's about the same everywhere.
Assistant City Manager Mona Edwards and I discussed Water Director Ray Shaw's total lack of support for WC. She was surprised that I was not attending his weekly department meetings. In the beginning, Edwards seemed like she wanted more WC. She may have even been instrumental in Director Shaw's retirement. But as time passed and water use continued its decline, the dam scammers probably got to Edwards like they got to Mayor Allen and City Council. National conferences are pretty safe environments for WC professionals to vent their extreme frustration because water-selling utility directors like Allan Williams never attend WC conferences. But back at home, the WC coordinator has to be very careful what he/she says inside the water department and in front of the media. Any hint of truth that so much more could be done will be taken as criticism of the utility and its boss--and even of city politics.
I proved that WC pays for itself. So why didn't Greensboro do lots more of it? I think you should be getting this by now. Thank God for blogging because no local reporters are willing to bring you this truth.
WC professionals who read my story are privately giving me two thumbs up. I have heard from a few who trust me to not reveal their identity. That's why 11,000 have read my story and none dare to post a reply.
A Powder Keg
This suppressed WC issue is a powder keg. 11,000 water professionals are watching for an accidental detonation. I no longer have to be cautious about what I say because I am no longer employed by a water selling boss. I speak on behalf of WC professionals everywhere who are prohibited from doing tactical WC by their water-selling and waterworks expanding bosses. In other words, they are prohibited from doing their jobs. And, they have nobody to tell. It’s obvious why WC staff do so many school tours and water fairs for 5th graders and puppet shows and water cycle models and exhibits and rain barrels—because they all look great to the public and they don't reduce water demand (reduce water sales).
In my first year before I was moved under my Water Director's thumb I was allowed to run a Water Efficiency Demonstration Project at 3 apartment complexes (See sign below and right). These apartments used (purchased) 33% less water during the following year. ShamWow! Vince himself could not have gotten more coverage of this project than I did. I demonstrated how we could turn apartments into “water plants” and make (release) new water for Greensboro at a lower cost than what our water treatment plants were spending to make water. This claim is pretty shocking to a water director or a water plant manager. It establishes WC as a best management practice that should be fully funded. I requested that we hire a WC technician to manage WC at apartments. Every year I was turned down. Greensboro would not permit its WC program to grow. The more success I had with Greensboro WC the more I found restraints being placed on me. Greensboro’s successful WC effort led citizens to conserve 2 billion gallons between 1996 and 1999. That water could have been sold but instead it was spared. Downstream lies the troubled Jordan Lake. If those folks knew we were leaving 2 billion gallons in the stream I am sure they would have been pleased. And when they learn that Greensboro has no water conservation program today, they have a right to be angry. They brew their morning coffee with our waste water. The less we abuse the resource the better their coffee tastes.
One Penny per Gallon
How I wish I worked on commission instead of a salary and I was compensated just one penny for every gallon saved. Greensboro would have owed me $20 million dollars. That’s right, 2 billion pennies is $20 million dollars. There are WC professionals out there in the US who are quietly applauding my Dam Scam story. But they must celebrate privately because their water-selling bosses are looking over their shoulders. This problem is not just in Greensboro but it’s all over the country. That’s the other reason why this story must to be told. As long as there is the ability to profit from selling water we will never become good stewards of the resource.
The Fox Guarding the Hen House
When a water selling and waterworks expanding director like Allan Williams or Ray Shaw oversees the utility’s WC program, it’s the fox guarding the hen house (See my NO WATER OVER THE DAM story in my archives). How brazen for Director Williams to put a phony phone number on his web site and call it a WC program (see previous story below). Instead of leading their customers to use water more efficiently, utilities are trying to sell all of the resource they can. That means our nation’s water supply is under constant threat and being squandered. Somehow the profit motive behind water sales has to be taken away from utilities leaving them free to honestly promote water conservation.
Remember to tell others to Google just two words--dam scam.

1 comment:

  1. Mike,

    Thank you for telling us your story, and the story of water conservation "suppression" in Guilford County. I'd like to take you to lunch sometimes.