Launched this week (just in time for Earth Day) on sidewalks, streetscapes and thoroughfares throughout Hampton Roads, the motivational campaign will reveal a bevy of good-to-know “green” messages that become visible when wet.
With the approval of local municipalities, askHRgreen.org committee members blanketed the region using custom-made stencils and an eco-friendly rain-resistant spray to adhere their messages to sidewalks in locations where residents gather. When it becomes wet, the surface around the message darkens while the stenciled area stays dry and light. The messages carry such sayings as: Only Rain Down the Storm Drain; No Wipes in Our Pipes; Your Morning Shower Starts with Tap Water; and Cigarette Butts are Litter, Too. There are 12 different messages in all!
Why “Write as Rain?” The goal of the campaign is to inspire people to think about our Hampton Roads environment in ways they haven’t before. What’s more unexpected than a magically appearing message written with rain?
Grab your umbrella and head outside to enjoy the next rainy day in Hampton Roads and look for messages in Chesapeake, Hampton, Isle of Wight County, James City County, Newport News, Portsmouth, Smithfield, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg, York County, and more locations. Find a message near you using our interactive map below and check back often as new locations are added.
Whenever you find one of our hidden messages, don’t forget to snap a photo to share with us on social media #askHRgreen.
I’m reminded of a Beatles song this morning…”I read the news today, oh boy!”
And, oh boy, the news is not good. Business Insider reports that bottled water sales have now surpassed the sale of carbonated soft drinks. Now that’s great for our country’s health and our collective waistlines but it’s oh so bad for our environment. Bottled water consumption grew by 9 percent to 12.8 billion gallons in 2016. The most frustrating part of the bottled water trend might be the fact that half of bottled water is not from a mountain spring in a pristine forest somewhere in the Pacific Northwest or a remote tropical island. Nope. Bottled water is often regular municipal tap water, pumped through a filter and into a bottle at 2,000 times the cost of filling up a reusable bottle. Bottled water is even produced in drought-plagued areas of our country contributing to local water crises in places like California and Maine. Other baffling facts surrounding the bottled water trend include:
Bottled water is not held to the same quality standards as municipal tap water. Municipal tap water is constantly monitored by a local lab with standards set through the EPA. Bottled water has only moderate monitoring standards set through the FDA . For example, coliform bacteria testing is done once per week for bottled water and more than 100 times per month for municipal tap water.
It takes three times the amount of water to produce a plastic water bottle than it does to fill it. That’s 36 ounces of water used per 12 ounce bottle of water.
An estimated 17 million barrels of oil are consumed each year to produce and transport bottled water. That’s enough to power 1 million cars for a year!
22 billion water bottles end up in landfills each year and will take hundreds of years to decompose.
You can refill a 20 ounce refillable water bottle at any tap in Hampton Roads 1,500 times for the same cost as a single container of bottled water.
So don’t be a sucker. Don’t fall prey to the hype. Instead, pick up a reusable water bottle to fill with tap water to make a healthy choice for your body and our environment.
To learn even more about the true cost of bottled water, check out the documentary Tapped.
If I were to ask you what areas of the United States are facing water crises, your thoughts would probably veer toward drought-prone southern California or Texas. New Orleans might come to mind, with its flooding issues and precarious below-sea-level vantage point. But we’re ok in Hampton Roads! Nothing to worry about in our water-rich neck of the woods; we’re surrounded by bridges and tunnels and rivers galore! And we’re definitely not like New Orleans with a “too much water” problem, right?
Sadly, Hampton Roads IS facing a water crisis- it’s just invisible. The Potomac aquifer, eastern Virginia’s largest water supply, is being overused and is shrinking beneath our feet. Groundwater-using industries are facing increasing regulations and new water-using industries are being told not to move to the region. The compacting aquifer is also contributing to land subsidence, which in turn is increasing the area’s susceptibility to the negative impacts of sea level rise. Hampton Roads is the second largest population at risk for the negative impacts of sea level rise, right behind infamous New Orleans. It’s not a pretty picture.
Engineers and scientists have turned “used” into “useful” at the SWIFT Pilot Facility in Seaford, Virginia.
So what do we do? How do we combat such an extensive, multi-faceted issue? Do we build flood walls? Elevate our homes on stilts? Move? There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and there are many individuals and organizations working on the problem. HRSD is one of those organizations, and it’s tackling the situation head-on with an initiative that not only addresses the shrinking Potomac aquifer and land subsidence, but one that will help achieve Chesapeake Bay restoration goals and support our economy at the same time.
HRSD currently discharges approximately 150 million gallons of highly treated water into the waterways of Hampton Roads each day. Rather than continuing to waste this valuable resource, the Sustainable Water Initiative for Tomorrow (SWIFT) would take the water that would otherwise be discharged into the Elizabeth, James or York rivers and purify it through additional advanced water treatment to produce drinking-quality water. The purified water would then be treated to match the existing groundwater chemistry and added to the Potomac Aquifer. Hydraulic modeling suggests that this could reduce the effects of sea level rise by up to 25 percent and positively impact nearly the entire Potomac aquifer, as far north as Maryland and south beyond the North Carolina border.
With SWIFT, the York River would no longer regularly receive discharge from HRSD wastewater treatment plants.
SWIFT would also benefit the Chesapeake Bay. Replenishing groundwater with HRSD’s purified water would effectively eliminate more than 90 percent of HRSD’s discharge to local waters – reducing the total amount of nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen reaching the Bay. And the homes and industries in eastern Virginia that currently remove approximately 155 million gallons of groundwater from the Potomac aquifer every day would have a renewable source of groundwater to rely upon rather than an increasingly restricted one.
Extensive environmental and economic benefits aside, why is HRSD pursuing SWIFT in the first place? Its mission is to treat wastewater effectively, not to produce drinking-quality water and add it to the ground. Increasing regulations play a part. HRSD is continuously making process-level upgrades to its thirteen wastewater treatment plants to remove more and more nutrients and other contaminants from the highly treated water it discharges. By leaping forward under the assumption that the increasingly stringent regulations will continue, the next logical step would be to purify its water to the point that it’s clean enough to drink. Subsequently dumping such a valuable resource back into surface waters that don’t need it when technology exists to use it in a way that is regionally beneficial…well that just doesn’t make sense.
HRSD’s SWIFT team toasts their successful production of purified water on September 15, 2016.
Secondly, HRSD is pursuing SWIFT because it recognizes that it’s part of the big picture. Land subsidence, shrinking groundwater supplies and rising seas are problems that impact ALL Hampton Roads’ residents, not just a select few. They are not problems that will go away if they’re ignored, nor are they problems with easy solutions. HRSD’s mission may be treating wastewater, but its vision is that future generations will inherit clean waterways and be able to keep them clean. SWIFT boldly meets that vision by protecting the Chesapeake Bay, securing future groundwater supplies, addressing land subsidence and helping the economy. Those are things I think we can all stand behind.
Blog contributed by Molly Bertsch, Community Educator at HRSD.
Mark your calendars because Saturday, October 22, 2016 is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day!
In order to prevent prescription drug abuse and protect our waterways, we must dispose of medications responsibly. As part of the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on October 22nd, law enforcement agencies across Hampton Roads will accept all prescription and over-the-counter medications from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm. Find the collection site nearest you by entering your zip code into the National Take Back Initiative Collection Site locator.
If you can’t make it out to one of the prescription drug collection sites on the 22nd, please visit our medication disposal page for information on how to dispose of your expired, unused, or unwanted medications the proper way.
Many years ago, hurricane Isabel knocked out electricity throughout Hampton Roads and virtually every other private utility service for up to a week. Do you know what the water utilities across the area heard from their citizens? They said, “Thankfully the water and sewer did not go out.” They knew they could manage without electricity, TV, telephone, and internet. But they also knew that without clean and safe water and the sanitary sewer system, they could not last in their homes for more than a day or two.
In Hampton Roads, the drinking water system utilizes more than 6,500 miles of pipes to deliver safe drinking water to homes and businesses across the region. The wastewater system steps in to carry dirty water away when we send it down the drain. It takes more than 5,800 miles of pipes to carry our dirty water to treatment plants to be sanitized before it rejoins our local waterways. These systems work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to bring clean, safe water to our taps and take it away after we use it.
But what if these systems were suddenly not available? What would life be like with no water for a whole ENTIRE day?
We use water for a lot more than just drinking.
We use it to wash dishes, grow food, flush toilets, and upkeep our yards.
It keeps hospitals in service, the aquarium full of marine life, and breweries brewing.
It is critical for day-to-day operations like fire protection and helping communities grow and prosper.
We here at askHRgreen.org value water immensely, and we’re dedicated to raising awareness about its importance to every aspect of our lives. By joining forces with people around the country to Imagine a Day Without Water, we’re hoping to remind you of the thousands of pipes buried underground in Hampton Roads that bring water to and from your home.
And while water falls from the sky and flows through our lakes and rivers, drinking water is far from free. Processing it, treating it, bringing it to and from your house costs local water utilities millions of dollars a year. By continually maintaining systems, upgrading pipes and deploying new technologies, local water utilities are able to prevent disruptions to daily life and protect the health of citizens and the economy.
Maintenance programs implemented by water utilities require the support and attention from everyone including citizens, community leaders, elected officials, business owners, workers, and more. Without strong voices advocating for this maintenance work, our aging pipes will continue to hide underground until something happens to remind us just how critical they are to our quality of life.
So join us as we promote the importance of our communities’ water systems by participating in this year’s national campaign to Imagine a Day Without Water.
What would you miss most on a day without water? #ValueWater