South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority, a nonprofit organization that supplies water to Greater New Haven, has called on Elm City residents to drink tap water in lieu of bottled water as a way to eliminate plastic waste.
Mayor Toni Harp declared Oct. 19 “South Central Regional Water Authority Day” and joined RWA leaders to praise New Haven’s high-quality tap water at a community engagement event on the New Haven Green Monday afternoon. Approximately 30 RWA leaders and employees encouraged residents to take advantage of the prevalence of clean water in the city by drinking from the tap. RWA representatives asked New Haven residents to sign a pledge to use reusable water bottles instead of disposable bottles in order to reduce plastic consumption and contribute to larger efforts for environmental sustainability. At the event, Harp joined the ranks of approximately 60 residents who pledged to drink tap water.
“The point of this is that we should not — and we cannot — take for granted good stewardship of water supply sources, the infrastructure that delivers water into our homes and an assurance that the water we drink is safe, healthy and tastes good,” Harp said.
Harp said New Haven has an excess supply of water that she hopes will attract water-dependent businesses to the Elm City and contribute to overall economic development. On any given day, New Haven’s excess water supply amounts to 15 million gallons, RWA President and CEO Larry Bingaman said.
Bingaman said one of the event’s objectives was to inform residents that they have access to a “high-quality and secure” water supply. He added that people often buy bottled water because they believe it to be superior to tap water in quality.
New Haven tap water costs less than a penny per gallon, while bottled water can cost more than one dollar for only 12 ounces, Bingaman said.
“[Tap water is] a real bargain, and it’s very high quality,” he added.
Bingaman said the RWA has become aware of a movement called conscious capitalism, which encourages businesses to see themselves as serving a purpose higher than turning a profit. He added that the RWA has already encouraged positive change in Greater New Haven by providing water-quality assurance and encouraging conservation within the community it serves.
RWA Communications and Outreach Manager Kate Powell said that within the organization, the RWA runs a small hydropower plant to generate electricity and donates water for urban farms in New Haven. She added that solar power produces 80 percent of the energy used for their water treatment facility. Some of the RWA’s conservation efforts within southern Connecticut include constructing wetlands to renovate storm water runoff, running paper reduction programs and reusing water treatment byproducts.
“Our company’s higher purpose is providing a healthy, reliable supply of water to the communities that we serve so that they can be healthy, economically vibrant and sustainable for the long term,” Bingaman said.
The RWA received the 2015 New England Water Works Association’s Utility of the Year Award in September. The award honors companies whose work contributes to the improvement of water system infrastructure and public health. NEWWA awarded the RWA in recognition of its water quality assurance, sustainability, conservation efforts and employee and community engagement.
New Haven resident Bennie Morris said he appreciates the RWA’s dedication to outreach and engagement, which has helped community members better understand the economic and health benefits of drinking city water.
“I think education pays it forward, and it’s great to have a group of people educating the community about using tap water,” Morris said. “There needs to be similar education efforts about other New Haven issues, like youths with no place to go.”
The RWA provides an average of about 46,000 gallons of water to 430,000 consumers every day.