News Oct 23, 2019

All for One and One for One Water: Reimagining Our Water Future

On Imagine a Day Without Water, Jacobs Global Director of Water Peter Nicol reflects on the changing water narrative.

Girl washing hands
One fifth of America's economic output depends on water; yet the nation's water and wastewater infrastructure is at risk. On Imagine a Day Without Water, Jacobs Global Director of Water Peter Nicol reflects on the changing water narrative. Don’t miss his most recent podcast with the U.S. Water Alliance talking the One Water approach.

Water is one natural resource we all share. It’s used in every industry and the demand for it is only increasing as global population soars, precipitation patterns change and competition for water resources intensifies. In the United States and other first world countries, we expect access to safe and reliable water supplies. When we turn the faucet, we anticipate water to flow freely. We take for granted that we have plenty of water to irrigate crops such as coffee, water our lawns, operate water parks and manufacture products and more.  

While water is readily available in the U.S., aging infrastructure, population growth and economic development are depleting our water supplies. We’ve seen these water stressors become amplified by climate-related severe weather events such as hurricanes, superstorms, tornadoes, wildfires, floods and severe drought. Year after year, the World Economic Forum’s Report on global risk names water crises, climate change mitigation and extreme weather as some of the top concerns worldwide.

Jacobs is pleased to be one of the thousands of water agencies, businesses, elected officials, schools and community organizations from across the country recognizing Imagine a Day Without Water, a national campaign supported by the U.S. Water Alliance, taking place today, Oct. 23, and aimed at educating and raising awareness about how water is essential, invaluable and needs investment.

One fifth of America's economic output depends on water; yet the nation's water and wastewater infrastructure is at risk. Many cities are struggling to maintain systems that are more than a century old. This "invisible crisis" can disrupt daily lives, threaten jobs and businesses and can put our communities' health and prosperity at risk.  Consider what your day would be like if you couldn’t turn on the tap and get clean drinking water, or if you flushed the toilet and wastewater didn’t go anywhere. What would that day be like? On Imagine a Day Without Water and every day, we’re dedicated to helping our clients in the U.S. and around the world ensure that they don’t suffer the consequences of living without water.

Water issues affect everyone. We’re all influenced by the water cycle and our challenges are intertwined. We must work together to find solutions that balance our needs. Water availability is intensely connected to weather and climate patterns; and from the U.S. and Canada to India and Australia, water scarcity is a common problem—with major consequences on our global economy and environment. Living without water is an economic crisis too: a single nationwide day without water service would put $43.5 billion in economic activity at risk.

As availability of water resources shifts, too much water in one location, not enough in another, forward thinking water utility managers are implementing holistic solutions to address their water system challenges and better prepare their assets for the future. From climate risk mitigation plans to creative financing, to smart water solutions and resource recovery, our water providers are proactively ensuring we have safe, abundant water supplies for decades to come.

Jacobs is working with our clients to focus on adaptable, resilience-based planning and embrace a more integrated approach to water management called One Water. The One Water movement, also stewarded by the U.S. Water Alliance, encourages (and challenges) us to view all water as one valuable resource. I was pleased to participate with the U.S. Water Alliance on a podcast discussing the approach.

As the world and our environment change and the challenges our clients face evolve, it’s up to us to continue thinking differently about the way we manage our assets and natural resources. Given that water is weaved into nearly everything we touch and do—from the composition of our body to entertainment, sanitation, and sustenance, we cannot continue to take it for granted, using as much as we want, whenever we want. I’m reminded daily, by the project work we do with our clients, on how technology and innovative engineering solutions are making an impact on our water crises and challenges. It’s truly a privilege and an honor to work in an industry that understands the true value of water, but there’s always more we can do.

While I’m always pleased to help our clients find creative and innovative solutions to address some of the biggest and most complex water challenges our world is facing, it’s also imperative that we continue to talk more with the public on how these solutions impact them and their relationship with water. Today, as we imagine a day without water, let’s also focus on sharing solutions. I invite you to reimagine our existing relationship with water and consider - from an individual standpoint - what each of us can do to help provide solutions for the future.

Peter Nicol currently serves as Global Director of Water at Jacobs and was formerly CH2M’s Global Water Business Group President where he had full profit and loss responsibility for the $1.4 billion global water business, including leading more than 5,000 water professionals, in 175 offices, in more than 50 countries worldwide. Under Peter’s leadership, CH2M solidified its brand as the global market leader in water and wastewater design work, and he continues to lead Jacobs’ industry-leading water efforts. Peter joined CH2M in 1980 after receiving his bachelor of applied science degree in Geological Engineering and Applied Earth Sciences from the University of Toronto.