This morning I arose especially early in hopes of getting to my office by 6:30, and upon going outside, noticed water pouring through cracks in the street. I checked it out and determined it had to be coming from a broken water pipe, which made me realize just how critical it is to repair leaks in the existing municipal water system. In fact, each day, leaking pipes account for the loss of an estimated 7 billion gallons of water, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, due to the fact that a large part of the country’s water system is decades old and in need of replacement. However, as CNN reported last January, federal funding for this purpose has been cut significantly in recent years, and the state of the infrastructure has deteriorated as a result.
Being absolutely fascinated to learn first-hand how the Los Angeles Water and Power folks go about fixing a massive leak of this sort, I stuck around to observe how they planned to tackle the problem. It turned out to be an incredible display of technology, discipline and expertise. First they closed off the street, then proceeded to dig a deep hole that quickly filled with gushing, bubbling water, which put me in mind of surgeries I’ve seen depicted. Then, amidst a lot of yelling, they got the pumps operating. Walking over to the hole to get a closer view of what was going on, I was amazed to discover that they had an entire system in place to fix this particular pipe, which in fact they managed to accomplish by the end of their shift at 4 p.m.
To me, this little public works project demonstrated that our society does indeed have the know-how and the people it takes to get done whatever needs to be done. And that, in turn, reinforced my optimistic outlook for 2012 that we also possess the technology and expertise to manage our sustainability issues. All that’s required is that we take a preventive, rather than reactive approach to our energy needs and problems – as well as our water leaks.