A Reminder to Invest in What we Can’t See

It’s easy to tell when a street needs repair. A deep pothole will vault you from your seat and slosh the sweet tea from your cupholder. But what about the infrastructure that’s every bit as vital to our daily lives as roads yet invisible to most of its users? The forests and pipes that supply our drinking water are just as worthy of celebration and investment as our highways, airports and bridges.

It’s essential to recognize the vital role tap water plays in daily life, and if you live in Greenville, you’re lucky to have some of the best-tasting drinking water in the world. A lot of people work hard to keep it that way, from the expert technicians who install and upgrade Greenville Water’s underground pipes to the skilled workers who handle repairs quickly and with minimal disruption to lab workers ensuring the safety and quality of your tap water. We all take for granted that our drinking water will be there when we need it and that any “potholes” in the water infrastructure system will be fixed before they impact our lives.

More than 3,000 miles of buried transmission and distribution pipelines ensure reliable water is transported from the source through the treatment process to homes and businesses throughout Greenville for cleaning, hydration and cooking, which are critical to health and safety.

However, the distribution pipes are only half the infrastructure that delivers water to you. Greenville Water and The Nature Conservancy partner to protect and steward the 30,000 acres that makeup two of the three Greenville Watersheds, which are core Appalachian Forests that surround and protect Greenville Water’s reservoirs. These forests – about 15 miles apart – are their own form of natural infrastructure, filtering runoff before it ever reaches a treatment plant. You may never set foot on the Watersheds, but you benefit from these healthy forests every time you turn on the tap.

A third reservoir at Lake Keowee also supplies the Greenville community with their drinking water. Unlike the North Saluda and Table Rock Reservoirs that are entirely owned and controlled by Greenville Water, Lake Keowee is a recreational lake.

The Greenville Water service area has realized dramatic growth over the last 20 years with demands for drinking water and the reliable infrastructure that delivers that water to you steadily increased.

Our drinking water in Greenville right now is abundant, clean and tastes great. We owe much of that good fortune to the community leaders and conservationists who invested in the Watersheds almost 100 years ago. It takes bold leadership to spend city, state and private resources on protecting a resource for future generations, knowing you may never see the results of that labor yourself.

Today, we need to continue celebrating those past community leaders’ foresight while also demonstrating ourselves to be good stewards of our forests, our invisible infrastructure and our pristine drinking water. Greenville will only continue to grow, and we owe it to our children and grandchildren to ensure their drinking water is still as abundant and clean as that which we enjoy today.

David H. Bereskin is the chief executive officer of Greenville Water and is a registered professional civil engineer. He brings over 30 years of experience in the water utility profession. He started his career with a privately owned public utility system and has worked in the regulated private sector and the public service sector.

Dale Threatt-Taylor is the executive director of The Nature Conservancy in South Carolina. She is the former director of the Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District in Raleigh, N.C., and the current chair and Southeast region director of the national Soil and Water Conservation Society.

###

Greenville Water provides service to more than 500,000 residents of the Upstate region of South Carolina. Recognizing that water service is critical to the health and well-being of its customers and for the growth and economic vitality of the community, Greenville Water ensures the reliable delivery of high-quality water through careful stewardship of its resources. Greenville Water is committed to providing exceptional service and utilizing safe and effective methods for providing water, while adhering to and surpassing health and safety standards. Governed by an elected Commission of Public Works, Greenville Water is the state’s largest water utility.