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Keeping the water clean at American Water

Running clean and reliable isn’t an easy job, but somebody has to do it.

For this installment of “Conversations From The Corner Office” we talk with Susan Story, the CEO of American Water, who says the company has been trying to avoid using some… shall we say icky tactics to keep our clean water from running out:

“People recoil at times at the thought of toilet to tap but not so much toilet to turf. So what we’re going after is the toilet to turf or the toilet to flushing again. If you can reuse that water for purposes that don’t have what you call the squishy or ick factor then we think we’ve made some significant progress.”

And when the country is in the midst of a drought, these tactics are crucial to keep the water flowing.

The issue of water running out is one thing, but keeping it clean is another. Earlier this year, there was a chemical spill in West Virginia’s Elk River that left about 300,000 people without drinking water, which has still left people buying bottled water in the region. Story says there are hundreds of chemicals and compounds that are required to be monitored which can be a difficult task. But incidents like the Elk River spill are ones they learn from to try and avoid problems like these in the future.

Story says the luxury of clean water is something people don’t appreciate or value appropriately. And whenever she is out a restaurant, she only gets water from the tap.

“And in our buildings we don’t allow bottled water. We drink our water out of the tap cause if it’s good enough for our customers, then it’s good enough for us.” 

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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