Public health connects us all. This is never more true than during a pandemic. One of the most important public health successes of the past century is advances in sanitation and water treatment, on which we rely daily and yet it remains invisible. In our current pandemic, clean water to wash our hands and stay hydrated is our first line of defense against the COVID virus. When you open that tap, how do you know the water you use daily is clean? Where do you go to find this information?
Every year in July, water systems put out a report called the Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). The CCR helps you as a consumer understand your water quality. You can access the CCR via your utility website or receive it along with your utility bill. Data like that in the CCR helps build trust and empowers users.
The invisible nature of water and sewer infrastructure means data plays an essential role in showing progress, while identifying opportunities for improvement and investment. In a pandemic and accompanying economic crisis, statewide data on water infrastructure becomes more critical as it can help us identify trends in how systems are navigating the crisis, and plan for anticipated changes.
In February of 2021, Jersey Water Works (JWW), a 600-member collaborative of diverse stakeholders working to transform New Jersey’s water infrastructure, will launch an online data dashboard called Jersey WaterCheck. Jersey WaterCheck will be the first time data on water infrastructure from multiple sources will come together in one place to tell the story of New Jersey’s water and sewer systems. This web-based dashboard is being designed for a wide variety of users and will provide a range of metrics that is easy to understand. Jersey WaterCheck will:
- Include information about every drinking water and wastewater system in the state.
- Integrate data from publicly available sources and survey information in one easy-to use website.
- Give water and wastewater utilities a way to demonstrate the value of their services and show the positive impact they have on New Jersey’s water and public health.
- Provide our state’s elected leaders the information they need to seek solutions to New Jersey’s significant water infrastructure needs.
- Provide communities a way to engage with their utilities and understand the vital public health role these systems play.
If you are a utility, Jersey WaterCheck can help you demonstrate progress, showcase public health commitment to your community, and enable learning on best practices from your peers. If you are a consumer, Jersey WaterCheck will help you better engage and understand your local water and sewer system and the role they play in community public health. On a state level, Jersey WaterCheck can help us narrate the story of our progress and identify opportunities to improve.
As we develop Jersey WaterCheck, we are engaging our diverse stakeholders in JWW to guide the development process, provide feedback, and build support. Jersey WaterCheck development is being guided by JWW’s Data Advisory Committee members who bring a diverse set of subject matter expertise in the water metrics. A coalition of utilities are being invited to test the dashboard and provide feedback on the metrics. Finally, a consumer-oriented focus group will be organized to provide feedback.
Transparent data on water systems is essential for taking steps to keep you and your families safe. Jersey WaterCheck can help us tell data stories—stories of change, stories of progress, and stories of transformation. To learn more about Jersey WaterCheck via monthly updates, sign up for the JWW newsletter.