The Value of Water Goes Far Beyond the Tap 

The Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB) supplies water to more than 600,000 people in five counties of Alabama; however, the utility measures itself by the degree of value it yields. The largest water system in Alabama and one of the largest in the nation, the BWWB ensures the availability of water to every home, school and business and even parks within its service area.

There are four primary areas intrinsically affected by the availability of water: healthcare, fire protection, economic growth and overall quality of life. Too often, water is taken for granted, but without it, these four primary virtues would be non-existent and could not be sustained.

Click on a topic below to read more about how water affects our daily lives.

Water and Economic Development

One of the primary ways water influences our way of life is the significant impact it has on the economy. Without water, many production and manufacturing jobs would be eliminated.

The BWWB is a major advocate of economic development and supports the economy in a number of ways. It has the distinct ability to deliver raw or untreated water to commercial customers at a lower rate, which provides a cost savings to customers.

The utility maintains nearly 4,000 miles of water transmission lines and extends additional mains to enable the construction of houses, condominiums, shopping centers and other developments. New construction means new customers for the BWWB. It also means jobs for local companies, banks and other businesses.

In a market of dwindling resources, the BWWB’s water rates remain among the cheapest of all essential commodities. A September 2008 price comparison shows that for three gallons of regular unleaded gasoline or three gallons of milk, the cost is approximately $10.50. Three gallons of BWWB water costs less than a penny ($.01) making it an affordable necessity.

Water and Health

More than 174 hospitals and other healthcare facilities rely on the BWWB for water service. This water is used for all types of purposes including surgical and dental care among other medical processes. Locally, the BWWB delivered more than 660 billion gallons of water to hospitals and healthcare facilities in 2007.

Water is also a vital component to the health of the human body. It helps the body discharge toxins through the liver and kidneys. With an abundant intake of clean, healthy water, we allow the body to perform all of its natural healing processes.

Fluoride added

An additional health benefit provided by the BWWB is the presence of fluoride in the water supply, which helps promote strong teeth.

Since the BWWB began adding fluoride to its water supply more than 21 years ago, many local dentists have acknowledged seeing positive improvements in the dental health of their patients, both children and adults.

The American Dental Association called fluoridation one of the top five medical achievements in recent history. The Centers for Disease Control said fluoridation is the most equitable, cost-effective and cost-saving method of delivering fluoride to the community and that more water systems should provide fluoride in the water supply.

Water and Fire Protection

Anyone who has ever been a victim of fire knows the value of available water. While the fire departments maintain fire hydrants, the BWWB ensures that water is available to extinguish those fires.

There is a vast network of underground water infrastructure already in place to protect citizens when a fire occurs. In most communities, water flowing to fire hydrants and home faucets comes through the same system of water mains, pumps and storage tanks. Obviously the key to extinguishing a fire is getting to it quickly, but the BWWB considers it a high priority to make sure that the pipes are maintained and water is available when hydrants are in use. A well-maintained water system is critical to protecting communities from the ever-present threat of fire.

Additionally, the ability to provide water for fire protection heavily influences home construction, location decisions and rates.

Water and Quality of Life

A thriving quality of life demands the presence of water. The average American single family uses about 101 gallons of water for drinking, bathing, cooking and watering their lawns each day. This helps promote a strong quality of life in our community.

Birmingham Water Works General Manager Mac Underwood said, "A healthy and sustainable quality of life on any level usually requires water, whether it is a sporting event, gardening or any general use. Tap water is central to our everyday lives. Every living organism thrives on the existence of water."

The American Water Works Association says that any measure of a successful society, from the health of its economy to its public safety, is in some way related to the ability to access safe water.

Tap water is such a fundamental part of our lives that we can hardly imagine a day without it. "Without tap water, how would we rinse our produce, clean dishes and clothes, water plants and landscapes and wash our cars? How would we shower? How many businesses would have to suspend operations or relocate entirely? How would our institutions - from hospitals to firehouses to schools – function?, Underwood asked."

"The answer is obvious," he said, "without water, society as a whole would be non-existent and that’s immeasurable value to every customer and every citizen."