The-Cost-of-Water-300x250Published by, Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author Published on 12/30/16, SamBurlum.comExclusive

Source: The true cost and price of quality drinking water varies depending on the source of the fresh clean drinking water, the geographic location to where water is being delivered, who controls and/or supplies the water, and the different ways water is consumed. There are other “costs” that we as a society must consider as part of the price to pay for water; ones that may not be necessarily reflected on a balance sheet. Here we will take a look at some of the long term “costs” as well as the real price we pay for clean drinking water.

When everyday consumers think in terms of the price of water, generally we consider what it costs for our personal purchasing use. That could either be what we pay at the register in a convenience store or supermarket, or in the event an individual subscribes to a public water source, the cost would be on the price of the water by the gallon/s delivered and used in their household. Those costs are just the tip of the iceberg in what we really pay as a society for the privilege of quality, clean, fresh drinking water. Some of these costs move beyond the balance sheet and typical accounting measures. So if we add up what an individual will pay per liter or gallon and we add that number to all of the indirect factors that won’t show up in a financial spreadsheet, the cost and price we pay for clean drinking water is much higher.

Over the past decade, major corporations have taken over the market to distribute water for profit, resulting in a significant increase in the cost to purchase this natural resource. There are two models which are utilized in the distribution of public-municipal water. The first model is where the “people” own the water supply. This is when the local water supply is controlled and maintained by a local municipal water authority, usually comprised by a committee of either elected or appointed officials. This model is a true municipal public utility, where prices per gallon delivered to households are mandated to be capped where the regulatory body does not make a profit. The price per gallon varies depending on the geographic location of the municipality. For example, in New Jersey, the Borough of Sparta charges residents $4.50 per 1000 gallons for this service.

The second public water source is where a local or regional municipality or government contracts water to be supplied to residents through a major corporation. This model has come with controversy, since most people believe that having access to quality, clean, fresh drinking water is a human right, and are against companies profiting from supplying the very basic of all human needs. Companies like Suez and US Water are private corporations that make contracts to supply local municipalities with water, and are responsible to ensure the water they are delivering meets or exceeds regulatory guidelines. The debate comes when concern for such public-private partnerships arise, with the need for assurance that better water quality for less money will occur. In some cases, residents saw a major increase in their monthly water bills. For example, cities contracted with United Water saw a price increase up to over $1 more per 1000 gallons versus when water was under the entire authority of the local municipality. United Water’s average rate is $5.50 per 1000 gallons.

A private well is deemed the most cost effective way for a homeowner to obtain a clean fresh water source. The use of wells has been abandoned in preference of public water in most post-modern day era suburban communities. There are still large pockets of suburban communities and vast tracks of rural settlements maintaining that private wells provide the property owner a guaranteed source of quality fresh water. The cost of a well varies on how deep a well must be drilled before the drill bit taps into the underground water table or aquifer. In the northeast, installation of a well could range from $15 to $30 per foot for one that ranges from 100 to 400 feet below the surface. There is still the additional cost of the well pump, piping, and maintenance, which also has a cost factor, ranging from $2500 to $10,000, depending on the amount of hardware you need. Typically, a well pump life span is 15 years and can cost an average $700 to replace.

If you have either municipal water and/or your own well, you will most likely need some sort of filtration system to capture any elements not desired in your fresh water supply. If your municipal public water source has aged infrastructure or if your private well water is hard and full of iron or other mineral content, you will want to have some sort of water softener system and filter system installed. The cost of these systems can range from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on the degree of mitigation you expect in solving these issues.

According to Sundale Research, 66% of people in the United States purchase the majority of their drinking water either from a home delivery service or from the grocery store. The average five-gallon container will retail for $8 each. Households will also spend money on ready-to-go single use bottled water containers which vary in cost, depending on size and quality. Most average brands of water will offer a 24 pack of 16/20 ounce bottles for $4.99 each. If you demand a structured water, or specialty water, you can expect to pay up to that price per bottle. It depends on your personal preference and the quality of water you select.

Having gained an understanding of the price of water in the wallet, what consideration is to be given regarding the cost and price of our society’s demands for clean, fresh water for the environment? With economic drivers at the forefront, many industries push to be the first in line for water over millions of people who need clean water in their homes for personal use. The agriculture industry depends on irrigation from water sources for growing food crops, many times tapping into the same water supply meant for homes and local communities, even during times of drought and dry seasons. Manufacturing facilities depend on water for processing a variety of products including metal, plastic, paper, clothing, as well as other food products. Eventually the stresses of these demands put pressures on Mother Nature beyond the available supply.

When this happens, and local water sources are depleted, officials must resort to sourcing water from distant locations, usually passing the cost of additional infrastructure and delivery to the final consumer. Such is the case in California, where water shortages have become the normal situation and freshwater must be imported from neighboring states. Much of the Southwest depends on water which originates from the Colorado River for drinking water. In an area that has experienced a rise in temperatures and limited rain fall, the Colorado River is already at its limit. Diverting more water from the river to suburbs of California comes with a premium price per gallon to consumers.

Pollution also costs us in the long run. The cost of clean-up of an oil or chemical spill is an open checkbook, for there is no way to truly know the price per pollutant that makes its way into water supplies, lakes, rivers and streams. These costs are beyond the monetary figures, have drastic effects on eco-systems, and influence other localized cottage industries that make their living dependent upon the land around them. Fishing and gaming are affected when oil spills and other pollutants are distributed into these sensitive habitats, limiting the supply of clean food. Agriculture is also affected, because polluted water is unhealthy for growing local crops. The soil that surrounds these contaminated waterways becomes tainted and unable to sustain life. What price can you put on a track of land or what once was a clean freshwater supply, which no longer can be used because of man’s own irresponsibility in handling waste not meant for nature?

Polluted water comes with a heavy price tag to our personal health. It is estimated by the World Health Organization that polluted water sources affects 1.8 billion people each year and dirty drinking water is responsible for the majority of disease in undeveloped and/or developing countries. Things such as dysentery, diarrhea, and cholera are not just costly but can have deadly consequences when not addressed. 500 thousand deaths are related to diseases and illnesses that originate from polluted water. In these same regions of the world, sources of drinking water and waste water (sewage) are passed along in the same waterway.

There is an ancient Indian proverb which says, “We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we are borrowing it from our children.” This reflects the attitude and the approach we should be considering in lessening our environmental impact on water supplies, for we are putting our own future generations at risk of having to deal with the price of the consequences of our actions and decision of today’s adult generations. The cost is drastic. When we do not soberly consider water preservation and water conservation, we are putting at risk the health and well-being of future generations. There is no price tag you can assign to the moral responsibility we have to assure that our children and our children’s children can enjoy the same basic human right to clean fresh drinking water that we have.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Essential Must Have Marketing Tools for Most Small Businesses

Source: Quick to gain a cult consumer following and loyal customer base, most businesses begin to advertise their product and/or service offerings without a plan, which can cause the business to spend valuable dollars in advertising which may not have been the right fit in attracting potential clients from specific targeted audiences.  In order to reach any group of potential customers effectively, every small business needs essential marketing tools that will help them better direct their advertising budgets towards better use while reaching more clients for potential deal acquisition.

A quality marketing plan, which includes an advertising campaign, and an ongoing on-line presence, is the best place for every small business to invest their focus financially. Yet most small business owners say they cannot afford it. I tell them that they cannot afford to be invisible and allow for their competition to gain all the potential customers. A small business can invest tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising and see absolutely no results. The reason for this is that in order to know what types of advertising will best suit your business reach, you need to understand your goals and targets, your ideal clientele, and a defined budget you have available to allocate towards marketing and advertising.

With the plethora of choices, where do you begin? It can be a daunting task and it can be easy to get overwhelmed, however there are some tools that every small business must have to keep them on point and remain actively focused on their goals.

A business needs a quality marketing campaign.  Notice I said, “quality?” There are folks out there that will charge you thousands of dollars on a marketing plan, without taking the time to understand your business. The most complete marketing exercise is where an outside marketing and branding firm takes the time to research your business goals, your personal goals as the business owner, your vision, and your core values. They then take all of this data and compile it into a report that is the foundation for the road map in the most ideal client acquisition for your business. The marketing plan aligns your value proposition product or service with the ideal demographic of potential client within a geographic territory.

In order to stay in front of people, you need a quality advertising plan that properly represents your message to the public. Again, I mention the word “quality.” Any sales representative can give you an ad buy kit with the list of prices for ad space in the newspaper or on radio. However, a quality advertising campaign is going to take into account all of the audience you desire to specifically reach (based on demographics and geographic region), and provide you multiple avenues with which you can gain an audience with these potential clients. Your advertising campaign should be a mix of traditional advertising and online campaigns, with a detail of expected reaches. Advertising results should be measurable so that new client acquisition ratio can be properly assessed. This would look like, “x number of advertising dollars spent = x number of new clients,” and then broken down dollar for dollar with the return on the investment into advertising. Utilizing this plan will allow you to also gauge the most effective advertising medias for your business.

Living in a digital era, you must be able to have an effective website that is mobile friendly. Your website is your business card to the world. As technology continues to evolve, so should your website’s abilities to be searched for and found on multiple types of devices. There are 80% of individuals under the age 40 who use their mobile device for email, internet searches, and financial transactions. If your website is not mobile friendly, then your business will not be seen. Your website should also be able to support video, audio, as well as have multiple placements for a call to action that excites the viewer and engages them into wanting to know more or even make a purchase.

Keep an open mind to alternative forms of payment. Paper money, coins, and debit/credit cards are just a few ways people pay for things today. You need to expand your horizon to be able to accept crypto-currency, electronic wallet payments, and barter. Once you have decided on which platforms of payment your business will accept, you need to include it in your advertising materials. There are folks whom are loyal to one payment preference over another, and you need to let them know you are in a position to service their needs.

Cause marketing must be a part of our overall marketing strategies if you are going to have community brand value. Younger consumers do take notice of businesses that donate to local community causes and charities. They will patron those businesses that offer back something to a non-profit cause, especially when it is a cause that the consumer can identify with. Your plan on giving back should be consistent year to year. A business can build out an event around their contribution to the good cause, which gets noticed by local media.

Have an alliance with a freelance news reporter associated with local media. With the consolidation of newspapers and media outlets across America, most news stories, articles, and press releases do not get published unless someone with press credentials submits it to the reporting news wires. Most newspapers and publications have cut their staff and pluck from the news wires to save money on hiring dedicated reporters as well as the time required for getting content ready for print. Most freelance news reporters, journalists, and/or investigate reporters have credentials to submit content to news wires. When a reporter or journalist submits the content, it is deemed more creditable since the reporter has to vet the facts.

Hard physical marketing takeaways are still relevant, especially when you are marketing your business at a trade show or at a special buying market event.  Business cards are still the number one marketing tool when you are making an introduction to another party for the first time. Many folks fail to carry a business card on their person. Other marketing materials such as brochures, sell sheets, and post card mailers, are take away items that a client will have in their hand as a reminder to consider making a purchase. Letter head and thank you cards are also a must.

Branding your business is more than selecting a clip art logo. There are many generic logo designs to choose from in clip art or online. Today, the attention span of a consumer is less than 15 seconds, and if your logo is not dynamic enough, you will fall into the trap of getting lost in the sauce. Your logo should be the beacon of your brand, the message you wish to share, and explain what it is that you do without a lengthy conversation. You can take the time and make the investment to have the right logo crafted that will last for decades for your business or you can waste time and money on getting a generic logo design. In the end, if you choose the later route, you will also create channel confusion with your customer audience because they may stumble through in the transition from one branding to the next.

Many sales do not generate from social media, however positive social engagement about your product or service is now mandatory in a world where good news is noticed, but bad press moves at lightning speed. Social media business pages should not just be a bull horn for shouting to potential audiences to purchase your goods/services; it should be a platform of education. One where your business provides informative, engaging material and interesting facts to folks about your field of practice that they may not otherwise be aware of. Social media business pages on Facebook, Linked-in, and others are not the place to tell your business’s story, but just provide snippets of information which will peak the potential client’s interest.

A small introductory video about your business is an extra step that assures you someone will take notice of your business. You Tube is the premier platform for hosting video content for marketing your product and/or service, regardless how big or small your company may be.  The best part is that it is a free service for you to use, and the step-by-step upload process, gives your video additional search engine optimization so your video will rank higher in more relevant searches. Over time you can add to your video library content that can be re-purposed and shared in social media campaigns, or videos that can be sent to potential clients as part of your dribble marketing practices. It is suggested the shorter the introductory video the better. This takes some practice in trying to fit in who you are, what your business does, where you are located, what your value proposition is, why you are better than your competitor and what’s in it for the viewer of the video – all in less than 30 seconds.

Search engine ranking has become more and more competitive as the race to capture command over key words and ad word phrases intensifies on the internet. You will need a SEO plan that is phased in over time and that will stay relevant as your business expands in products and/or services offered. This will take careful consideration as you prepare a set of words and phrases that are unique to your business and industry situation, while being relevant to the common consumer. This is so that your business shows up on their radar, preferably on the first or second pages of their internet search.

The more upfront time, resources, and thought you invest into your business’s marketing tools, the more productive your results will be in staying in front of potential clients and while retaining top of the mind awareness with your current clients.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

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