How can everyone have access to clean water? With James Curatalo

James Curatalo is the elected President of the Cucamonga Valley Water District, a public corporation that provides high quality water to about 200,000 people in Southern California. He is thus familiar with water access issues, a topic that people highly mentioned during our interviews around the world. We showed James the testimonies below and then asked him to answer a few questions to help us better understand this fundamental subject.

20 Questions About Water: What is your first reaction to these testimonies?

James Curatalo: Clean, wholesome water has always been a challenge for the human kind. These opinions are shared all around the world, and certainly here, we believe wholesome, quality water, available at affordable prices, is very important. As an elected official, I believe sound government policy and practices, as well as sound business practices, are very important to providing water to the end user.

20QAW: Can you give us a quick historical review of water access?

J.C.: Historically, because of a lack of conveyance and proper treatment, water was difficult to access for the general public. Fortunately today, here, thanks to the treatment facilities, processes, and conveyance systems we have, water isn’t difficult to provide anymore. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t challenging for many other people around the world, and we have a genuine interest in assisting and contributing to solutions on a broader scale, beyond our personal interests. As humans, we’re interested in helping people.

20QAW: How has access to clean safe water improved over the years?

J.C.: It has made great strides. Wholesomeness of water, thanks to technology and treatments, has improved greatly. But you also need to convey water to where it’s needed, and we’ve developed quality systems with great capabilities. Furthermore, these technologies are shared throughout the world where more attention and effort is needed. Overall, in the last century, it has improved greatly, and the waterborne illnesses of the past have been eradicated here, although they do still occur in some places for which we all need to help find solutions.

It’s a very complicated issue, one that is important to everyone worldwide, and with the available technologies and systems, I look forward to a time where there is more shared partnerships in finding adequate solutions.

20QAW: What is the current situation with access to water worldwide?

J.C.: Inarguably, the answer is: all over the board, it varies. For instance Southern California, where we live, is an arid region but we’ve developed our water systems and treatments in such a way that, although we do need to conserve water, we’re not in a crisis by any means. In other parts of the world, that is not the case. Even where there is an abundance of water, they may lack the proper treatment capabilities for that water. It’s a very complicated issue, one that is important to everyone worldwide, and with the available technologies and systems, I look forward to a time where there is more shared partnerships in finding adequate solutions.

20QAW: Who is responsible for providing access to water?

J.C.: Locally, it is the water district. We were created for that very purpose. Our water district for instance is owned by the community, it is governed by an elected board, and we serve the water in compliance with the agreement and expectations from our community. In other parts of the world, they may lack that formalized systems of governance, which provides the water. Ultimately, as human beings, we’re all responsible to at least help finding solutions to provide quality water to everyone.

When it comes to providing access to water, I’m sure there are several philosophical points that could be argued, but there are also several tremendous financial challenges.

20QAW: What are some of the challenges related to providing on-going access to water?

J.C.: When it comes to providing access to water, I’m sure there are several philosophical points that could be argued, but there are also several tremendous financial challenges. Water is a costly, vitally important resource, and facilities to store, convey, treat, and provide water are also very costly. We know how to do it and can share that knowledge and technology, but it all ultimately comes down to finances, which is one of the greatest challenges to provide quality water to everyone.

20QAW: Which types of projects are the most successful in bringing clean water to communities?

J.C.: I believe every successful project not only contributes to their own community, but because water is of interest to everyone and is important on a regional basis, a successful project here translates into a solution for the entire region. One of our largest projects here is the Lloyd Michael water treatment plant treats state water, which comes to our area from a source 800 miles away, and we treat it here and distribute it to our community, which in turn relieves demand for other water resources, which can be used to supply the rest of the region.

20QAW: How could everyone have access to fresh clean water?

J.C.: I believe anything is possible, and if there’s political will, courage, commitment for investments, in terms of both financial and human resources, then it is possible. But the challenge is tremendous and has existed as long as civilization itself, even before that. I truly believe it can be achieved and that we all could contribute to finding a solution.

20QAW: How do you see the water situation in a hundred years?

J.C.: If you just look at the last 50 years, and the tremendous advances in technology, it would be safe to assume that technology will continue improving, which in turn would lower cost, as the financial challenge is always underlying, or even overarching potential solutions. As technology improves and as the cost of treatment and conveyance goes down - and it takes a lot of energy to move water so energy technology also needs to improve - I would think that within the next hundred years we’ll see a confluence of improvements in these fields. And hopefully in governance as well, with regards to people’s attitude and willingness to take part in finding solutions. I’m very hopeful for the next hundred years!

Watch James' video interview here