I was traveling this week and a local municipality issued a water boil alert.
People weren’t too panicked. Restaurants still functioned. They served soda, milk, coffee and tea – because the water in the coffee and tea was boiled. However, the McDonald’s drive-thru had no fountain drinks. Their meal packages came with a bottle of water in lieu of a soda.
At the grocery store, the 24 packs of bottled water had sold out.
The water boil alert was going to remain in effect for several days.
Apparently water pressure was low for about 10 minutes – below the legal threshold – which says if pipe pressure goes below 20psi – things can become contaminated.
No word if it was a bad pump that caused the low pressure. But it was fixed. The boil alert remains until the water tests out ok.
Water systems – are a form of JIT (Just In Time) delivery. Low water pressure (for even ten minutes) can cause significant disruptions. Whether it’s aging infrastructure, storms, accidents or something else, thinking about (and being prepared for) disruptions of any scale is always a good exercise.
In business, JIT delivery systems help reduce costs by allowing organizations to increase efficiency and decrease waste by receiving goods only when they are needed in the production process.
However, JIT delivery is vulnerable to sudden, unanticipated disruptions in the supply chain. Those unanticipated disruptions, those outlying events, can stop production in its tracks.
The water boil alert I encountered this week was small in the scheme things. But it could have been much more involved.
Whether this specific incident was infrastructure related (or not) is irrelevant. Infrastructure (and its replacement) across cities and towns of all sizes is going to be the trend for the next several decades (and part of future Quantitative Easing) by governments and monetary authorities throughout the world.