March 14, 2013 -- On Wednesday, March 13, 2013, The U.S. Water Alliance, The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), and the American Water Works Company provided testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies to present solutions for water and wastewater infrastructure.
U.S. Water Alliance
The U.S. Water Alliance President Ben Grumbles was asked to testify based on his previous involvement at the federal and state levels, but most importantly because of the leading role the U.S. Water Alliance plays in convening leaders to explore solutions through integration, innovation and collaboration.
Suggesting a path with solutions, Grumbles explained, "We can avoid a crisis if we work together to shift the water paradigm from 'invisible to invaluable,' increase public-private partnerships, and foster innovative, 'one water' solutions involving green infrastructure and resource recovery."
The U.S. Water Alliance represents a diverse range of interests seeking to advance more holistic watershed-based approaches. It has been a national focal point for bringing together a one water management network. It has also drawn attention to green infrastructure and resource recovery through its annual conference on urban water sustainability.
Howard Neukrug, Water Commissioner of the Philadelphia Water Department and a member of NACWA’s Board of Directors testified to examine the budgetary needs for the Drinking Water and Wastewater State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs. Neukrug also spoke about the need to maintain the tax exemption for municipal bonds, which helps fund clean water projects, and the need to provide communities with flexibility as appropriate to meet competing CWA demands.
Increasingly, clean water utilities are becoming leaders of sustainability in their communities. Neukrug urged Congress to explore incentives and remove barriers to support these efforts, as outlined in the recently released report, The Water Resources Utility of the Future … A Blueprint for Action. Neukrug also discussed Philadelphia’s Green City, Clean Waters program, a partnership with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that comprises a $2 billion investment in green infrastructure to better manage stormwater.
"Although we need the federal government to remain a reliable partner in improving our water infrastructure, the reality is that the CWSRF only accounts for 3 percent of the total investment need," said Neukrug. "Knowing this, utilities have had to get smarter and look for ways to stretch each dollar."
American Water Works
The American Water Works Company President and Chief Executive Officer, Jeff Sterba presented potential financing solutions to help water providers nationwide repair and replace aging water and wastewater systems. As the nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure is in critical need of repair, it has become increasingly important for water utilities to gain access to private funds for financing upgrades to their pipes, pumps and plants.
"I am pleased to present actions we can take together as a nation to unleash more tools for the financing toolbox, through innovation and by embracing the powerful combination of public service and private enterprise to build the water infrastructure our communities need to thrive and to be healthy," said Sterba. "The country’s aging infrastructure is a severe challenge for the water industry as evidenced by the 650 water main breaks every day and two trillion gallons of treated water lost every year at an estimated cost of $2.6 billion. Aging and deteriorating public water systems threaten economic vitality and public health, and communities nationwide are faced with massive fiscal challenges to replace critical water and wastewater infrastructure."
Sterba continued, "The challenges we face to protect and maintain our water and wastewater systems and make the investments needed for continuing growth and new public health and environmental standards seem vast, but they need not paralyze us. The tools I am proposing will help attract additional private capital for the long-term, reliable investments that well-run water utilities provide. These tools will also provide municipalities with additional flexibility to deliver cost-effective and sustainable solutions in addressing their water and wastewater system and for improving their overall fiscal health."