Organizations Make Business Case for Water Infrastructure

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) is leading a campaign to inform elected officials and political candidates that investment in water infrastructure is an investment in America's future.

By Patrick Crow, Washington Correspondent

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) is leading a campaign to inform elected officials and political candidates that investment in water infrastructure is an investment in America's future.

WEF, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the National Association of Water Companies and Veolia Water Americas are partnering on "Water for Jobs: Water Puts America to Work."

The campaign makes the business case for water infrastructure investment by emphasizing the link between investment and job creation.

WEF Executive Director Jeff Eger said, "With millions of Americans out of work, there has never been a more critical time to reinvest in our essential water infrastructure. WEF and our partners are working together to deliver the message that water investment must be a national priority."

David LaFrance, AWWA executive director, noted that much of the U.S. water and wastewater infrastructure was built more than a century ago. "The cost of repairing and expanding U.S. drinking water infrastructure alone will top $1 trillion in the next 25 years. Postponing needed investment raises the overall cost and increases the likelihood of water main breaks and other infrastructure failures."

"With needs outpacing investment, the U.S. is falling behind many developed nations, potentially impacting its ability to compete in a global market," said Laurent Auguste, president and CEO of Veolia Water Americas.

The coalition said failing to make the necessary investments will result in unreliable water delivery and wastewater treatment services and may lead to $206 billion in increased costs for businesses and households between now and 2020. It said unless the investment gap is addressed by 2040, 1.4 million jobs could be at risk.

Eger said that an investment of $188.4 billion over the next five years would generate $265.6 billion in economic activity and create nearly 1.9 million jobs.

"By allowing the gap between needs and investment to grow, we not only miss an opportunity to address unemployment but also create a threat to existing jobs and businesses," he said.

Small System Grants

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded nearly $15 million to provide training and technical assistance for private well owners and small drinking and wastewater systems (those serving fewer than 10,000 people).

Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator for water, said, "Small systems form the backbone of our nation's public water system. It is a priority for EPA to help them to meet water quality standards and provide clean water to communities."

The agency allocated nearly $7 million to the National Rural Water Association and nearly $3 million to the Texas Engineering Extension Service, which together will provide training and technical assistance for small public water systems nationwide to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act.

It awarded $2.5 million to the New Mexico Environmental Finance Center to help small systems improve their financial and managerial capabilities.

It will give $2 million to the Rural Community Assistance Partnership to work with small publicly-owned wastewater systems on treatment and operations issues and to help private well owners.

And EPA granted $500,000 to the Rural Community Assistance Partnership to provide training and technical assistance to tribally-owned and operated public water systems.

The agency said 97% of the nation's 157,000 public water systems serve less than 10,000 people, and more than 80% of those systems serve less than 500 people.

EPA said many small systems face challenges including a lack of financial resources, aging infrastructure, management limitations and high staff turnover.

League of Cities Report

The National League of Cities (NLC) has reported that cities continue to face the effects of the economic downturn, with municipal revenues declining for the sixth straight year.

The annual NLC survey of city finance officers reported that cities are making personnel cuts, delaying or canceling infrastructure projects and cutting local services. It projected that trend would continue in 2013 due to stagnant housing markets, high unemployment, and looming federal budget cuts.

However, the report noted that only 43% of city finance officers said they are less able to meet city needs than in the previous year. That percentage compared to 57% in 2011, 87% in 2010 and 88% in 2009.

The paper said the slump in city tax revenues continues to be a key concern. Property tax revenues in 2012 are projected to fall for the third year in a row, by 2.1%. Income tax revenues are expected to slip due to the high unemployment rate. But sales tax revenues, which recovered last year, are projected to rise 2.4% in 2012.

The report said to balance their budgets, 43% of cities have raised fees, 48% have reduced workforce, 21% have cut human services spending and 25% have trimmed funding for services such as parks, recreation and libraries.

NAWC Mangement Awards

The National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) announced the winners of the NAWC Management Innovation Awards at its 2012 Water Summit. California Water Service Company (Cal Water) was awarded First Prize for its Emergency Notification Application, and Second Prize was given to United Water for its Human Resources Employee Service Center.

In an effort to improve efficiency and better track incident reporting, Cal Water worked with a consultant to create a custom Emergency Notification (EN) intranet application. The system connects the company's Geographic Information System (GIS) with customer information and telephone numbers, giving emergency responders the ability to quickly and efficiently respond to incidents and notify customers.

United Water's Human Resources Employee Service Center (HRESC), is a centralized self-service, portal-based system and a contact center where employees can satisfy many of their day-to-day HR needs, from checking pay statements and updating personal information, to enrolling in benefits and reviewing company policies.

The HRESC has freed HR personnel and management teams to become more focused on operations, improving business performance and increasing focus on health and safety, employee reward and recognition and employee development.

In other Washington news:

--EPA said the U.S. Navy and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission have agreed to actions to protect the public water supply at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, a combined Navy-Air Force facility in Washington, D.C.

--The Alliance for Water Efficiency and the Environmental Law Institute have released a final report identifying state water efficiency and conservation requirements, including plumbing fixture standards, water loss control rules, conservation planning, volumetric billing for water, funding sources for water programs, and technical assistance.

--An EPA advisory panel has released a preliminary recommendation for setting a maximum contaminant level goal for perchlorate. It urged EPA to develop a physiologically based pharmacokinetic model to derive a maximum contaminate level.

--The Clean Water America Alliance has been renamed the U.S. Water Alliance. President Ben Grumbles said the new name is more closely aligned with the group's One Water Management network for U.S. watersheds and communities.

--The U.S. and Canada have signed an amended Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, updating pacts signed in 1972 and 1987. Changes included provisions to address aquatic invasive species, habitat degradation and the effects of climate change.

--EPA has awarded nearly $1.5 million to three university research projects to develop sustainable drinking water treatment methods. The grants went to the University of Florida/University of South Florida, Clarkson University, and the University of Nevada at Reno.

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