Private utilities hold potential for rebuilding U.S. water, wastewater systems

Public-private partnerships play a major role in the rehabilitation of the nation's aging water and wastewater infrastructure.

Nov 12th, 2013


CARY, NC, Nov. 12, 2013 -- Public-private partnerships (PPPs) can play a major role in the rehabilitation of the nation's aging water and wastewater infrastructure.

As such, Tom Roberts, president of Aqua North Carolina, Inc. (Aqua), remarked in a recent conference that "reliable water and wastewater services are necessities of life, and our country needs to make sure that the pipes, treatment plants, wells, tanks and fire hydrants that deliver these services are properly maintained now and in the future."

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released survey results this year that show an investment need through 2030 of $384 billion nationwide for drinking water system repairs and improvements, including thousands of miles of pipes and thousands of treatment plants, storage tanks and water distribution systems, which are all vital to public health and the economy.

"We can't rely on state and local governments to bear all the costs of this massive undertaking," said Roberts. "Private, publicly-regulated utilities can work with governments to provide the financial resources and technical expertise needed to repair and operate aging systems."

The state of North Carolina is at the forefront of addressing its infrastructure needs by enacting a law this year that creates a water and wastewater infrastructure improvement charge (WSIC) designed to provide customers of the state's regulated water and wastewater utilities with improved water quality and better water and wastewater systems while enabling utilities to recover capital costs in a timely way.

The WSIC encourages utilities to accelerate much-needed infrastructure improvements, such as installing treatment systems and replacing aged distribution pipe. The new law maintains rigorous regulatory oversight by the North Carolina Utilities Commission, and recovery of capital is only allowed for reasonable, prudent and completed projects approved by the Commission.

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