Global Talk: A Trickle or a Flood?

Well, big news no doubt in the water world is about the election of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States and subsequent discussion that an economic stimulus package might include money for infrastructure projects that were already approved and could be ready to go in 120 days...

• Turning the Spigot Up or Down on Infrastructure's inclusion in World Economic Stimulus Plans

By Carlos David Mogollon

Well, big news no doubt in the water world is about the election of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States and subsequent discussion that an economic stimulus package might include money for infrastructure projects that were already approved and could be ready to go in 120 days.

Of course, there was a little putting the cart before the horse involved as Mr. Obama is not yet in the White House and won't be inaugurated until Jan. 20. But it was indeed heartening to hear that the United States, which on its last Report Card for America's Infrastructure in 2005 gave water and wastewater a D- with an overall grade of D, is finally talking about really investing in infrastructure.

At the recent 100th Annual Conference of the Water & Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association, there was much talk on the topic. First, members wanted to make sure Congress was very much aware that infrastructure does indeed include water and wastewater and not just roads, bridges, dams, power plants, waterways, railways and schools.

The same week, China announced a $586 billion stimulus package as its contribution to stabilizing the world economy racked by a mortgage crisis, housing slowdown and subsequent credit crisis, with some calling it the worst potential financial crisis since the Great Depression.

One WWEMA member noted that it wasn't clear whether China's figure was more of an attention grabber or if that amount would actually become available and when -- adding that once things got down to brass tacks, water and wastewater might be a very small portion of the larger figure AND that it was likely very little equipment would be imported for the work.

In the USA, unfortunately, the initial exuberance was weighed down by Congressional wrangling over an additional $25 billion to support a "rescue plan" for U.S. automakers. Thus, Democratic leaders scaled back their plans, saying much of the stimulus would have to wait until after Obama takes office.

Meanwhile, U.S. CEOs were urging Congress and the President-Elect to scale up their plans to at least $300 billion to give the economy the shot in the arm it needs.

Lastly, several organizations representing the U.S. water industry, including the AWWA, AMWA, NAWC, and NRWA, laid out their own agenda for how to improve water and wastewater infrastructure.

No doubt as well that you can expect to hear more -- much more -- on this subject in the days and weeks to come.WWi

Author's Note: Carlos David Mogollon is managing editor of Water & Wastewater International magazine. To send him a message, click here: davidm@pennwell.com

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