WEFTEC.14: Event discusses importance of water infrastructure investment in U.S.
The Water Works: Investing Together for a Stronger America press event at WEFTEC.14 focused on the importance of water infrastructure investment in the U.S. and reviewed the National Economic and Labor Impacts of the Water Utility Sector report.
Oct. 7, 2014 -- On Sept. 27-Oct. 1, the Water Environment Federation held its 87th annual Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC) in New Orleans, La. One meeting in particular at the show -- the Water Works: Investing Together for a Stronger America press event -- focused on the importance of water infrastructure investment and improvement throughout America today. Hosted by WEF, the hearing, which took place on Monday, Sept. 29, presented an overview of the newly-released executive report, the National Economic and Labor Impacts of the Water Utility Sector, which examines how the U.S. economy is being impacted by the water utility sector.
Funded by the Water Research Foundation (WRF) and the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), the new report addresses the value of water by exploring how water, wastewater and stormwater service operations and capital investments are affecting important economic components involving, for example, workforce and employment markets. Further, it highlights the 30 largest U.S. public water utilities and how their investments are contributing to the betterment of these areas -- both locally and nationally -- over the next 10 years. The study also touches on the importance of increasing water-related trading and educational programs.
"One of the best parts about this new report is the fact that it confirms something that many of us have known and need to consistently remind the American public, and that is that our challenge of environmental protection does not run contrary to our challenge to grow jobs and to have a sustainable and robust economy," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who spoke at the press event. "The bottom line is that investment in our nation's water infrastructure puts people to work and spurs economic growth. That's what this report says, and that's what we've known for a very long time."
Along with McCarthy, four others presented at Monday's meeting, including WEF present Sandra Ralston, who made opening remarks, as well as directors from three of the 30 participating water utilities -- Harlan Kelly, Jr., general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities; Cedric Grant, executive director of the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans; and David St. Pierre, executive director of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. The press event provided a unique opportunity for attendees to network with these speakers and other industry leaders and learn how investment in aging infrastructure can help the U.S. grow more competitive and financially secure.
"Water is pumped out and brings life to our communities and to our entire society, and it can't function if those lines in the community die," said Pierre at WEFTEC. "About 30 water utilities got together about a year ago because we had seemed to fail to communicate the importance of water to the community. We thought, how do we change the message? How do we get a message out there that the community can grab ahold of that really exemplifies the quality and the importance of water in everyday life? And we came up with Water Works!."
The Water Works! campaign, led by water agency managers and the Value of Water Coalition, consists of several different public officials, water service providers and private sector leaders that are striving to revitalize infrastructure throughout the U.S. As noted in the report, the 30 utilities are expected to invest approximately $254 billion into the economy within the next decade, ultimately resulting in $525 billion in economic output during that timeframe while supporting 289,000 permanent annual jobs. Moreover, the study showed that these projects will involve expanding services, improving water quality and accommodating increased demand, to name a few.
"It's amazing the economic impact that our water agencies contribute to America. This report really signifies the investment that our water agencies are making across the world," said Kelly at the press event. "One thing that we're doing is really taking that investment to Washington -- we're taking that message on the Hill -- and we're going to communities across America to really tell them about water investments, and this report really gives us the tools to actually do that."
McCarthy added, "When we put off investments in clean water, we all pay the price for that -- in higher healthcare costs, environmental damages, and the cost of cleanup. Infrastructure investments are smart investments. In fact, if you do not have a sound environment, you do not have an ability to have a sustainable economy that is able to meet our challenges moving forward and to continue with U.S. leadership. That is the message that this report brings forward."
To complement Monday's session, WEF also hosted a discussion on Wednesday, Oct. 1, focusing on New Orleans' role in the infrastructure project, which featured presentations from Grant and Ralston, as well as Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.); New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu; Chancellor Joan Davis of Delgado Community College; and Deborah Elam, GE Foundation president and GE chief diversity officer. The mid-week assembly referenced the executive report and touched on what kinds of impacts and future prospects there are for the city, including any potential links associated with Landrieu's new Economic Opportunity Strategy.
About the Water Environment Research Foundation
The Water Environment Research Foundation, a nonprofit organization formed in 1989, is America's leading independent scientific research organization dedicated to wastewater and stormwater issues. For more information, visit www.werf.org.
About the Water Research Foundation
The Water Research Foundation sponsors research that supports the water community in holistically and cooperatively managing water from all sources to meet social, environmental, and economic needs. WRF's research provides reliable and relevant solutions to the most critical challenges facing the water community today and into the future. For more information, visit www.WaterRF.org.