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NAWC and NAM: Failing Water Infrastructure Threatens American Manufacturing

Posted on by NAWC Team

Piece was first published at

Robert Powelson, President and Chief Executive Officer, National Association of Water Companies

Robyn Boerstling, Vice President, Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy, National Association of Manufacturers

The dismal state of water infrastructure in the United States is well documented. The American Society of Civil Engineers awarded our drinking water infrastructure a “D” grade on its 2017 report card, noting how water systems across the country are still using pipes and pumps with lifespans that expired decades ago. As a result of aging infrastructure, our water systems experience an estimated 240,000 water main breaks each year, wasting over two trillion gallons of treated drinking water.

But while much of the water infrastructure conversation has rightly focused on residential uses, American businesses – and especially manufacturers – also depend on reliable water service. Not only is our failing water infrastructure a public health issue, but it is also a vital economic issue and one that needs to be front and center this Infrastructure Week.

The manufacturing sector, which accounts for 11.6 percent of the nation’s GDP is particularly threatened by unreliable water infrastructure. Most manufacturers rely on water during their production processes, which means that an interruption in water service can have devastating effects. Every day that the average U.S. business is without water, it loses $230 in sales per employee. In water-intensive manufacturing industries, that cost can skyrocket to $5,800 per employee, according to the Value of Water Coalition.

Millions of jobs are at stake when our water infrastructure is unable to keep pace with population and economic growth. In fact, without immediate action to address all of our country’s infrastructure needs, the United States will lose more than 2.5 million jobs by 2025 and more than 5.8 million jobs by 2040. It is important that the private and public sectors work together to solve these enormous challenges.

Among the most fundamental challenges facing the water industry today is the need to attract huge amounts of capital to fund the replacement of aging infrastructure. Over $1 trillion is needed over the next 20 years to repair and rebuild our nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure systems. It’s a daunting challenge but thankfully NAWC member companies are ideally positioned to meet the compliance challenges that lie ahead.

Notably, the ten largest private water companies in the U.S. alone invest more than $3 billion annually to improve community water systems. This is a larger sum than the current total federal appropriation for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs. This investment is a reflection of water companies’ commitment to maintaining strong water infrastructure and understanding that strategic, proactive investment is crucial to ensure the safe delivery of water to the communities they serve.

The National Association of Manufacturers’ infrastructure blueprint “Building to Win,” suggests immediate steps policymakers can take to boost private sector investment in vital water infrastructure. Expanding public-private partnerships for drinking water and wastewater projects, through programs like the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, will bring added resources beyond the limited federal resources provided by current EPA State Revolving Funds and other programs. Additionally, eliminating the state volume caps on private activity bonds for drinking water and wastewater projects will leverage private capital to multiply the impact of federal efforts. In fact, an analysis by Pricewaterhouse Coopers found that eliminating these caps, along with other regulatory changes, could lead to as much as a combined $68 billion in incremental private water and wastewater infrastructure investment.

Furthermore, policymakers should address the highly fragmented nature of our water utility sector. There are currently more than 53,000 water systems in the United States, and more than half of these systems are small, stand-alone operations serving fewer than 500 people. These systems struggle with shrinking budgets, a lack of technical and managerial expertise, and aging infrastructure. Supporting and incentivizing partnerships or regional consolidations can expand small utilities’ operational efficiencies, provide access to capital for infrastructure upgrades, bring much needed technical expertise to the system, raise rates of compliance with complex state and federal regulation, and improve customer satisfaction.

Sustainable drinking water infrastructure helps stimulate economic development through resilient and sustainable water and wastewater infrastructure. Smart investment and policy decisions made today will serve America’s economy and manufacturers well for generations to come.

Infrastructure Week is about building for tomorrow, and Americans believe that strengthening our water infrastructure should be a national priority. We need to push forward proactive, proven solutions to address our water infrastructure challenges head on. The consequences of inaction are far too serious.

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Water Companies Invest More Than $3 Billion in Community Water Systems in 2018

Posted on by NAWC Team

As pipes and pumps age and treatment facilities require upgrades, America’s water infrastructure faces an intense need for investment.

Our nation’s drinking water infrastructure received a “D” grade on the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. Due to aging infrastructure, water utilities in the United States lose 16 percent of treated water on the way to customers. That’s more than 7 billion gallons of treated water lost each day.

To address these challenges, the forecasted needs are enormous – and growing:

  • Taking this 20-year projected need and dividing it by the total number of water systems in the United States (roughly 53,000), this means that the average water system requires more than $8.9 million in infrastructure replacements and upgrades between 2015 and 2035.

One of the many benefits water companies bring to community water systems is access to capital for urgently needed investments in infrastructure. Municipal bond markets are not bottomless pits of capital for local governments; experts agree that access to private capital is necessary to address the current backlog of large-scale investments in community water and wastewater systems.

In 2018, according to annual reports and public filings, the 10 largest water companies in the United States invested more than $3 billion in community water systems. Notably, this total is greater than the total federal investment in water infrastructure in 2018 through the State Revolving Fund programs ($2.6 billion).

Furthermore, these substantial water company investments have strong returns in the form of higher water quality. Multiple studies confirm that water systems run by water companies have far fewer water quality violations than systems run by local governments. 

This $3 billion in investment is just another example of water companies’ commitment to delivering the highest quality water and exceptional water service.

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America’s water infrastructure is failing. Let’s work together to fix it.

Posted on by NAWC Team

Most Americans take water for granted – they turn on their taps and expect safe, high-quality drinking water to come out. However, as we recognize World Water Day today, it’s worth taking a hard look at the fragile state of our country’s water infrastructure.

Many communities across the country are approaching a day of reckoning with regard to their water and wastewater systems. After decades of neglect and underinvestment, many systems require serious infrastructure upgrades and repair. And the reality is that the costs and complexities of these projects are often too large for local communities to tackle on their own.

The stats are indeed daunting. Our nation’s drinking water infrastructure received a “D” grade on the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, while the nation’s wastewater infrastructure fared only slightly better, receiving a “D+” grade. Due to aging infrastructure, the U.S. loses 16 percent of treated water before it even reaches the customer. That’s more than 7 billion gallons of treated water lost each day.

While there are federal water and wastewater programs, there is no way that federal dollars alone will solve our infrastructure challenges. To put it in perspective, the 10 largest NAWC member water companies invest a combined $3 billion in their systems every year. This investment by water companies is equivalent to the combined total annual federal appropriation for our nation’s two major water infrastructure programs.

It’s clear that public capital is not a bottomless resource for communities needing to address infrastructure needs. Thankfully, it also isn’t the only solution. In fact, a variety of options are available to help communities across the U.S. regain compliance, expand capacity and address challenges with aging infrastructure, including contracting operations through a customizable partnership or transferring ownership of the utility assets to a regulated water company.

Everyone from the U.S. Conference of Mayors to the Brookings Institute to elected officials on both sides of the aisle and the Environmental Protect Agency agree that the public and private sectors should work together to address the water infrastructure and operational challenges facing America’s cities and towns.

Water companies bring tremendous benefits to the communities they serve, including extensive water system expertise. This expertise and a proven track-record of strategic investment have contributed to water companies’ exemplary water quality compliance record. The largest and most comprehensive independent analysis of water quality data ever conducted found that private ownership of a community water system resulted in higher Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) compliance rates over a 34-year period when compared to municipal systems.

By working together, we can strengthen America’s water infrastructure and ensure future generations of Americans have access to safe and reliable water. Water companies are committed to this effort every single day!

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Inframark’s Stephane Bouvier: NAWC Launches New Contract Operations Committee

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Water is an essential resource that directly affects our quality of life. That’s why it is crucial that water systems are cared for and managed by professionals with the expertise and resources to keep water service safe and reliable. Contract operators provide unique benefits to a water or wastewater infrastructure owner by helping them operate and maintain their various systems successfully. In doing so, contract operators have a proud record of providing compliant and trust-worthy services to communities all over the nation. That’s why the National Association of Water Companies has launched a new Contract Operations Committee to represent member companies, like mine, who work side-by-side with industries, municipalities and various public entities to ensure the delivery of the very best water service to communities.

I am honored to chair this new Committee, which will serve as a forum for the exchange of ideas and best practices to address pressing water challenges. Together, our companies hope to accomplish a lot both within NAWC and the broader industry. Our Committee will serve as a resource on new market developments and provide a platform for sharing information, data and best practices that inform and highlight the tremendously positive story about the benefits of working with contract operators. We’ll also talk about universally important issues like workforce development and advocate for state and federal policies that ensure contract operations agreements remain a readily available solution for municipalities’ infrastructure needs.

At my company, Inframark, we provide a diverse range of infrastructure solutions for water, wastewater and infrastructure management. We have more than 1,500 employees who work day in and day out to tailor and deliver solutions to meet each of our partners’ needs. For example, for nearly 25 years, Inframark has worked with the town of Carmel, New York to manage, operate and maintain many of the city’s water and wastewater treatment plants. This management and operations agreement, which was just renewed for an additional five years, is representative of the many successful partnerships Inframark and other NAWC member companies have across the country. Indeed, the data shows that communities are overwhelmingly happy with their contract operations agreements, renewing them at a rate of 97% between 2000 and 2015.

With more than 2,000 water and wastewater facilities across the nation operated through public-private partnerships, Contract Operations form an integral part of the water industry today. Furthermore, it brings many benefits to the communities served by these partnerships, including more efficient operations, strict environmental and safety compliance, shared risk liability and guaranteed performance metrics. I am pleased to lead this group, knowing that, as the focus continues on how we can strengthen our nation’s water infrastructure, contract operators will play a crucial role in ensuring that generations to come can enjoy safe and reliable water.

By: Stephane Bouvier, CEO of Inframark and Chair of the NAWC Contract Operations Committee

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NAWC President and CEO Comments On Consequences of Proposed Government Takeover

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Below is the statement of NAWC President and CEO Robert Powelson on the proposed government takeover of Long Island’s water systems.

“A government takeover of Long Island’s private water systems would be a disaster for taxpayers. A government takeover would lead to millions of dollars in crippling debt that would have to be repaid by Long Island taxpayers. Long Islanders already pay some of the highest property taxes in the country, so why would anyone consider adding to that burden? On top of that, a government takeover would result in local governments losing the millions of dollars of tax revenue currently paid by New York American Water. It would be a losing proposition for all involved.

The hard reality is that water rates are going up across the country – about 7% a year – for both government-run and private water utilities as responsible utilities make the necessary infrastructure investments. On the flip side, municipalities that have tried to keep water rates artificially low are seeing the consequences of this decision – failing water systems without the proper rate structure to guarantee the delivery of safe and reliable drinking water. And it really does all come down to safety. Regulated water companies have a near perfect record of delivering water compliant with the Safe Drinking Water Act. This is backed up by EPA data and multiple studies, including one recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that found that privately-owned utilities have much higher compliance rates with drinking water quality standards than municipal utilities.”

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Cal Water Utilizes Broad Network of Operations in Response to California Wildfires

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Ensuring reliable drinking water service is by no means a simple process, but adding in a disaster like a wildfire makes it downright dangerous and exponentially more difficult. The Mendocino Complex Fire – the largest wildfire in modern California history – began at the end of July and continues to threaten a large part of the state. So far, over 354,000 acres have been impacted. The fire resulted in the mandatory evacuation of California Water Service’s (Cal Water) 1,400 customers in Lucerne.

Cal Water’s vast statewide resources and expertise allowed the company to remotely operate its water system and treatment plant and ensure continuity of operations from an Emergency Operations Center 85 miles away in the Marysville service area. Thanks to pre-positioned backup generators, Cal Water’s facilities continued to run even during power outages.

Since the fire began, the team at Cal Water, including employees from around the state who volunteered to help, has been on the ground to ensure firefighters have sufficient water supplies and pressure to fight the fires. Because wildfires have become an increasing threat in the state, Cal Water has two former fire chiefs on its team who are able to help coordinate response efforts with state and local fire agencies. After the mandatory evacuation was lifted, Cal Water immediately set up two care stations in its Lucerne service area to provide returning residents with food supplies and bottled water.

The threat of natural disasters is something for which every water utility must be prepared. Most regulated water companies, like Cal Water, have operations in multiple communities, so when one system is stressed due to an emergency, resources in other areas can be quickly redirected to provide support.

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Bipartisan Policy Center Report Makes Recommendations on Water Affordability

Posted on by NAWC Team

The enormous need for investment in America’s water infrastructure has resulted in ever-increasing rates for water systems across the board. Between 2012 and 2016, water rates increased nationally by about 7% a year. A recent report from the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) identified several factors that can help address water affordability challenges, including partnerships with the private sector, sound asset management and strategic infrastructure investment. By examining all of these elements independently and how they interconnect, the BPC was able to make several policy recommendations about water affordability.

The BPC acknowledges the significant role the private sector can play in ensuring water affordability and recommends policy changes that promote partnerships and regionalization, noting that these reforms can lower operating costs, improve service, de-politicize rates and provide necessary capital for infrastructure improvements.

“With their economies of scale and service efficiencies, private companies can bring savings in water system O&M costs of 15 percent to 30 percent, according to one estimate.”

The report also emphasizes the importance of utilities developing comprehensive asset management plans and provides further evidence of why low water rates should not be seen as a badge of honor. The report notes that “rates have historically been set too low due to political pressure, concerns over affordability, and limited understanding of all life-cycle O&M costs by utilities.” By adopting asset management plans and strategically investing in water infrastructure, the large rate spikes that put so much pressure on family budgets can be minimized.

Water affordability is a complex challenge and demands innovative and proven solutions, not a one-size-fits-all approach. NAWC members have a strong record of working with municipalities to address the unique water system challenges they face, bringing a high capacity for infrastructure investment, operating expertise and sound asset management to keep water service affordable.

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The Water Industry Comes Together to Talk About Current and Future Challenges

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Every year around this time we see a robust conversation around water infrastructure. This May has been no different, starting with the recent Southeast Water Infrastructure Summit at the beginning of the month. This event brought together industry leaders and water experts in New Orleans to discuss the region’s challenges. NAWC member companies, joined by state and federal regulators, reviewed how the private sector is driving innovative approaches that are leading to practical solutions across the area.

In May the industry also celebrated Drinking Water Week, a time to highlight the integral role water plays in our everyday lives. NAWC’s members work 24/7, 365 days a year to ensure that water systems are offering customers and communities safe and abundant water. During this week, NAWC focused on the exceptional record our members have of providing this quality water service.

All of this led up to national Infrastructure Week, which provided an annual reminder of how crucial it is that we invest in our country’s vital infrastructure systems. As is often cited, when the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released its Infrastructure Report Card in 2017, it rated drinking water systems a “D,” citing an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the U.S.

We know that our infrastructure is in dire need of investment, and that the U.S. is not moving quickly enough in bringing about the changes needed to ensure safe, consistent access to critical water and wastewater services. But change is happening, and it is being driven by the private sector. The six largest private water companies alone invest a combined nearly $2.7 billion in water infrastructure, with smaller companies contributing even more beyond that.

So while May has been a month during which we have talked a lot about water infrastructure, let us also take a moment to remember that those of us in the private sector are doing more than talking, providing the necessary investment and proper management to ensure 73 million Americans continue to enjoy clean and safe water each and every day.

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NAWC Speaks to Texas Water Challenges

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On May 7, the San Antonio Express-News published a commentary by Marybeth Leongini, NAWC Director of Communications, titled “Infrastructure improvement key to water sufficiency.” Leongini addresses the water infrastructure challenges in Texas and how private water companies in the state provide more efficient water resource planning and management, along with expertise and investment.

Read the full piece below:

Water professionals from around the state descended on Texas recently for the largest regional water conference in the country. As Texans well know, parts of the state face severe drought conditions, and the challenges, no doubt, will be exacerbated as Texas’ population is expected to increase 30 percent over the next 20 years. As population increases, so does the demand for water.

All these factors spotlight the importance of more meaningful water resource planning and management, areas in which regulated water utilities are well known for leading the way. Hundreds of thousands of Texans are served by these utilities, which prioritize investment in their water infrastructure to ensure the highest level of efficiency and to better conserve this valuable natural resource.

For example, Aqua Texas Inc., which serves 177,000 people in 53 Texas counties, has spent $220 million over the past 15 years to improve and rebuild pipes, plants, wells and other water infrastructure. Another water utility, Canyon Lake Water Service Co., which serves 42,000 customers between Austin and San Antonio, in 2017 completed a record capital program of investment in its Texas infrastructure totaling more than $140 million. These companies’ commitment to investment helps minimize water loss, and ensures their customers can count on safe and reliable water service.

The reality is that many municipalities struggle to balance competing fiscal priorities. And in the face of a drought, delayed investment can have serious consequences. By harnessing the expertise and investment of the private sector, Texas can improve the state’s water infrastructure and ensure future generations of Texans have the water they need when they need it.

Marybeth Leongini is director of communications for the National Association of Water Companies.

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The National Association of Water Companies Joins Utilities United Against Scams to Highlight Threats of Scammers

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The National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) joins Utilities United Against  Scams (UUAS) – a consortium of more than 100 electric, water, and natural gas utilities and their respective trade associations – in supporting the second annual Utility Scam Awareness Day to draw attention to the growing issue of utility scams targeting customers.

The effort to educate customers on how to protect themselves from scammers, and to generally raise awareness of the matter are critical components to combat the evolving issue. A recent report published by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) found that people are particularly susceptible to utility scams. Scammers typically contact customers by phone, in-person or the internet posing as a utility employee and exploit the trust customers place in their utilities by using aggressive tactics to extort money. Of the 30 different types of scams tracked and categorized by the BBB, utility scam victims were found to have a median financial loss of $500.

“Water utility customers are particularly susceptible to impostors claiming they need to gain entry to homes to physically check the water meter or pipes located inside the home,” said Joseph Herits, UUAS Vice Chair and Assistant Manager of Customer Service at NAWC-member Middlesex Water Company. “We strongly encourage our customers to act with caution and to ask for a company photo ID before allowing any worker into their home or business. If there is still concern or doubt, customers should call their utilities’ Customer Service Department to verify the activity at their home or business. We value our customers’ safety. The resources available through UUAS will go a long way to helping consumers better protect themselves.”

This week, UUAS released “Consumer’s Guide to Impostor Utility Scams” highlighting the most common types of impostor utility scams, including unsolicited contact via telephone, internet, and in-person visits from an individual claiming to be a utility company representative. In some cases, scammers threaten to disconnect or shut off service immediately unless the customer provides immediate payment.

Customers of private water companies and all utility types who suspect that they have been victims of fraud, or who feel threatened by someone claiming to be a utility employee, should immediately contact local law enforcement authorities. Visit for more information and tips about how customers can protect themselves from scams.

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