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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 www.utilitiesunited.org for more information and tips about how customers can protect themselves from scams.

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EPA Launches Response On-The-Go Mobile Application

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EPA’s Response On-The-Go Mobile Application provides users with real-time access to valuable tools and response information including location-based hazardous weather updates, interactive maps and charts from the National Weather Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and EPA Incident Action Checklists that outline disaster-specific response actions. During hurricanes, tornadoes, power outages and other emergencies, water utility personnel and first line responders must ensure that they are coordinating closely with stakeholders, maintaining awareness of threats to the water system and surrounding community, and documenting response actions. The App can be downloaded for free for use on a variety mobile devices and tablets. For more information, visit https://www.epa.gov/waterutilityresponse/water-utility-response-go-mobile-application-and-website

 

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Executive Director Michael Deane to represent NAWC at One Water Summit 2017

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Each year, the U.S. Water Alliance hosts its One Water Summit. From June 27-29, 2017, leaders from across the country will gather in New Orleans for a thought-provoking and action-oriented national summit on what it will take to secure a sustainable water future for all. The summit will feature important solutions-focused conversation about how we value and manage water to foster economic prosperity, community well-being, and environmental sustainability.

This year, NAWC Executive Director Michael Deane will join the One Water Summit as a speaker for its new session format – Strategic Dialogues. These Strategic Dialogues will focus on the partnerships and collaboration needed to drive towards a more integrated and sustainable approach to how we view, value, and manage water.

During this panel, Michael will represent the National Association of Water Companies, speaking to the research, tools, and initiatives private water companies use and develop to help advance the One Water movement. His discussion will highlight the unique roles and perspectives NAWC brings to the One Water movement.

For more information about the One Water Summit or to register to attend, please visit bit.ly/OWSummit.

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Middlesex Water General Counsel Jay L. Kooper Elected Chair of the New Jersey State Bar Association Public Utility Law Section

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Middlesex Water Company Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary, Jay L. Kooper, has been elected as Chair of the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Public Utility Law Section for the section’s 2017-2018 programming year. Kooper was appointed Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary of Middlesex Water Company in March 2014, and currently serves as the Secretary of the National Association of Water Companies’ New Jersey Chapter and on multiple committees for the National Association of Water Companies and the New Jersey Utilities Association.

With his election, Mr. Kooper joins a long list of New Jersey’s outstanding public utility law practitioners past and present who have previously served as the Public Utility Law Section Chair, including two with ties to Middlesex Water Company – current Director Walter G. Reinhard and past General Counsel Kenneth J. Quinn. “I am deeply honored and humbled that the membership of the Public Utility Law Section has entrusted me with this great responsibility and I look forward to working with the membership to develop programming for the 2017-2018 year that will be useful and appealing to both the Public Utility Law Section membership and the larger legal community of New Jersey,” said Kooper.

The full press release can be read online.

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