Given the urgent need to address aging water infrastructure across the United States, public-private partnerships, or PPPs, offer a possible solution. The ongoing discussion of PPPs’ potential includes an overview of 2013’s PPP-related developments by Michael Deane, Executive Director of the National Association of Water Companies, for The Huffington Post and an article by Giulio Boccaletti, Managing Director of Global Water for The Nature Conservancy, in The Guardian that takes a look at financing solutions for natural infrastructure.
Earlier this year, ASLA’s Government Affairs Manager, Mark Cason, observed a roundtable discussion of PPPs focused on water supply and treatments. The roundtable, hosted by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, addressed the challenges municipalities face in operating, maintaining, and financing their water and waste water systems. Panelists also outlined the substantial federal and state investments needed to address all of the demands, especially as the original infrastructure reaches the end of its life cycle.
The roundtable participants were:
- U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) – Chair
- Deborah Robertson, Mayor of the City of Rialto, California
- Bruce Tobey, Partner, Pannone Lopes Devereux & West
- Dan Sugarman, Vice President, United Water
- Sandra Sullivan, President-Elect, National Council for Public-Private Partnerships
- Mitch Jones, Program Director, Food & Water Watch
The background summary highlights the magnitude of the task at hand:
“According to studies by EPA, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Water Infrastructure Network, the cost of addressing our Nation’s clean water infrastructure needs over the next 20 years could exceed $400 billion, roughly twice the current level of investment by all levels of government. The needs for drinking water infrastructure drive this figure even higher.”
The aim of the roundtable was to examine the use of and opportunities for PPPs to fill the gaps left by existing federal government assistance, provided through programs like the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. Private sector investment in water systems could help meet the growing need for up-to-date water infrastructure:
“The investments may take the form of purchasing existing utility assets or, through public-private partnerships, the private sector can invest its own capital in new water or wastewater infrastructure and operate facilities over periods of time to receive a return on its investment (through long-term concessionaire agreements). Private investment capital may also be available for providing financing to utilities through lending and the purchase of bonds.”
Rialto, California and Bayonne, New Jersey offer two examples of how such partnerships may be used to manage water systems. In 2012, the City of Rialto and the Bayonne Municipal Utilities Authority signed concession agreements with private entities that will oversee operations of the system and invest in improvements.
A video of the full discussion can be viewed on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s website.
For more on ASLA’s advocacy efforts related to water and stormwater management, see the ASLA website.