Pennsylvania’s commitment to infrastructure investment benefits environment, economy

Pennsylvania’s commitment to infrastructure investment benefits environment, economy

  Pennsylvania’s state leadership got it right. When Governor Corbett announced the availability of $41.7 million in loans for water infrastructure earlier this year, he was quoted as follows: “The investments that we make today in our environment and economy will improve the quality of life for Pennsylvanians in all corners of the Commonwealth.” In addition to the State’s leadership, Pennsylvania has several water companies that are also able to finance water investments. United Water will do our part, in partnership with the state and communities where we do business, to invest nearly $46 million over the next 5 years in the areas we serve – for reliability purposes. Our customers in several communities including Bloomsburg, Mechanicsburg, Dallas, Hummelstown and the suburbs of Harrisburg will benefit from these reliability investments. Our improvement initiatives are especially timely as changing weather patterns make infrastructure ever more vulnerable to the whims of nature. It should come as no surprise that states which prioritize public investments and seek public-private solutions are able to attract more money than those that don’t. Pennsylvania has not been complacent with the state of its infrastructure for quite some time. A line of Pennsylvania Governors have lead on this issue. In fact, since 1996 Pennsylvania has utilized an infrastructure replacement financing program, a rate mechanism, that has effectively directed private companies like United Water to proactively make major investments to the oldest underground water pipes that are most vulnerable and most likely to cause water main breaks, degradation in water quality and service disruptions. Several states – most recently New Jersey – followed Pennsylvania by enacting a similar program...
United Water supports Sustainable Water Infrastructure Act

United Water supports Sustainable Water Infrastructure Act

In support of the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Act—legislation that would stimulate private sector investment in water infrastructure by modifying the tax code—United Water participated in a press event on June 2 alongside bill sponsors Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09), who each emphasized the need for this change. In the background, United Water construction crews worked to replace a broken underground valve leading to a 24-inch main that provides water to Cliffside Park residents. When the crew reached the valve, a ten-foot high jet of water shot out of the ground, creating mayhem as businessmen and members of the press frantically scrambled to avoid being sprayed by the geyser. Ironically, this reaffirmed the need for increased investment in the nation’s water infrastructure. “It seems like every week a pipe bursts somewhere in New Jersey, destroying property and disrupting lives,” Sen. Menendez said. “We’ve under-invested in our infrastructure, certainly we’ve underinvested in water systems, and now we’re paying the price.  These systems are old and badly degraded.  Many of them are waiting to fail, and they need to be fixed.” The bill, which sponsors will propose alongside a highway funding act, would remove caps on issuing private activity bonds (PAB) for water and wastewater projects. It comes at a time when the American Society of Civil Engineers has given America’s water infrastructure a D-rating, as some of it has been in place for almost a century. Passage of the bill would benefit local economies, both by providing jobs and by preventing unplanned infrastructure shutdowns that could disrupt commerce. “Our common sense solution not only invests in...
We won’t settle for D+ grades

We won’t settle for D+ grades

  Providing clean and reliable water and environmental services is what we do at United Water. And like many of the over 50,000 water utilities and 16,000 wastewater utilities across the nation, public and environmental health is our duty. But to maintain the level of standards that our customers expect, we need to raise awareness of the challenges facing our aging water infrastructure. A panelist at an event hosted by The Value of Water Coalition in Washington DC this week said that the water industry may in fact be a victim of its own success. Despite many pipes being 90 – 100 years old, water service is pretty reliable. And major catastrophes involving water main breaks are not the norm – yet. A majority of Americans rightfully expect reliable service from their utilities. But many are unaware that this invaluable resource is in need of leadership; new ways of thinking about an old problem; and new financing approaches. In fact, only 40% of water customers make connection between strong water infrastructure & clean drinking water. It is no secret that our communities are now relying on aging infrastructure in need of repair or replacement. We know that American cities and towns collectively need to invest hundreds of billions of dollars – between $400 billion and $1 trillion– in their public water and sewer systems. We also know that because of deferred investment choices the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) currently grades the nation’s water infrastructure a “D+.” And we are not a D+ Nation. Investing in water infrastructure is not only important for our domestic use, but it is...
United Water’s SOLUTION goes to business school

United Water’s SOLUTION goes to business school

We know that American cities and towns need to invest hundreds of billions of dollars – between $400 billion and $1 trillion to be exact – in their public water and sewer systems. And we know that investors are keen on investing in efficiently operated systems that will provide a steady return. That fact is what brought us to University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School, one of the most prestigious business schools in the country, to discuss how we can collectively make more public-private partnerships work for water. Panelists at the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership conference suggested that it is a moral imperative upon which the sustainability of cities hinges, to find ways for the public and private sector to work together in planning and financing to begin tackling the ever-widening investment and thereby sustainability gap. With water projects, as with any public initiative, public support is a key ingredient for success. Financial capital, in many cases, is more readily available than political capital. Implied in the name, the success of “public-private partnerships” depends on striking an appropriate balance between the interests of uncommon allies by providing for a return on investments while safeguarding the public interest. And the many municipal leaders who are considering a public-private partnership should expect to engage the public and various interest groups in the plan at many levels. A new model – recently used in Bayonne, NJ by United Water – emerged as a viable option for meeting the needs of both public and private partners. The architects of the SOLUTION model simply built it upon the financial and political lessons of...

The Price of Sustainable Water Service: a Not-So-Simple Calculation

Circle of Blue, a leading information source on water issues, published an article earlier this summer entitled “The Price of Water, A Comparison of Water Rates and Usage in 30 US Cities” by Brett Walton. The article explores the different factors determining the cost of water services. There are countless factors contributing to the cost of water service: customers’ proximity to the water, the cities’ per capita water consumption, the regions’ yearly precipitation, government subsidies, and many more. As expected, the cost of water service varies dramatically across the country.  For an average family of four using 150 gallons per day or 4,500 gallons per month; the monthly cost of water service ranges from $27 to $224. In most American cities, water use is declining while rates charged are rising. Since less water is being used, utility companies must raise prices for customers to provide for their costs. Western states, however, may feel the present changes less than other states. The federal government invested in major water infrastructure projects in the West over 50 years ago. The price of water service is artificially low in these areas and customers are more likely to experience “rate shock” to bridge the cost gap when investments and infrastructure repairs are made. Proximity to water also determines water rates. Moving water takes energy and therefore energy costs are higher in drought-prone regions. Whereas the Great Lakes region, for example, may have lower energy costs associated with water delivery because of its close proximity to its water sources. Also contributing to water service costs is crumbling water infrastructure; some of which has been in...