Water – we act locally and think globally

Water – we act locally and think globally

    Did you know that—at a global level-more than 780 million people do not have access to drinking water, and that more than 2.5 billion have to live without adequate sanitation? Also, approximately 6 to 8 million people die each year from water-related diseases. As part of a global company that provides essential life services, we act locally but maintain a global sense of responsibility for providing solutions to these challenges. Last week, our own Patrick Cairo, senior vice president of Corporate Development, led a discussion in Washington, DC to galvanize leaders around collective solutions for global water challenges in advance of International Water Week – to be held in Singapore in early June. Speakers highlighted the alarming facts and numbers behind water and sanitation around the world, stressing that the private sector has to be a key component in this battle; and agreeing that all sectors must be accountable for results. A speaker from the Millennium Challenge Corporation pointed out that partnering with a company like United Water – or in this case, SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT—and making a water project “work” for private financing can provide solutions and bolster the local banking system. As an example, the speaker cited the Public-Private Partnership that invested in and expanded upon a wastewater treatment plant in Jordan. This is why United Water and its parent company Suez Environnement provide local authorities with public-private solutions, from water management to skills transfer, in order to combine quality of service with environmental performance and results. It is infinitely possible to make water projects work for both public and private sectors. Doing so will also...

Infrastructure Week: Defining a new economic vision for America’s infrastructure

May 12-16 is Infrastructure Week across the United States.  Discussions among the public, private and political sector will ensue over how to collaborate among sectors that haven’t traditionally worked together; how to innovate in the face of scarce public dollars; and most of all, how to pay for the trillions of dollars of infrastructure upgrades that are needed to maintain this country’s competitive economic edge. “How to pay for it” is an age-old question.  And the good news is that healthy levels of investment may be available to cities that choose to partner with the private sector to leverage private capital. After United Water’s first SOLUTION partnership in Bayonne, NJ was launched last year, leaders and pundits alike recognized that cities actually can, unlock the value of city assets and access the kind of money that Bayonne did through a public-private partnership.  This particular model had never been tried in the U.S. before, although it has been widely used with success across the globe. In exchange for a 40-year concession with the Bayonne Municipal Utilities Authority, United Water and KKR agreed to pay off $125 million of the utility’s debt, invest nearly $110 million to modernize the system, retrain and bolster the utility’s staff, and eventually save the utility an estimated $35 million over the lifetime of the contract, based on the city’s analysis. KKR issued a recent report that demystifies the lingering questions on “how” to pay and addresses “who” would be a successful candidate for this option.  According to the authors from KKR and the Brookings Institution, there are 5 key criteria for success: “Strong candidates for successful PPPs...
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...