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...
United Water Marks Drinking Water Week, Touts Infrastructure Solutions

United Water Marks Drinking Water Week, Touts Infrastructure Solutions

May 4 -10 is Drinking Water Week; a week to raise awareness about the vital role water plays in our daily lives. And public awareness is greatly needed around this topic. Reports continually show that we, as Americans, take safe tap water for granted. No one expects to be without water – not even for a few hours or to face the inconvenience that a ruptured main or repair work can cause. Yet, few are eager to pay for upgrades to water infrastructure; in tax dollars or on a utility bill. For decades, governments at all levels have passed the buck on water infrastructure upgrades. Because of these deferred investment the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) currently grades the nation’s water infrastructure a “D+”, meaning there is a “strong risk of failure.” The ASCE puts a $1 trillion price tag on bringing water mains up to standard over the next 25 years. Yet the story of our nation’s infrastructure is not all doom and gloom. United Water is embarking on an ambitious program to invest nearly $1 billion in our own infrastructure over the next 5 years. And we have recently launched a program for cities, SOLUTION, which will make similarly high levels of investment available to cities who chose to partner with United Water and leverage private capital to meet their needs. After all, the cost to communities of neglected water infrastructure is not just a financial one. Poorly maintained systems will turn back the clock on decades of progress in public health standards – and raise health...

Millions in water infrastructure investment available for cities that choose to adopt new model

In front of a distinguished audience gathered in New York City this week for the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), we proudly outlined the significant achievements we have made in fulfilling our CGI Commitment to invest in water infrastructure while using a business model that is designed to maximize social impact. During the first year of our CGI Commitment we successfully attracted private capital to improve and invest a municipal water system in Bayonne, NJ while helping to alleviate millions in accumulated city debt. Municipal debt is a pervasive burden in many cities across the U.S., limiting progress on many fronts; from public transportation to school improvements to green space planning. “We are proud of the progress we’ve made thus far and we are confident that we have a successful model that will allow for a high level of investment in water infrastructure for any U.S. city that chooses to adopt it,” said Bertrand Camus, United Water chief executive officer, who first presented the SOLUTIONSM business model to President Bill Clinton at the annual CGI meeting in New York last year. Established in 2005 by President Clinton, CGI convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. These solutions must be measurable and game changers in their markets. After the first year of its CGI commitment, United Water is on track to invest $20 million in the first five years in the City of Bayonne’s municipal water infrastructure and $130 million overall. Already, state-of-the-art metering technology is being installed at customer’s homes and businesses, enabling the implementation of a smarter water network. Additionally, workers...

Two New Jersey Fire Departments Earn Top Ratings for Fire Protection Infrastructure

The City of Hackensack’s Fire Department recently earned a Class 1 rating from the Insurance Services Office (ISO), a risk assessment company.  Hackensack now joins Hoboken as the only two municipal fire departments in the state of New Jersey – and only 61 departments in the United States – to have a Class 1 ranking out of more than 48,000 that have been surveyed by the ISO. United Water commends both departments and is proud to provide reliable water service to both communities. Forty percent of the grading is based upon the community’s water supply, and fire protection is a key component of a community’s water infrastructure. To assess the state of a community’s water supply, the ISO surveys all components of the water supply system, including pumps, storage and filtration. It also evaluates the rate of flow the water mains provide, and reviews the condition and maintenance of fire hydrants. This recognition serves as a reminder of the importance of good, reliable and expertly managed municipal water service. These honors for Hoboken and Hackensack come at a time when numerous reports have shown alarming trends of underinvestment and poor maintenance of water infrastructure in many communities across the country. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that it will take $600 billion during the next two decades to bring many community water systems back to standard. Congratulations again to Hoboken and Hackensack, NJ for providing top-notch fire service to their...