Water, the Ultimate Unifier

What a year 2016 was. From water crises to election results that elated some and crushed others, there was plenty of speculation on what we can expect for American infrastructure’s future and issues like the energy-water nexus, affordability and regulatory action.

No matter how you feel about politics, though, water is the ultimate non-partisan issue; and indeed one thing everyone can agree on is the critical importance of water infrastructure in the basic quest for safe, clean drinking water for all. Our industry continues to tout its top-of-mind issues, which include the fact that our nation’s water infrastructure is rated at a “D” grade level by the American Society of Civil Engineers, and that lead in drinking water is a threat to many communities.

Now that it’s officially 2017, let’s continue keeping water infrastructure investment top of mind and help the incoming administration make good on its promises to do so. Some encouraging water news broke in late 2016 helping set the stage for this work: The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) and approved the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act. WRDA will provide at least $100 million to the city of Flint, Mich., to replace lead service lines. WIIN will authorize more than $10 billion in federal money for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out dozens of water transportation construction projects.

The Water & Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Assn. noted in a letter to president-elect Donald Trump, “American water and wastewater infrastructure needs are great, but collectively we can and must invest in the technological solutions and workforce needed to solve our 21st century problems. We also need to rethink how we provide these services using a business model of enterprise zones, and a combination of public and private financing that holds everyone accountable for outcomes and results.”

To help ensure the most important water objectives stay front of mind, this issue introduces “Streams of Consciousness With Seth,” a new bimonthly column by Seth Brown, who acts as a senior advisor for the Water Environment Federation, where he provides support on technical and policy issues related to storm water management and wet weather dynamics. Brown is a regular speaker at conferences and events and has more than 40 published articles addressing a variety of issues in the water sector. In his first W&WD column, he lays out the business case for water infrastructure investment during Trump’s presidency (page 10), noting that “with a business-minded administration coming into power, making an effective business case for water infrastructure investment is all the more important.”

In 2017, let’s resolve to help make America’s water infrastructure great. Happy New Year.

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