This summer, as part of WWEMA’s strategic planning process, we sent out a member survey to learn the top concerns of today’s water and wastewater equipment manufacturers and their representatives.
When asked the open-ended question, “What keeps you up at night?” the response could not have been more clear. More than 80% answered with some variation on “financing” and/or “the economy.”
Some typical replies:
- “The fact that municipalities are not spending and are delaying every capital project they can is quite concerning. The market is nowhere near as good as it should be, especially with the needs out there.”
- “Funding. Where is the money coming from to finance the much-needed infrastructure upgrades?”
- “Where is the money? So many projects are being held up for lack of funding. Obviously, no easy cure.”
The needs are great, but money is tight and critical projects are being delayed as a result. And while it is true that there is “no easy cure,” we as an industry must lead the charge to find a cure.
WWEMA is working to advocate for legislation that will encourage and facilitate increased investment in water projects; however, this is only part of the equation. For municipalities to be able to cover these investments, they need to ensure their pricing structures bring in sufficient revenue. And to do that, we all need to drive home to our communities the value of water.
Several recent reports offer a great overview of the pricing dilemmas facing utilities today. I encourage you to check them out and use the information they contain as educational tools when approaching your community leaders:
- • “The U.S. Water Sector on the Verge of Transformation,” (Ernst & Young)
- • “Assessing Water System Revenue Risk: Considerations for Market Analysts,” (University of North Carolina Environmental Finance Center/Ceres)
- • “Drinking Water Infrastructure: Who Pays and How,” (American Rivers)
Last fall, during the WWEMA Annual Meeting, Ralph Franco of Calgon Carbon Corp. posed the question: “Which would you rather be without for 24 hours: cable TV or water?” With perhaps the exception of a few die-hard football fans in the audience, who began asking whether this hypothetical would occur on a Sunday, Ralph was preaching to the choir.
Most of America, however, takes their water too much for granted. Ralph’s question is one we need to pose to them. How does access to clean, potable water affect them? How does the processing and treatment of wastewater benefit them? How would the absence of these services harm them?
Campaigns such as the Water Environment Federation’s “Water’s Worth It” effort are an important step in this direction. We as individuals, as companies/service providers, and as an industry need to make educating our communities and our public officials a key part of what we do. In the words of another well-known educational and fund-raising campaign, “together we can find a cure.”