Each New Year brings new challenges and opportunities as we resolve to eat healthier, exercise more and use our time and resources more effectively. We look forward with hope and a determination to build a better future.
Just as many of us do this in our personal and professional lives, the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Assn. (WWEMA) and its members do this on a national and global scale, working toward a better future for the water and wastewater industry. So what are some of the big issues ahead for 2016?
- U.S. transportation bill: As I reported last month, we experienced a couple of “wins” with this bill, as it removed a paragraph in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 that prevented cities from using tax-exempt municipal bonds to match U.S. Treasury-backed loans for up to 51% of project funding under the Water Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act. This language placed unnecessary restrictions on funding and would have made it more difficult for critical water projects to move forward. In addition, the bill reauthorized the Export-Import Bank through fiscal year 2019. A great start to the year!
- White House water innovation initiatives: The Obama Administration seems to be making innovation in water treatment and conservation a high priority. It hosted a Water Innovation Roundtable in mid-December and will hold a White House Water Summit on March 22 to highlight best practices and technologies for sustainability.
- World Economic Forum: We are seeing a greater global recognition of the value of water and increased understanding among the business community regarding the importance of water to the economy and the need to include water in their risk management efforts. In its Global Risks Report 2016, the World Economic Forum named water crises the top risk of concern over the next decade.
- Federal funding: We are starting to see greater Congressional support in discussions on increasing funding for State Revolving Funds, as well as efforts to remove volume caps on private activity bonds.
- Spending outlook: The latest WWEMA/Boenning Leading Indicators Index, which provides a near-term outlook on funding prospects for water and wastewater projects, indicates a slight positive trend in funding in 2016. In addition, it finds that water utilities are continuing to expand their payrolls and ramp up their operations and maintenance spending.
- Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): While Congress is still extremely divided on this issue and there is no certainty that the United States will adopt the TPP, President Obama named it as a top priority in his State of the Union address. If passed, it has the potential to have a positive effect on U.S. exports as well as on water quality issues worldwide.
- American Iron and Steel: WWEMA has long worked to eliminate or mitigate the effects of American Iron and Steel restrictions on the State Revolving Funds. Along with other groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we are starting to make headway in educating legislators on the difficulties these restrictions cause for utilities. While this language does appear in the 2016 appropriations bill, we are hopeful that it will be reviewed for future funding legislation.
The time is right to bring water and wastewater issues to the forefront on a national and global scale. WWEMA looks forward to serving as a leader in these efforts in 2016 and beyond.
Vanessa M. Leiby is executive director of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Assn., a Washington, D.C.-based trade organization that has represented the interests of manufacturers serving the water supply and wastewater treatment industry since 1908. Leiby can be reached at [email protected].