Where Is the Public Anger About Water?

By Linda Hanifin Bonner 

August 8, 2013 

 

Major headlines appeared recently throughout national media about the potential for Prince Georges County, Md., residents and businesses to be without water for five days while the local utility repaired a major water main. Newspapers and TV news anchors initially reported this issue as a “natural disaster” because of its impact on thousands of residents, health care facilities and businesses. Some questioned why public officials had not taken actions to prevent this situation. A lot of people, businesses, and industry were at risk of being without water, but fortunately the utility was able to circumvent the need for service disruption without turning off the water main. Just imagine turning on the spigot and nothing comes out!

 

It’s important to note that the public officials involved in decision-making and development of an immediate action plan to address this critical situation should be applauded. In planning for significant service disruption, they took a courageous step to address pending disaster and lessen impacts to all. Their immediate actions successfully prevented thousands from literally being caught unprepared to deal with the loss of water, which thankfully did not happen thanks to the creativity and competence of utility service professionals.

 

Beyond superior crisis management and prevention, if that pipeline had happened to burst, the magnitude and location of the disruption (we are talking about a geyser-like eruption spewing untold amounts of valuable water for an indeterminate period of time), would have likely created a serious traffic issue, significantly impacting one of the region’s major highways. How many pending or actual crises have to occur before the public gets angry enough to demand substantial funding for our nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure? The need to address our nation’s 100-year old water infrastructure is certainly well documented, for example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2011 Needs Survey (released in 2013), estimates the minimum investment required for repairs at $335 billion for fresh water and $298 billion for wastewater. Folks might want to consider their own role regarding funding decisions for water infrastructure—because we can do something about this issue!

 

On Capitol Hill, policy officials are working on an important bill under the direction of Congressman Bob Gibbs of Ohio, chair of the House Subcommittee on Water Resources, to pass legislation that would create a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA). WIFIA is an innovative loan program that provides municipalities and utilities with the ability to obtain funding to repair and replace water and wastewater infrastructure systems with a minimum budget impact. Modeled after the successful transportation infrastructure finance and innovation act (TIFIA), this program offers policy officials the opportunity to obtain long-term, low-interest loans for major projects. This funding source is needed because existing financing programs for water infrastructure, such as Clean Water and Drinking Water state revolving funds (SRFs), while highly successful, have been unable on their own to meet the growing demand, especially for large and regional projects.

 

If Congress can approve this type of legislation for the transportation sector, why then can’t it be done for the water industry? WIFIA is supported by major water stakeholders including the American Water Works Association, the Water Environment Federation, and my own organization, Water Design-Build Council. And by the way, supporting WIFIA and repair of the nation’s water infrastructure will help our economy by providing additional jobs, not to mention protection of public health and the environment.

 

Isn’t it time for us to motivate some public anger and tell our respective elected officials they must take immediate action on important legislation to help fund repair and replacement of deteriorating pipelines throughout the US? And do it before a real water catastrophe occurs!

 08/08/2013Permanent link

Where's The Public Anger About Water?  ()
 

Where's The Public Anger About Water? By Linda Hanifin Bonner  August 8, 2013    Major headlines appeared recently throughout national media about the potential for Prince Georges County, MD residents and businesses to be without water for five days

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Where's The Public Anger About Water?

 Permanent link

Where Is the Public Anger About Water?

By Linda Hanifin Bonner 

August 8, 2013 

 

Major headlines appeared recently throughout national media about the potential for Prince Georges County, Md., residents and businesses to be without water for five days while the local utility repaired a major water main. Newspapers and TV news anchors initially reported this issue as a “natural disaster” because of its impact on thousands of residents, health care facilities and businesses. Some questioned why public officials had not taken actions to prevent this situation. A lot of people, businesses, and industry were at risk of being without water, but fortunately the utility was able to circumvent the need for service disruption without turning off the water main. Just imagine turning on the spigot and nothing comes out!

 

It’s important to note that the public officials involved in decision-making and development of an immediate action plan to address this critical situation should be applauded. In planning for significant service disruption, they took a courageous step to address pending disaster and lessen impacts to all. Their immediate actions successfully prevented thousands from literally being caught unprepared to deal with the loss of water, which thankfully did not happen thanks to the creativity and competence of utility service professionals.

 

Beyond superior crisis management and prevention, if that pipeline had happened to burst, the magnitude and location of the disruption (we are talking about a geyser-like eruption spewing untold amounts of valuable water for an indeterminate period of time), would have likely created a serious traffic issue, significantly impacting one of the region’s major highways. How many pending or actual crises have to occur before the public gets angry enough to demand substantial funding for our nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure? The need to address our nation’s 100-year old water infrastructure is certainly well documented, for example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2011 Needs Survey (released in 2013), estimates the minimum investment required for repairs at $335 billion for fresh water and $298 billion for wastewater. Folks might want to consider their own role regarding funding decisions for water infrastructure—because we can do something about this issue!

 

On Capitol Hill, policy officials are working on an important bill under the direction of Congressman Bob Gibbs of Ohio, chair of the House Subcommittee on Water Resources, to pass legislation that would create a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA). WIFIA is an innovative loan program that provides municipalities and utilities with the ability to obtain funding to repair and replace water and wastewater infrastructure systems with a minimum budget impact. Modeled after the successful transportation infrastructure finance and innovation act (TIFIA), this program offers policy officials the opportunity to obtain long-term, low-interest loans for major projects. This funding source is needed because existing financing programs for water infrastructure, such as Clean Water and Drinking Water state revolving funds (SRFs), while highly successful, have been unable on their own to meet the growing demand, especially for large and regional projects.

 

If Congress can approve this type of legislation for the transportation sector, why then can’t it be done for the water industry? WIFIA is supported by major water stakeholders including the American Water Works Association, the Water Environment Federation, and my own organization, Water Design-Build Council. And by the way, supporting WIFIA and repair of the nation’s water infrastructure will help our economy by providing additional jobs, not to mention protection of public health and the environment.

 

Isn’t it time for us to motivate some public anger and tell our respective elected officials they must take immediate action on important legislation to help fund repair and replacement of deteriorating pipelines throughout the US? And do it before a real water catastrophe occurs!

Posted by Jonathan Byus at 08/08/2013 10:58:41 AM | 


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LindaHanifinBonnerPosted by:
Linda Hanifin Bonner, PhD, CAE
Water Design-Build Council Operations Manager
 

As Operations Manager, Linda Hanifin Bonner brings nearly 30 years of organization, governance, and association financial management experience to the Water Design-Build Council (WDBC). In this capacity, she is responsible for the overall management and administration of WDBC Board-approved projects and programs, including education and outreach materials; and supporting the Board in fulfilling its mission. Her professional career activities have been dedicated to work within the water/wastewater industry.

Dr. Hanifin-Bonner has a B.S, in Environmental Science from The Johns Hopkins University; an M.S. in Public Policy and Ph.D, in Organizational Systems from The Fielding Graduate University. She previously served on the Maryland State Water Quality Advisory Committee, is a former director for the Water Environment Federation, where she also chaired the Public Education Committee for six years. She is a member of the American Society of Association Executives, AWWA and WEF; and serves on the Board of Directors for the Maryland/DC Oncology Foundation.