What Will it Take to Rebuild Modern Water Infrastructure in the US?

This is a guest post by Bill Eller currently serves as Vice President, Business Development at HomeServe.

Rebuilding water infrastructure will require sustainable investment in local projects; strong local-federal partnerships; and flexible financing strategies. America’s cities are at the forefront of both funding and design of the infrastructure of our country’s future, and that is why the National League of Cities launched its Rebuild With Us campaign. Local officials understand that America’s infrastructure drives our citizens’ wealth, prosperity and health, and optimizing it to meet present and future needs will require innovation, partnerships, and leadership from all levels of government.

Innovation is being employed for more and more applications in the water infrastructure space. As drought hits the West, advances are making desalination more affordable, through the use of alternative energy sources. Another example is the use of biogas, a byproduct of treating wastewater, as a source of energy to power wastewater treatment plants and fuel trucks.

While new technologies and innovations are taking hold every day, how can local officials build public support and buy-in for adoption in the community?

In New Orleans, where climate change has made green infrastructure and stormwater management a necessity, leaders have executed projects on a neighborhood scale to solidify buy-in from citizens. The Floating Streets project, for example, installs permeable pavement and bioswales several blocks at a time. Once an idea has been successfully demonstrated, scaling it up for use across the community requires an understanding of the key drivers for those most impacted by the innovation. Those stakeholders will be the first champions.

Change through innovation isn’t easy. A study polled more than 400 utility professionals, and, while more than 90 percent said innovation is “critical” to the future, only 40 percent have seen change through innovation.

Innovation is, by its nature, aspirational, and it can be difficult to translate to engineering, budgeting and policy implementation. There may be a cultural gap among stakeholders which will require community engagement efforts and dedicated staff and funding to promote innovation.

No matter how innovative your approach to managing your water and wastewater systems, there’s one important aspect that cities can’t touch – private service lines. In fact, many of your residents may be unaware that they are responsible for their service lines.

The NLC Service Line Warranty Program provides education on service line responsibilities and a low-cost emergency home repair program at no cost to cities. To learn more about this educational program, visit our website at www.utilitysp.net or visit us in the Savings and Solutions Pavilion during the NLC Congressional City Conference March 10-13 in Washington, D.C.

About the author: Bill Eller currently serves as Vice President, Business Development at HomeServe. He is responsible for working with municipalities to educate and develop the best program options for their residents.

The NLC Service Line Warranty Program partners with cities to educate residents about their responsibilities for water and sewer service lines and offer optional repair service plans to protect them from unexpected repair costs.