NAWC Executive Director Shares Water Infrastructure Insights from Washington, D.C.

In a new piece in Water Finance & Management, NAWC Executive Director Michael Deane discussed the state of our nation’s water infrastructure and policy changes that could be put in place to spur investment.

President Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure proposal, which includes a focus on public-private partnerships (P3s), ultimately took a back seat in 2017 as Congress turned to other legislative priorities. Despite limited activity on infrastructure last year, federal investment in infrastructure will likely remain a hot topic in 2018 and beyond. Regardless of what happens with President Trump’s plan, Deane points out that there are ways to increase investment in water infrastructure without federal subsidies.

A 2017 PricewaterhouseCoopers report commissioned by NAWC highlighted a few targeted federal policies that could result in a significant increase in funding, as well as create an efficient water sector with high investment outside of federal subsidies. The policy changes proposed include encouraging regionalization in the water sector through the State Revolving Fund programs, lifting the cap on private activity bonds and expanding eligibility of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, among others.

In his Water Finance & Management piece, Deane encourages lawmakers to consider these types of proposals to incentivize communities to turn to partnerships as an economically-preferred way to offer water and sewer service. Further supporting this conclusion is a RAND Corporation report released last year that lays out specific federal tax and fiscal policies that would draw more private capital into public infrastructure financing. That would provide the ability to tap into funding that is already available versus waiting for a mythical pot of federal funding.

“Despite the limitations on the federal funding front, there are ways we can move forward now to address the country’s massive infrastructure financing needs,” said Deane in Water Finance & Management. “The fact of the matter is that many failing systems simply lack the operational, technical and financial capacity to sustain a viable utility, and face daunting challenges.”

Rep. Garrett Graves (R-La.), Chairman of the House Subcommittee Water Resources and Environment has asked, “What is the federal government’s role in water infrastructure?” Deane believes the answer to this question is implementing federal policies that encourage communities to explore the benefits of various types of partnerships.

Read the full article in Water Finance & Management.

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