Shallow Answers Discover the Truth About Critics’ “Solutions” to Local Infrastructure Needs

Across the U.S., communities are facing real challenges as a result of aging water infrastructure. Too much of our country’s infrastructure is outdated, overused and underserviced. In the U.S., there are 240,000 water main breaks each year, and we lose 16 percent of our treated water before it even reaches the customer.

This is a serious issue, and we need serious solutions.

Water companies are a critical solution for meeting this challenge – something that has been recognized by everyone from the U.S. Conference of Mayors to the Brookings Institute to the White House and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Unfortunately, the groups that oppose private sector involvement don’t offer real solutions to communities in need. Their misinformation campaigns deny cities and towns important options for meeting water and wastewater needs.

Water activist groups oppose common sense, bipartisan solutions without offering realistic alternatives.

  • Activists have opposed the Obama Administration’s Build America Investment Initiatives. In early 2015, the Obama Administration announced proposals under the Build America Investment Initiative designed to leverage private sector capital and expertise to improve U.S. water infrastructure. With their proposals, the White House and EPA affirmed the critical role that private sector capital and expertise can play in improving our nation’s water and wastewater systems. Yet some anti-private water groups attacked the Administration’s proposal as “misguided.”
  • Activist opposed the 2014 bond measure aimed at addressing California’s severe drought. One extreme group, Food & Water Watch, opposed a water bond measure in California to help the state deal with its dire drought conditions. The ballot measure was supported by more than 98 percent of state legislators from both political parties and received unanimous support from the editorial boards of the state’s largest papers. In addition, the measure was supported by a number of groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, the California League of Conservation Voters and Audubon California. More than two-thirds of California voters approved the measure.
  • Activists unrealistically point to increased federal and public funding as the ideal or only solution. These groups often argue that all municipal water needs can be met with non-existent federal funding. Public capital is not a bottomless resource for every community across the country, and isn’t the only solution for meeting the estimated $384 billion drinking water investment gap by 2030.
  • Activist groups blindly support remunicipalization efforts even when they fail to deliver benefits for local communities. In many communities where these groups have helped “remunicipalize” water operations, the promised benefits never materialize. By 2016 in Felton, CA, water rates will have effectively doubled since the city took back operation of the system from a private company. That’s in addition to the $535 bond tax Felton residents will pay annually for 30 years to finance the water system purchase. In Gary, IN, private water opponents said that moving to public control would save the city $8 million dollars. In fact, the wastewater and sewage system costs have increased by almost $5 million per year.

The groups opposing private water do not consider the facts or the specific water infrastructure needs of a community. Rather, they are simply ideologically opposed to private involvement in the water sector, placing themselves on the extreme fringe of society and in opposition to widely supported common sense solutions.

We need real solutions, not blind opposition to proven solutions.


EPA, “Aging Water Infrastructure"; Urban Land Institute, “Confronting America’s Water Challenge,” 2010; U.S. Conference of Mayors Urban Water Council, “Mayor’s Guide to Water and Wastewater Partnership Service Agreements,” Apr. 2005; U.S. Conference of Mayors Urban Water Council, “About Us”; Brookings Institute and Rockefeller Foundation, Project on State and Metropolitan Innovation “Moving Forward on Public Private Partnerships,” Dec. 2011; Brookings Institute, “Public-Private Partnerships to Revamp U.S. Infrastructure,” Feb. 2011; EPA, “Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center”; Food & Water Watch, “Obama’s New Infrastructure Plan Would Worsen Our Water System Woes,” 1/16/15; AB 1471, Passed CA. House 77-2-0, 8/13/14; AB 1471, Passed CA. Senate 37-0-3, 8/13/14;, “California Proposition 1, Water Bond (2014)”; FWW, “Water and Sewer Privatization Contributes to Sprawl,” Jan. 2010; FWW, “Top Ten Ways That Water Privatization Costs the Public,” Feb, 2009; FWW, “Public Equity, Public Inequity” Aug. 2012; FWW, “Protecting America’s Waters: Clean and Safe Water Needs a Trust Fund,” Jun. 2009; FWW, “Top Five Reasons to Keep Florida’s Water in Public Hands” Jun. 2009; EPA, “EPA Survey Shows $384 Billion Needed for Drinking Water Infrastructure by 2030,” 6/4/13; Jim Mueller, SLVWD General Manager, Testimony, Monterey Water Forum, 2/28/11; 2012 Financial Statement and Federal Single Audit Report, City of Gary, Filed 9/30/13. United Water, Press Release, 5/27/08 Discover the truth about critics’ “solutions” to local infrastructure needs