By Bill Decker, Vice President & General Manager, Equipment & Services Group, Aqua-Aerobic Systems, Inc.
The water industry is filled with professionals who protect and process one of our most treasured resources – water. We collectively follow regulations that have made tremendous progress cleaning our nation’s rivers, lakes, and waterways while advancing conservation efforts. But our industry’s work is far from complete.
Today our nation’s infrastructure is sadly in need of investment to sustain, repair, or replace critical roads, bridges, and the less visible underground utilities. As an industry, we understand the need for funding, but we don’t seem to effectively communicate that need to our elected officials or to the general public, particularly when the conversation revolves around water or sewer rates.
For some in our profession, the Clean Water Act was published by our parents’ generation, while much of the infrastructure was built by our grandparents’ generation. We have cities where the average pipe age is 70-plus years and getting older. Some cities have reported water loss rates of more than 20 percent. This is not sustainable and ultimately will affect commercial output and our quality of life, and personally, I don’t want to be part of the generation that kicks this particular can down the road.
So, let’s consider one alternative. According to some economist models, every $1 billion invested in the water industry turns over multiple times and generates 28,500 jobs. In addition to helping the U.S. manufacturing base, these jobs help us protect our water supply and reduce future costs. We have all seen photos of water main breaks flooding busy intersections. Eliminating these water main breaks would save countless dollars to the affected municipalities as well as to local businesses and individuals. The same is true for investments in collection systems as well as the actual treatment plants.
In the age of sequestration, where can we find billions of investment dollars? One solution is congressional action to eliminate the cap on private activity bonds for the water industry. It is estimated that if this cap is removed, $50 billion dollars of new investment will flow into the water industry over the next 10 years. While this investment does result in a small cost to the federal government, it is more than offset by the revenue from the investment, and it creates more than 1.4 million new jobs in the process.
Is this the sole solution to our economy and to the investment needed to maintain our aging infrastructure? Quite simply, no. But it is a start, and with an apology to the late Senator Everett Dirksen, a million jobs here and million jobs there, and pretty soon we are talking about a real recovery. This is a Jobs Bill that Works!
If you would like more information on how you can help create a million jobs in the water industry, please contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.