By: Brendan Schubert
Utilities should be credited for their contributions to the post-industrial revolution renaissance, or what we know as modern economic development. No one calls a customer service line to thank the electric company for keeping the lights running, the gas company for a warm home in the winter, and never to thank a water company for clean and safe drinking water. Too often we take for granted what these utilities provide us until our service is interrupted. This critical infrastructure takes care and attention 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
During National Drinking Water Week, we are reminded how vital our infrastructure is. In America, there is a water main break every two minutes. That means there is somewhere to the tune of 6 billion gallons of treated water going to waste each day. We could fill about 9,000 swimming pools with that amount of water.
There are more than 2,600 public water and wastewater utilities in Pennsylvania. Our water infrastructure grade according to Pennsylvania Civil Engineers our infrastructure grade is a C-. There is one extreme example from my professional experience that a water utility in the mid-2000s was on a capital replacement cycle of 400 years for its system. Think about it, it is like when the Mayflower landed, just replacing a water system by the 2000s. In short, to appreciate clean drinking water we as a commonwealth must invest more.
Warning, humble client brag: We have the pleasure of representing a few clients in the public utility space. West View Water Authority in western Pennsylvania has taken a leadership role in water utility public policy and spearheaded many initiatives that have allowed West View to continue to invest in its system. They have been leaders on the creation of the Lead Service Line Grant Program through PennVest, worked on fair legislation for public water systems—putting its rate payers and the system first, and driving dollars from the state and federal levels to invest in infrastructure to the tune north of $45 million dollars over the last seven years. West View’s story is just one, but to have new cool multimodal places to visit, vibrant urban, suburban, and rural gems in this commonwealth, and to fight fires to keep the communities safe, we must make this a priority.