Water Online

JUL 2017

Water Innovations gives Water and Wastewater Engineers and end-users a venue to find project solutions and source valuable product information. We aim to educate the engineering and operations community on important issues and trends.

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Penny Wise, Pound Foolish? Any deferred maintenance for pipeline infrastructure will end up costing more in the long run, yet public money is often shifted from water and wastewater needs to pay for "showy" (i.e., above-ground) projects that elicit more immediate community gratification and, for politicians, votes. But pipeline breaks that cause service disruptions, property damage, and require emergency, around-the-clock repairs are much more expensive than planned, predictive, and preemptive maintenance, so it's better to invest sooner rather than pay the ultimate price later. Unfortunately, utilities' main source of investment is trending down as the cost of maintenance is expected to rise. Sixty-six percent of survey respondents reported declining (40 percent) or flat (26 percent) sales at the utility level. At a per-account level, the combined number is nearly 80 percent — 49 percent in decline and 29 percent flat. If indeed the cost of service is increasing, it is clear that sales revenue cannot keep pace. As a result, 93 percent of survey respondents indicated that their utilities are adjusting their cost recovery approach. If rate hikes or the sometimes-controversial solution of public-private partnerships are part of the plan, effective communication will be critical and may also need adjusting. According to the AWWA report, "Both utility and nonutility personnel consider the water industry's communication somewhat ineffective." Regulatory Concerns Shifting to what utilities have always done well, protecting the public, the survey asked what regulations are of greatest concern currently. The top three were: (1) point source pollution, (2) chemical spills, and (3) PFOA/PFOS, which are chemicals once used in commercial product manufacturing, firefighting foam, and industrial processes that persist regionally in groundwater. Looking into the future, the respondents cited three different areas of regulatory concern: (1) pharmaceuticals and hormones, (2) security and preparedness, which includes cyber- and physical security as well as emergency response, and (3) nonpoint source pollution. Whatever comes to pass, utilities have earned our trust in keeping the public safe and our water clean. However, they are being tested now more than ever and staring down the barrel at even greater challenges. Frankly, they are feeling the heat. What they need now, beyond the well-earned trust, is support from all whom they serve — that is everyone — so that they may continue to be models of consistency. wateronline.com n Water Innovations 7 EDITOR'SLETTER The 2017 SOTWI study was based on 1,768 respondents. Health Of The Water Industry All Respondents (Rating Scale: 1 to 7) Copyright © American Water Works Association AWWA asked its members to rate the current health, or "soundness," of the water industry … and to project five years into the future. In both cases, the scores came in at all-time lows.

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