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🚰 "No Community Left Behind"

The Water Values Podcast

Photo by Hannah Busing / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Dave McGimpsey
Guest: Brent Fewell | Co-Founder | Water Finance Exchange
Category: 🚰 Utilities

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[4:48] “The sole focus of the Water Finance Exchange is to really be a catalyst for new water deals, to develop a water pipeline, so to speak, have deals that will help communities fund their water projects. As we know, there are hundreds, if not thousands of communities out there right now that are struggling to maintain stormwater, wastewater, drinking water systems. And so the idea behind the water finance exchange is really to identify some communities that first of all recognize that they've got a problem and […] help with finding financing, whether it's public or private financing. And so our goal is to go in and work with these communities and advocate on their behalf to find sources of funding, […] but also to be a navigator […] and an advisor to them on helping to address any barriers to getting them kind of through the pre-development stage of their projects.”

[6:31] “We are funded through philanthropic sources. […] We have an application for letters of interest for communities that may be struggling to figure out how to even get off of the starting block of […] funding. […] Although, over time we will be working with larger communities, our sweet spot right now is […] rural and smaller communities […] up to 20, to 30,000 […]. So we help these communities kind of identify what their needs are. […] We're not selling anything, first of all, and we realize that many of these communities really need a trusted adviser and a team who can help them identify, first of all, what their needs are, what the opportunities are that exist out there to help them kind of connect with whether it's working with USDA, through their rural financing programs, or state SRF funds, or even private financier who are interested in helping this community. So we are a connector.”

[9:35] “There's an estimate of a trillion dollar shortfall and in the amount of funding that we as a nation are investing in communities across the US. […] Historically, EPA over the last 30 or 40 years and the federal government have provided a substantial amount of subsidies to communities. And I think anytime you've got communities who are cash strapped and have lots of debt challenges, don't want to go back into, don't want to go deeper into debt, or take on additional debt service, or oftentimes going to wait for those federal substances in the form of grants. As we know, the problem is so large right now that for most of those communities there is simply not enough grant funding out there. And so the challenge really is to identify alternative sources of funding.”

[11:42] “Many of these challenges […] relate to governance. […] As we know, water infrastructure is not only about public safety and public health, […] but these systems are also intertwined with the economic viability of communities. And if you don't have sustainable, viable water systems, you're not going to have a sustainable economic foundation.”

[15:09] “The idea of regionalization was often considered a third rail. […] The wastewater [sector] has done a really good job over the years of actually kind of integrating and consolidating with approximately 15,000 POTWs around the US. Whereas on the drinking water side, we're still very fragmented. […] We're upwards of about 53,000 public water systems that exist out there. […] The vast majority of them are small water utilities. And […] every community would like to maintain and have its own water system, [but] I think over time, what we're recognizing is there's simply not the resources available to support them all.”

[19:05] “Many communities have historically wanted to maintain those systems, their identity and also control control over drinking water systems and wastewater systems […]. And I think what we're seeing is simply as regulations become more complex, more costly, communities are recognizing that in many cases, they simply don't have the resources.”

[22:59] “If you go to EPA’s database […] you'll discover that there are over 3,000 public water systems in the US that are in significant non compliance, many of these are smaller, but they can span the whole gamut, including very large systems. And as we recognize systems that are non compliance, really put the public health at risk. And so there's going to be an increased focus by EPA and the states to urge and compel these communities that are in non compliance to find a way out to do something differently.”

[30:18] “It's gonna take education and leadership of those that are passionate about this to work together. […] Historically […] the water sector has been very siloed. So we've had wastewater, drinking water and privates and publics and rurals and urbans and we ultimately need to break down those barriers and recognize that the sole focus and goal is to provide safe clean water to these communities. And how do we do it most cost effectively? […] So collaboration is going to be really key.”

Rating: 💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 36 min | 🗓️ 08/17/2021
✅ Time saved: 34 min