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🗣️ "The Future of Private Water in America"

Water Foresight Podcast

Photo by specphotops / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Matthew Klein
Guest: Robert Powelson | CEO | National Association of Water Companies (NAWC)
Category: 🗣️ Opinion

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[1:21] “When you look at the water grid here today, in the US, […] 85% of our water grid is driven by municipal governments. In fact, on the wastewater side, it's something like 90% of the 14,000 permanent wastewater systems in the US. […] As we continue to see consolidation take place within the water sector […], it's an opportunity for not only investment, but it also drives the thesis that we have too many water systems in this country. […] With that fragmentation comes a lot of challenges, not only around compliance, but the ability to invest efficiently in those assets.”

[3:49] “You can't sit back and not address the trillion dollars that's needed to improve our water grid. And that's both public and private. […] Congress is not going to allocate a trillion dollars to just improve the water grid. […] [In] the Biden Infrastructure Bill, there's $55 billion. […] [Yet according to the] EPA gap analysis […] about $347 billion needed.

[14:48] “Currently, there's something like 1,500 community water systems deemed to be serious violators of the Safe Water Drinking Act. […] And […] these violators have been chronic violators. And so […] we need greater enforcement. And  that's a big issue, because if you're going to talk about investment, we're going to talk about compliance, you have to have the ability from the EPA, or state air and water regulators to be able to go out there and police what's happening. My fear is […] we're woefully behind in addressing these issues.”

[16:51] “There's certainly a heightened awareness about how these utility assets are not immune entirely from cyber hacks. […] And for us as an industry, I think it's now a collaborative effort. […] So what's happening […] post Oldsmar […] is that the White House is rolling out three executive orders, one will start with the power sector. And then after the power sector, there'll be a rollout on the interstate pipeline. And then the third industry will be the water and wastewater sector.”

[18:41] “We also learned a lot of lessons around the Colonial Pipeline. […] The electric industry has a cyber Mutual Assistance Program. So when there is an attack on the grid, there's kind of a SWAT team of experts that can be deployed to help the company being infiltrated by a cyber attack. We don't have that per se. So building that kind of capacity is important. We also don't have in the water sector, what the power sector has and what they call the North American Electric Reliability Council.”

[22:20] “America has the highest per capita water use in the world. Groundwater is being depleted 25% faster than it's being replenished. […] Over the next decade, 40 US states will face water scarcity.”

[22:40] “The sourcing of water is going to be a very big issue in certain parts of the country. […] So when Elon Musk is looking at setting up that mega plant, or big tech companies looking to move somewhere, I guarantee you, the conversation will now entail not only affordability and reliability of electric service, and location being part of that, but the access to having water. And that's going to be a very big issue.”

[23:55] “The Israeli government is definitely focused on securing their water and drinking water resources. And what do they do to protect that? They have massive desalinization into their water grid, and it's worked quite well. The US has been a little bit behind the Israeli model. […] And then the second piece [is] […] how do we deal with building resiliency measures into the water grid?”

[28:28] “I don't believe that a water grid in the US that's 85% municipal and 90% on the wastewater side is a sustainable model. […] For us as a country, I think we're at a crossroads where we all recognize that there's a growing number of factors that are driving conversations around clean water and clean water access. […] We're being required to secure a valuable finite resource and with that comes generation equity concerns. And so, […] I think private water is going to be driving that change.”

Rating: 💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Google | Spotify
🕰️ 47 min | 🗓️ 07/21/2021
✅ Time saved: 45 min