Trump may get a big win with a renewed commitment to water infrastructure
© Getty Images

Distractions in Washington have continued to jeopardize key reforms that President Trump committed to pursuing during his campaign. Initiatives that Republicans hoped to pursue have been blocked, rejected, or stalled by unceasing Democratic obstruction.

But there are some battles that could change the tide, bring the Republican Party together, fulfill some of Trump’s campaign promises, and even gain support from key Democrats. If the administration and congressional leadership were to focus on infrastructure reform proposals, discussed at length during Infrastructure Week, they could start to put upheaval behind them and score some much-needed wins.

On behalf of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), Andrew Kricun testified this month before the Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife subcommittee of the United States Senate. In his testimony, he highlighted nonpartisan infrastructure investment issues that could be tackled by renewed prioritization, focus, and commitment.

ADVERTISEMENT

In his testimony, Kricun warned, “Nationally, the cost of clean water services has increased faster than the rate of inflation for 15 consecutive years. For households with low or stagnant incomes, the amount they are spending on water often exceeds what EPA considers affordable … Municipalities are facing enormous pressure to set rates based on the often-growing percentages of low-income households in their service area  even if it means deferring investments. A safety net for the lowest-income households would better position utilities to charge rates that fully reflect the true cost of service.”

 

The NACWA points out a very interesting situation. Without investment in critical infrastructure, the prices we pay as rate payers will continue to increase such that we will need to pay for the true value of water  something essential for life itself. Considering the neglect of our aging water infrastructure, further compounded by overuse and additional population demands, the continued delivery of clean and safe drinking water can no longer be deferred simply to keep prices low.

At a conference this week in St. Louis, NACWA leaders will be meeting to discuss how to better communicate the value of water, all while attracting more public investments for the infrastructure delivering it. Without these solutions, combined with a social understanding and acceptance of the importance of water, prices will continue to rise all while the delivery infrastructure continues to crumble, literally putting lives at risk.

In partnership with utility leaders, politicians now have an opportunity to get in front of this situation by committing to investing in clean water  now  before it becomes even more expensive, or the situation becomes more dangerous. All stakeholders have a role to play and all can benefit as utility leaders and rate payers hold political leaders accountable by communicating the true dangers ahead and the human expense of doing nothing.

By proactively communicating the value of the product utilities produce  it will make it much more difficult for anyone to question the increasing water bills they receive. By investing in water infrastructure, politicians can take a greater ownership in taking credit for trying to lower those bills too. It’s a win for all involved.

While infighting and partisanship are nothing new, neither are the woes of a crumbling infrastructure. And while many focus on the “roads and bridges” part of infrastructure investment, we must not forget about the reliance we all have on these systems  specifically those that bring clean water to our taps. Yet when it comes to water, most still take it for granted, until there is a problem such as a water main break, or worse, a crisis such as the one in Flint, Michigan.

While we all need water to live, its affordability is in jeopardy, making the need to redouble our commitment to water infrastructure investment of paramount importance.

Dan Rene is a senior vice president in the public affairs practice at LEVICK, a strategic communications firm.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.