Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree – there is no known safe level of lead in a child’s blood. 

Although lead is especially dangerous to children, high levels can also cause adverse effects in adults, including cardiovascular effects, increased blood pressure, hypertension and decreased kidney function. And yet, at least 2% of US public water systems are like Flint’s, exceeding the federal limit on lead.

Whereas Flint was highly publicized and has since made major improvements, more than 1,400 water systems still reported lead levels over 15 parts per billion between 2014 and 2016.

In August of 2017, USA Today reported that as many as 63 million people were exposed to potentially unsafe drinking water over the last decade. For those with problems, it took more than two years for the issues to be corrected, while some are still making fixes to problems that surfaced more than a decade ago.

And it’s not just a problem of high lead levels. According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United State of America (PNAS), 16 million cases of acute gastroenteritis occur each year at US community water systems. There is no denying that contaminants in drinking water pose a problem to public health that affects people every day.

Many communities, especially those that are smaller, are unable to find qualified operators to regulate, monitor and test water quality. Others cannot afford the maintenance and upgrades needed to correct water quality issues.

Years of neglect has resulted in dangerous conditions and high repair costs, and this problem will only continue. Eventually, we will see problems surfacing more and more in communities of all sizes, resulting in greater health concerns.

With the challenges facing our water systems, including aging infrastructure, severe weather and climate changes which impair source water, a lack of qualified operators entering the field and rising financial constraints, ensuring a safe water supply has become a growing challenge for many communities throughout the United States. Some communities have found that a viable solution lies in partnering with a professional water and wastewater operator.

A private-public partnership, or PPP, can provide essential capital, qualified operators and guaranteed regulatory compliance to communities of all sizes, while meeting the public need.

It is important to note that a PPP differs from privatization. With the former, the government entity maintains all ownership of the assets, including the pumps, facilities, right-of-ways, and more while the daily operation and long-term performance are trusted to the private sector operator.

When a good partnership is developed – one in which the professional operator can structure a plan that is both fiscally responsible and beneficial to the community – many advantages ensue.

  • Asset Management – A thorough analysis of the current system(s) and performance, followed by prioritization of needed replacements and repairs and the development of a regular maintenance schedule helps to ensure that systems perform at optimal levels for the longest period of time possible. This is also key to avoiding any unnecessary expenses.
  • Capital Improvement – Having experienced professionals on your team that can assess efficiencies and outsider recommendations means you can be sure that all projects are effective, while avoiding overspending.
  • Retainment of Ownership – For many communities who feel retaining ownership of the utility is important, this solution allows ownership to remain within the government entity.
  • Retention of Workforce – A good partner will not only do their best to retain current staff but will be able to provide greater benefits and support to retain that staff long-term, while also providing additional training and opportunities for career advancement.
  • Financial Relief – Many communities cannot afford regular maintenance and needed repairs, let alone the cost of growth and improvements. A private operator can plan long-term, lending to greater fiscal responsibility, and can also mitigate existing costs through better buying power and improved maintenance.
  • Professional Operators – In an industry facing an aging workforce, it can be difficult for communities to find qualified, licensed professionals. Larger, private companies can implement internal training programs, allowing them to hire new employees at lower job levels and train them to be able to obtain licenses and certifications. In this way, they are ever-increasing their own pool of qualified professionals.
  • Environmental Responsibility – A good partner will work to make existing systems as environmentally friendly as possible, instituting affordable and financially responsible improvements over time.

Partnering with a private, professional operating company can be an affordable solution to provide communities with safe, potable water. For smaller communities that don’t think they can afford a professional operator alone, it is worth noting that smaller adjacent communities can often band together for joint partnerships.

For more information on a PPP with Alliance Water Resources, please contact us.