The State of New Jersey has a new bill on the cards that follows a growing trend in the USA: municipal water privatization. This bill is titled the “Water Infrastructure Protection Act” and passed the state’s Assembly on December 15th.
It aims to protect aging water systems that are supposedly so deteriorated they are “beyond the governmental capacity to restore.”, Rachel Dovey of Next City magazine reports.
The Water Infrastructure Protection Act states that “it is in the public interest that public entities have the option to transfer, lease, or sell water and wastewater assets if there exist emergent conditions that threaten the drinking water of the environment.”
However, many critics don’t think that the Protection Act really falls into the category of public interest – because it excludes the public, Dovey writes. She added that this bill would bypass the ballot system currently in place and make the state similar to Illinois, Pennsylvania, and California.
She stated that right now, private water companies serve about 15 percent of the U.S. population, but that is fast changing thanks to several new federal laws.
With this happening, the decentralized nature of water infrastructure’s ownership will make it hard to pin down national data.
Citizens are hard-pressed to know or understand whether and how privatization will actually affect the local system.
The costs involved have a significant impact on residents with low-income who begin to face higher water bills and the immeasurable nature of the multiple entities who own the water infrastructure makes it almost impossible to observe the benefits of privatization on the infrastructure itself.
Interestingly, good infrastructure management planning deals with the issues raised with the New Jersey Bill.
When you have documented service levels, future growth, risks, lifecycle asset management plans, and projected long-term financial requirements for a utility then there is transparency about the risks, issues, costs and likely future water tariffs.
In addition to enabling better long management of a water utility, infrastructure asset management planning also provides transparent information to allow communities, municipalities, and states to have informed discussions about the ownership structures and associated costs.
PHOTO CREDIT: Canoeing on the D & R Canal by Jim Lukach via Creative Commons License Flickr. The photo size was reduced to fit the website’s requirements.