On Oct. 23, the president signed the American Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 into law. This bipartisan bill passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 99-1, a resounding message that Congress understands the critical importance of investing in our nation’s water infrastructure.
The act authorizes more than $6 billion in spending over 10 years for projects nationwide. As the largest regulated water and wastewater utility in the commonwealth, Pennsylvania American Water has special appreciation for the importance of this legislation.
Investing in our infrastructure not only ensures safe, reliable service, it is good for the economy. According to a 2017 report by the Value of Water Campaign, for every $1 million invested in water infrastructure, an estimated 15 jobs are generated through direct and indirect economic benefits. Pennsylvania American Water employs approximately 1,100 dedicated people, and we indirectly support countless more jobs and families.
The bill also incentivizes smart and resilient infrastructure. Policies that increase transparency of risks to drinking water systems and prioritize the identification of contaminants will help all consumers of drinking water. The bill also creates a regulatory environment that will encourage the adoption of new technologies and help struggling systems identify resources that can help the customers, including collaborating with neighboring systems.
These are priorities that Pennsylvania American Water shares to ensure that every home and business has access to quality, reliable water and wastewater service. Each year, we typically invest $250 million to $300 million to maintain and upgrade our systems. In our East Shore and West Shore systems, we have spent more than $75 million on necessary system improvements over the past five years.
As we know, some water providers lack the expertise and financial resources to operate and adequately invest in their systems. We believe consolidation and regionalization are among the solutions, because taking an integrated approach helps achieve economies of scale, attracts sufficient capital, and delivers the critical technical and financial resources to address longstanding issues.
Pennsylvania American Water totally agrees with the premise that reinvesting in our water and wastewater systems must be a national priority. We commend Congress for taking action that helps rebuild our nation’s aging infrastructure, and we will continue to work with our state and local leaders to deliver the highest quality water and wastewater service to the people of Pennsylvania.
Jeffrey L. McIntyre is president and CEO of Pennsylvania American Water, a Derry Township-based subsidiary of American Water.