Streamline - Summer 2011 - (Page 7)
BY MARK ESTES, VRWA PRESIDENT
Avoiding Archetypal Rational
THE “ARCHETYPAL” CONSUMER
Realistically, federal funding and project planning assistance may never return to previous levels that existed before the Reagan years.
is one who doesn’t want to know how his water is made or from where it comes. For all purposes, he or she accepts tap water as safe and plentiful. Once he/she knows, he wants conditions to improve and changes made before accepting our municipal water for consumption. The “bottled water” movement is a prime example of how a consumer believes he has a more trustworthy product. After a while, revelations of bottled water sources, in addition to solid waste concerns over the disposal of so many plastic bottles, will tend to shift the customer back to municipal water or other available sources of safe drinking water. Our customers have evolved into smarter and less forgiving consumers. Whether driven by fact, fiction or a renewed distrust for anything public or government related, we must move away from our own “archetypal” way of viewing our customers and how we do business. We must begin to explore different ways of reaching our goals in the water and wastewater industry. Our customer base is changing and becoming more resourceful and health conscious in all matters of consumption and use. As managers and operators, we are constantly challenged with the stewardship responsibilities of facility maintenance and infrastructure management. The majority of existing drinking water and wastewater collection systems have reached their useful lives. We often fail to understand the importance of an active and on-going Capacity Management Operation and Maintenance (CMOM) programs. When our product conduits are not properly maintained and/or replaced in a determinate and prescribed manner, we sacrifice our public health and the systems’ sustainability. Here in the United States, we are currently under-funding our underground investments to a value exceeding $20 billion annually. In 1978, the federal share of wastewater infrastructure spending was greater than 75 percent. Today, that number has dropped to less than 4 percent. The influx of ARRA funds added 2 to 3 percent to the GDP during the last four years. During the same four year period, there was a 17 percent decrease in the combined funding for the four largest federal programs that support water and wastewater infrastructure improvement projects. The full impact is compounded
when you figure in the sharp increases in project costs driven by fuel, energy and manufacturing. Small rural water and wastewater systems are even more susceptible to financial instability by the diseconomies of scale that result in higher user rates, increased per capita construction costs, and staff turnover rates that are much higher than our urban counterparts. Unfortunately, more than one million rural Americans will continue to live without the basic community water and sewer health services simply because of the inability to secure the financing for construction costs to make improvements. Here are my concerns and where I feel there is potential to condition ourselves to mislead our organizations and our customers. With the limited availability of resources, many rural leaders will mistakenly realize (and often too late) that forced downsizing and budget shortfalls seem to always emerge as reductions in our operating and maintenance budgets…“low hanging fruit” conditioning. We must condition ourselves to maintain what we own and to resist the political and policy pressures to adopt, embrace or incorporate the unplanned expansion or wholesale rehabilitation of our systems without an additional and tangible stream of revenue. New growth and expanded system maintenance without the support of large volume usage and significant increase in ERU’s (equivalent residential units) to buffer your rates, will ultimately force you to borrow on terms initiated by someone else and will ultimately increase costs even more with new debt service. You may very well end your operating year in the red and well below your well established bottom line. While certainly not a prophet or prognosticator, I would however, like to present a paradigmatic observation using facts, assumptions and mild speculation. Realistically, federal funding and project planning assistance may never return to previous levels that existed before the Reagan years.
Authorities (which have no taxing ability) will be forced to implement creative revenue measures to overcome their operating deficits and to fund limited reserves just for sustainability. This may include surcharges, fire suppression and hydrant
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Streamline - Summer 2011
From the President
From the Executive Director
The Water Tastes Good in Western Virginia
Virginia WARN, Help in an Emergency
Proper Disposal of Pharmacy Products
VELAP: Where Are We Now?
Why Did the Paramecium Cross the Road?
Anger in the Work Place: What It Really Costs You
Litigation and Water Wars
Hydrant Flow Testing–Data You Need
What A Ride!
Conference 2011 Highlights
Throwing My Loop
Do You Know What Your VRWA Benefits Are?
New VRWA Benefit
Welcoming New Members
Board Of Directors
Index To Advertisers/ Ad.Com
Streamline - Summer 2011