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An Update from Alexandra Dapolito Dunn

On June 14, we reported on the financial crisis faced by communities in need of water infrastructure repair and replacement. On July 1, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) convened a Conference on Financing the Water Infrastructure of the Future.

Alexandra Dunn, executive director and general counsel, Association of Clean Water Administrators

Alexandra Dunn, executive director and general counsel of the Association of Clean Water Administrators, and former dean of the Environmental Law Program at Pace Law School, provided EarthDesk with her early thoughts on the White House meeting:

As our nation prepares to observe Independence Day, we will be reflecting on the vision of our forefathers to build a strong and free land of liberty. One key element of a strong nation is resilient and appropriate infrastructure. Appropriate in that it serves the population well; resilient in that it has longevity in the face of changing conditions.

Unfortunately our nation’s water infrastructure is neither as this July 4 draws near. We face a D rating from the American Society of Civil Engineers in both the drinking water and wastewater categories. Cities devastated by storm events like Superstorm Sandy and the recent Oklahoma tornados are fiercely trying to reconstruct critical water infrastructure.  Even intact, the infrastructure itself is imperfectly suited for treating emerging and pervasive contaminants.

The CEQ organized the July 1 conference as “an exploration of financing innovations that are gaining traction in communities, as well as new ideas still in incubation, with a special emphasis on public-private partnerships and green infrastructure strategies.”

The hoped-for outcomes were:

To share knowledge among federal agencies and across sectors (public, private, nonprofit) of new practices that can spur innovation in water infrastructure finance;

To gather input on policies that can support greater private sector investment in water infrastructure; and

To explore specific strategies for promoting greater integration of green infrastructure practices into water infrastructure finance.

Earlier, I had appeared on Bloomberg’s Daily Environment Report to discuss the importance of the upcoming event and the issues that belong on the federal agenda. It can be viewed here.

While it will take some time for the parties in attendance to debrief the lessons learned at the July 1 meeting, the fact that water infrastructure was on the White House short list this week is an important starting point.