Charting New Waters: Financing Sustainable Water Infrastructure

Source: Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, January 2012

Our nation’s freshwater infrastructure faces a critical juncture. Largely built on systems developed during the 19th and early 20th centuries, our water infrastructure is aging, our technology outdated and our governance systems ill equipped to handle rising demand and environmental challenges. Additional strain is being placed on these systems from a variety of sources, including pressures from urbanization and changing climate conditions, such as increases in both droughts and extreme one-day precipitation events.

While these challenges are significant, they are not insurmountable. In fact, they can be viewed as drivers of much-needed change in how we finance and develop our water systems to meet future demands. New financing models and pricing flexibility, which are necessary to pay for new infrastructure and to support legacy systems, provide enormous opportunity for positive transformation necessary to keep pace with the rapid changes being experienced by counties, municipalities and investor owned utilities.

This report seeks to tackle these issues and deliver some recommendations on how to understand and confront the pressing need for more sustainable and integrated water infrastructure financing models.

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