OPINION: NJ Needs To Update Water Infrastructure

by Mike Kerwin, President/CEO of the Somerset County Business Partnership

Living here in New Jersey, it is easy to take the availability of a fresh, healthy water supply for granted. We turn on the faucet and we enjoy immediate access to an unlimited supply of clean water at reasonable rates, compared to what we pay for sewer, electrical, and gas.

Unfortunately, we are facing a growing challenge in providing this resource in a reliable way. To put it bluntly, our water infrastructure is in need of critical repair. We can cite many statistics, but let’s give you the highlights:

· Much of our underground water infrastructure was built over 100 years ago and requires extensive upgrading before we face a catastrophic failure.

· Without this investment, our water infrastructure will continue to degrade, thereby increasing the likelihood that the supply of water to your home or business will be interrupted.

· If we wait, the costs to maintain our water supply will go up since water utilities will be constantly working to fix water main breaks – at ten times what it would have cost to do the preventive maintenance.

· Finally, our ability to efficiently use our most precious resource – water – will be diminished by continuing to rely on ancient pipes that leak this resource into the ground.

What we need in New Jersey is a comprehensive long-term approach that allows our water utilities to make the necessary investments to improve our water infrastructure. It must be understood that the water companies are currently addressing the issue with tens to hundreds of millions of dollars but it is not sufficient to address the long-term problem.

The good news is that if we take this long-term approach, the cost of this investment can be amortized over many years making the impact on the ratepayer affordable. Equally important, making this investment will give New Jersey a huge competitive advantage over surrounding regions. While other parts of the country and world struggle to access life’s most essential requirement – water – New Jersey will be in the enviable position of offering our residents and businesses access to a clean, healthy water supply that will be delivered efficiently, reliably, and at a reasonable cost.

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