It’s that time of year again – Infrastructure Week.
During this national week of education and advocacy, our sector hosts events, give tours of new projects, talks about infrastructure in the media and online, and shows policymakers at all levels of government the support for long-term infrastructure investment.
Except this year, we are equipped with some new messages.
WEF is a founding member of the Value of Water Campaign, which recently completed a survey of over 1,000 American voters. The study found that Americans strongly support increasing federal investment to address our nation’s water infrastructure, a dynamic that persists even considering the costs. What’s more, most say that the U.S. should be proactive in upgrading our infrastructure, rather than waiting for these critical systems to fail.
While these overall poll results are extremely encouraging and useful in our advocacy, we are especially excited that for the first time participants were asked to prioritize services by wastewater utilities.
Not too surprisingly, respondents top said it was a high priority for wastewater facilities to reduce pollution (83 percent), meet health and safety regulations (64 percent), and maintain infrastructure (62 percent). This is staunch support for the core mission of these facilities.
However, support for two other areas was a bit surprising and shows how the mission of our sector is evolving even in the public’s eyes.
Half of respondents said it should be a high priority for wastewater facilities to address climate change, whether that is reducing greenhouse gas emissions (52 percent) or building resilience to the impacts (48 percent).
Additionally, the public appears to behind the practice of resource recovery. They view it as a high priority to generate energy in the process of treating wastewater (50 percent) and increase the use of recycled water (47 percent). Even one-third of people supported the capture of nutrients to be used for fertilizer and other industrial uses.
Yes, it simply feels good to have public support for resource recovery. But now we must use these numbers as part of our talking points. When we advocate to decision makers, we will call for investment in traditional infrastructure. But we will stress that our sector needs to continue transforming – to generate energy, reuse water, and capture nutrients. We will show them the data and tell them the public expects it.