From the President: A Time To Act

April 17, 2013

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Cordell Samuels, 2012–2013 WEF President

Cordell Samuels, 2012–2013 WEF President

During my travels on behalf of the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.), the most prevalent thing I’ve noticed is that the water-related issues people discuss share similar themes, regardless of the location. From Puerto Rico to Mexico to states across the country and even territories in Canada, I have heard the same concerns on funding, spiraling costs, training needs for personnel, and a lack of appreciation for water practitioners’ work.

Roles of government and private sector, starting an open discussion

In addition, I have become aware of another piece of this international water puzzle: The solutions being offered also share similarities. Everywhere you go, people in the industry mention that governments should invest more in water. But when infrastructure funding is discussed in government, roads, bridges, and even other projects, such as sports arenas — which are near and dear to politicians’ hearts — are mentioned. Rarely do you hear talk about water, because it is seldom at the top or even near the top of the infrastructure priority list.

Water, a precious and indispensable resource, seems to be routinely disregarded. However, many feel that if the numerous needs of the water sector are to be met, government must play a more important role. And while the role of private capital in meeting these needs often is discussed, I have not heard a clearly stated explanation of this process.

Public‒private partnerships often are mentioned, but in the past, many of these efforts have failed. These failures are not mentioned. And strategies using these partnerships are not discussed clearly to explain how failures can be prevented from happening again. Issues relating to full cost recovery are mentioned but only timidly. These things should be discussed openly, and strategies and processes should be explained.

I encourage WEF, our MAs, and members to step up to provide solutions and meet the needs of the water sector. We have been talking about the sector’s many issues for a long time; now, it might be necessary to take the bull by the horns on some of these issues and see what happens.

Cordell Samuels, WEF President 2012–2013

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