Threats to fresh drinking water and sanitation systems are the bellwether of a global crisis that knows no geographic bounds. As we learned from the recent water crisis in Flint, Michigan many United States-based local and regional water and wastewater systems lack the funding needed to both keep communities safe today, and to protect precious water resources for future generations.
Essential infrastructure built to support the urbanization of the United States more than a century ago is outdated and often falling apart. Federal funding has dwindled from historic levels, and in many areas has dried up entirely. Regulatory mandates often soak up financial resources that do exist, leaving little funding for maintaining or improving core services. Local rate or taxpayers are left holding the bill, frequently struggling just to stay the course while straining local finances and political will.
For water agencies, frequent extreme weather events like severe droughts, storms, and floods further strain the already crumbling infrastructure, and lead to toxic health risks resulting from water contaminants like lead and radium and water-borne bacteria like legionella.
Although utility leaders have a desire to embrace change and improve performance, too many of them — particularly those in smaller and distressed jurisdictions — are hard-pressed to deliver even the most basic core services, let alone evaluate, select and finance novel approaches. Moreover, with no capital to spare or room for error, the capacity to innovate – even with the prospect of better results and reduced costs – is severely limited by a lack of time, funds and expertise.
What can be done?
Innovations in governance, finance, technology and management offer the potential to for local water agencies to improve service in every respect. Local agencies can adopt governance models of proven performance, financial tools that support low-income customers and reduce risk, technologies that deliver better services at low cost – and the management and personnel skills and tools that will become the foundation of future success. Field-tested approaches and innovative technology can help utilities foster new relationships with their peers, customers, ratepayers and taxpayers, improve accountability and transparency, and deliver real-time performance improvements. Today we can build water systems that work more efficiently and effectively to protect and provide for the residents they serve, while also saving taxpayers money.
How Moonshot Missions is meeting the challenge:
Moonshot Missions seeks to disrupt the current approach to delivering improvements to water systems. Led by seasoned and skilled water experts, Moonshot Missions is designing a replicable model that will help water utilities to:
- Assess the status of their water systems and prioritize projects are the best fit for their unique situation.
- Select from a pre-vetted menu of projects designed to yield cost-effective impact.
- Develop innovative financing approaches, from debt financing and rate structures to access to pre-development and capital finance to longer-term public-private partnerships.
- Collaborate with other leaders to work together, develop tailored mission plans and share lessons learned.