President Trump and the Water Industry: From Talk to Action

23 Jan 2017  |  Keith Hays

Newly minted President Donald J. Trump stated months ago that new infrastructure will help make America great again. Whether it’s our crumbling airports, collapsing bridges, or polluted water systems – look all around and there are infrastructure problems that need fixing.

It’s an issue that has bipartisan support, and has been backed up with facts most agree on: the American Society of Civil Engineers gives water infrastructure a D+. Over the next ten years, from 2016 to 2025, municipal utilities have set the stage for over US$550 billion in capital improvements to address deteriorating piping networks, combined sewer overflows, and rising population demands for new water supplies.

Following his inauguration last Friday, now starts the period when Trump must move from calling out opponents as ‘all talk’ to showing action with his own administration. For the water industry, meaningful political action will need several months to take shape, and will be conditioned by the structure of the sector and its existing priorities.

Bluefield Research has evaluated the current mismatch between Trump’s campaign promises and water sector realities that policymakers will face. Key questions we address:

  • Are Trump’s infrastructure plans realistic?
  •  How will his plan to restructure or abolish the EPA impact water markets?
  •  What will this mean for Flint, Michigan?
  •  Will foreign market entrants still invest in US water?
  •  Can we expect an increase in private participation and public-private partnerships?

Actions we anticipate will be fundamental to improving American water infrastructure include: keeping existing financing channels open, developing a constructive dialogue between the public and private sectors, and inviting foreign players to collaborate within an ‘America First’ approach. Mr. Trump has effectively shone a light on the major problems facing US infrastructure – and now it is time to start seeing plans for solutions.

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Keith Hays is Vice President and co-founder of Bluefield Research, a market research and insight firm focused exclusively on supporting companies addressing opportunities in water. Bluefield has individual reports on US water utility strategies and CAPEX forecastsmunicipal wastewater and reuse trends , and investor-owned utility market trends.