The National Council for Public-Private Partnerships sent a letter on October 13, 2011 to members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the so-called “Super Committee”) urging that body to consider opportunities for public-private partnerships (P3s) to meet the United States’ debt reduction and infrastructure needs. P3s have the potential to allow federal, state and local governments to leverage public monies with private funds for design, construction and operation of infrastructure, thus reducing the amount of government debt required to accomplish such projects. P3s have the additional benefits of delivering infrastructure projects more quickly and efficiently than traditional methods of government procurement.
Related to this blog, P3s may be used to procure water and wastewater infrastructure projects, particularly those that require innovative technology or are outside the expertise of the sponsoring agency. Such projects often include water treatment plants, wastewater treatment plants, water recycling facilities, brackish groundwater or seawater desalination plants, long-distance water pipelines, remote groundwater well fields, groundwater storage banks and new surface water reservoirs. Water and wastewater projects fit well into the P3 model, because water and wastewater rates provide a steady revenue stream for repayment of private financing.
As the current and foreseeable future status of federal, state and local government budgets make significant infrastructure investments difficult, private financing can provide a valuable replacement or supplement. Unfortunately, federal and state laws often make P3s difficult to accomplish in the most effective and efficient manner, if at all. As much as the President and Congress have spoken about infrastructure and its potential for jobs creation over the past five years, they have done very little to actually encourage infrastructure projects for the long-term. A directed effort by the Super Committee to remove legal and regulatory barriers for P3s would be welcome for the furtherance of infrastructure projects across the United States.