WG3: December 14th, 2010 Minutes

Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Water Infrastructure Finance Commission
Working Group Three
Approved minutes: December 14, 2010

In a meeting duly posted, Working Group Three convened at approximately 10 am in Room 511 at the State House.

Members Attending:  Ned Bartlett, Chair, Bob Zimmerman, Becky Smith,

Also attending:  Brendan Jarboe, Leah Robins

Minutes:  The minutes of the September and October meetings of WG3 were approved.

Mr. Bartlett distributed copies of the EPA report on NetZero energy facilities.

It was noted that money spent on protection of watershed lands has been shown to serve multiple purposes.  For example, purchase or protection of land can foster direct infiltration of water, reduce the need for stormwater solutions, and enhance groundwater quality.

City of Lynn may have an interesting case study here.

It was proposed Working Group Three recommend that the SRF be used for grants as well as loans.

There was a discussion of the benefits of regionalizing water services, Ms. Smith suggested that although there may be regional benefits, this is on a case by case basis, and sometimes economies of scale are not desirable.  This may be particularly true of storm water solutions.

Mr. Zimmerman noted that managing on a watershed basis, especially making spending priority decisions on that basis, is a good trend.  But both Ms. Smith and Mr. Zimmerman feel that reinvesting in existing infrastructure is not always the right thing.  There should be a period of transition to solutions that better integrate the many different objectives of water management.  (Not just clean water, but also maintenance of ground water levels, integrating energy efficiency, keeping water local, etc).

Mr. Zimmerman stated that in his opinion existing infrastructure is part of the problem, leading to interbasin transfer of water, leaking distribution pipes, costly maintenance, high energy costs, and more.  The equivalent of one Charles River is “thrown away” through Deer Island every year.

Mr. Bartlett fundamentally disagrees with that statement.  The Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act led to a huge public health accomplishment and is the envy of the world.

Mr. Zimmerman stated that the 128-495 corridor is particularly susceptible to drought, and part of that is due to the old ways of collecting, treating, and distributing water and treating and discharging waste water.  Ms. Smith stated her belief that we need to better integrate the water and power utilities.

The group looked at the draft preamble that Ms. Smith had drafted and distributed.  A few amendments were suggested, including:

  • Mention public health benefits
  • More detail on what is meant by low impact technology
  • Add a goal to transition from 19th century technology
  • Add a goal to transition from mitigation of adverse effects to restoration or natural ecosystems
  • Add a goal to make our infrastructure restorative and sustainable

Mr. Bartlett brought up the subject of pipe breaks.  Many times, these repairs are put on the rate payers, when in fact they may be a result of poor asset management.

Additional suggestions include:

  • Municipalities should get additional points on the SRF scale for restorative systems and alternative technologies
  • There should be one clearinghouse for information on infrastructure innovation, at the state level, that keeps track of new technologies being used and/or tested in state and in other states.
  • There should be a place where towns can go for technical assistance when making decisions
  • The federal government should share in some of the financial risk of innovation

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