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Scaling up Investments in Distributed Water Innovations

  • Resilient by Design Storefront 302 Folsom Street San Francisco, CA, 94105 United States (map)
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Scaling up Investments in Distributed Water Innovations

Localized, decentralized water infrastructure has an outsize role to play in providing water supply security and resource management in a climate-changing world. Green and “distributed infrastructure” (DI) technologies, programs and strategies are easily integrated with conventional built infrastructure, provide the same services and functions, but often at far less cost and far fewer environmental conflicts and climate impacts. DI includes everything from water-efficient appliances, low-water landscaping, permeable pavement to lead line changeouts, onsite recycling, rain cisterns and constructed wetlands. These systems can increase the resiliency and life of traditional infrastructure, safeguard water supply and quality, protect ecosystems, and manage urban runoff.

For many cities and agencies, the issue to realizing the potential for these systems as a more central piece of their water planning is figuring out how to pay for them. Most US water utilities pay for DI rebate or direct installation programs out of their annual operating cash, which severely limits program scale. In May 2018, the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) issued authoritative guidance clarifying how public agency spending on distributed water programs can qualify for capital treatment. This guidance empowers public water resource agencies of all kinds to access municipal bond financing or other debt for consumer rebate and other DI programs and amortize these costs over time. Additionally, it opens the door for public water utilities to access capital markets to finance an entirely new set of water solutions, technologies and strategies. As traditional, grey infrastructure ages, maintenance costs increase and rehabilitation and replacements are necessary, DI can be utilized on a larger scale to create a new concept of conventional water infrastructure.This session with share a remarkable new development opening capital markets to major investments in distributed water infrastructure. Public utilities account for the vast majority of spending on water infrastructure in California and nationwide; they represent the single largest market for climate resilient decentralized water tech innovation. A recent clarification in accounting rules empowers utilities to capitalize investments in distributed water systems - meaning that these programs can move from the margins to the center of water utility planning for, and investment in, water security and resilience in a climate changing world.

Cynthia Koehler, Executive Director, WaterNow Alliance
Peter Yolles, Founder, WaterSmart Software 
Clay Kraus, Market Development, Rachio
Paula Kehoe, SFPUC