New treatment offerings can help realize universal access to safe, affordable drinking water
In late 2021, University of California researchers released a study estimating that 371,000 Californians drink water that may be highly contaminated with arsenic, nitrate, or hexavalent chromium.
- Although arsenic occurs naturally in groundwater, concentrations can rise in concert with land subsidence that frequently accompanies industrial and agricultural operations.
- Nitrate pollution is common in farming areas due to fertilizer-laden runoff and industrial animal operations.
- Hexavalent chromium contamination originates in industrial and manufacturing operations.
The contaminants create serious health risks for community water systems and domestic well areas, with communities of color disproportionally affected. The researchers also released a tool to help Californians assess their drinking water situations.
The study will further the goals of California’s Human Right to Water law by flagging locations where more frequent groundwater checks are needed, helping policymakers prioritize funding for contamination hotspots, and tracking progress toward providing universal access to safe, affordable drinking water.
Obstacles and Solutions
The UC study follows on the heels of the California Drinking Water Needs Assessment, which was issued earlier in the year. The assessment warned that the state’s smaller water systems are in billions of dollars’ worth of trouble, and recommended that more than half of the noncompliant systems be consolidated with larger systems.
Theoretically, accessing the resources and expertise of larger systems through consolidation makes sense, but in practice, it can prove difficult to achieve due to prohibitive red tape.
There is, however, a practical solution. A public-private partnership between a small community and a water treatment company leverages the knowledge and resources of specialists without the drawn-out bureaucratic process required for consolidation with a larger system.
Seven Seas Water Group’s Water-as-a-Service®, for instance, handles all aspects of infrastructure delivery in-house with no need for external consulting engineers or finance companies. As a Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partner, Seven Seas can provide financing in-house even where communities have little access to money for initial capital investment.
When consolidation is not an option, the assessment went on to suggest upgrading water treatment processes. More sophisticated treatment solutions could, however, overwhelm smaller systems with the level of technical knowledge required to operate and maintain them.
To solve the long-term operations and maintenance (O&M) problem, Water-as-a-Service® allows for flexible financing arrangements that include long-term O&M as well as upgraded infrastructure. The client pays a predetermined price for the water and water services used. Because Water-as-a-Service® contracts are performance-based, Seven Seas only benefits when it delivers the capacity and quality specified in advance.
While California has the reputation of being a wealthy state, it is not just a state of major, modern cities. Many of California’s rural areas struggle with the same barriers to water infrastructure commonly found in the developing world, such as the need for high initial capital, and long-term costs including O&M and staffing.
Contact our water professionals. In California and around the world, Seven Seas is ready with up-to-date financing models, durable equipment, and highly experienced teams to make water infrastructure happen even where financial and organizational resources are scarce.
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