Archive, Infrastructure

Invitation to the Inside of Change

I offer my greetings to those of you visiting this still-new blog from the NY Times article about my work at the DC Water and Sewer Authority. Charles Duhigg’s series certainly captures the extraordinary importance, usually overlooked, of the pipes, valves and pumps beneath our feet — and the water and sewer facilities we rely on everyday to deliver clean water to our tap, or our rivers and streams.

Cities and developed areas must be revitalized and strong for us to achieve a sustainable landscape — yet the weak link in most cities is the infrastructure we think about the least. The article captures the importance of raising needed revenue to fix that which is crumbling under our feet — and captures the enthusiasm with which our team at DC WASA is facing this hard reality. What it did not capture is that we are not just trying to tell our story and raise more money; we seek as well to help change the water and sewer industry.

What is a protected monopoly in most places must nonetheless become efficient and innovative, must embrace the latest engineering and information technology, and must develop a relationship with customers who rarely think about what we do. We need to consider new revenue sources, new business models, and the wisdom of consolidation to achieve economies of scale. We must also help transform laws that have sought to clean our Rivers by focusing on discharges from our sewer plants, when we know that these efforts will not succeed alone unless we also reduce pollution from developed and agricultural lands.

Join me in hearing about, commenting on, and lending a helping hand as I work to help transform one of the nation’s largest and most respected water and sewer utilities. I will give regular updates on our strengths and weaknesses, victories and defeats, and would welcome feedback, encouragement and constructive criticism.

Clean water is a fundamental of all life. Clean water is a foundation of any civilization. Now is the time for us to step up and make sure we can deliver on this wonderful necessity long into the future.


  • Couldn't agree more. But the problem doesn't stop at water systems. Buildings, bridges, roads and other critical infrastructure maintenance has been ignored for years. And we still see construction of Taj-Mahal's (sp) without provision for adequate maintenance.

  • Mr. Hawkins,
    The NY Times article is great! Thank you for your work at the DC Water and Sewer Authority and the country at large.
    Jim Cermenaro, Reston, VA

  • It's about time people take our water supply seriously. I'm glad the NYTimes article led me to your site. I mean, it's ridiculous, how people can be so indifferent and sometimes even hostile to necessary changes to the system that delivers the water we drink and the water in which we wash, bathe, flush our wastes! Thank you so much for your contributions and I hope people take note of them so that they can mirror them across the country.
    -James Song, Ridgefield, NJ
    (Is it just me or are the only comments from people named James so far?)

  • Mr. Hawkins, Huzzah to you sir! These issues are the "non-sexy" side of municipal and regional governance (as compared to "creative city" initiatives, large stadia, etc.) and they are integral to the future of cities around the country.

    Thanks for all of your hard work and dedication to this issue.
    Max Grinnell

  • "…we need to consider new revenue sources, new business models…"

    Mr. Hawkins — Please consider an old revenue source, proven in the form of trillions of dollars in Europe and Asia, but woefully misunderstood and underutilized in the US.

    I'm working with a team of respected veteran bankers who can deliver ample funding for DC water via a public-private partnership or other project finance mechanism — and would love to be of use.

    We have $40 billion in past projects under our belts, including in water/wastewater, and are in ongoing conversations with local and state governments — and with PERAB about the NIB.

    Reviving PPPs could help spark a major rethink of the entire US banking system — and could accelerate infrastructure rebuild generally.

    What better showplace than where Congress gets its drinking water? Please find us at

    With thanks,
    Steve Meltzer
    Communications/Gov't Affairs Director
    Yavapai Regional Capital, Inc.

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