The New Jersey Utilities Association is joining with hundreds of business, labor and advocacy organizations to recognize National Infrastructure Week from Monday through Friday. The purpose of this week is to highlight the state of the nation’s infrastructure and its critical importance to our economy and well-being.
Utility companies provide essential water, wastewater, electric, natural gas and telecommunications services to New Jersey’s residents and businesses 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Not only do utility companies provide services that support the state’s quality of life, they are a driving force behind the state’s economy.
New Jersey’s investor-owned utility companies employ approximately 38,000 men and women for a combined payroll in excess of $2.7 billion per year. We own and operate physical infrastructure valued at more than $60 billion, and contribute approximately $750 million in annual revenues to local and state government through various taxes paid. New Jersey’s investor-owned utilities have made $6 billion of capital expenditures in 2016 and expect to make nearly $6.5 billion in 2017 — investment that strengthens and enhances the state’s most critical infrastructure.
Of particular interest recently in New Jersey has been the state of water utility infrastructure. As the American Society for Civil Engineers has noted, “New Jersey’s water supply systems were constructed largely during peak periods of development, primarily from 1890 to 1930 when major cities grew, and from 1950 to 1970, when the suburbs added roughly 3 million people.” About 20 percent of New Jersey’s drinking water infrastructure is more than 100 years old. While age alone does not indicate a pipe’s condition or ability to satisfy needs, failure to invest in our water infrastructure will result in higher costs down the road, damage to the state’s economy and deterioration of our quality of life.
The investor-owned, non-governmental, water utilities in New Jersey have been rising to the challenge of New Jersey’s aging infrastructure. Combined, we spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and have spent $2 billion on improvements to infrastructure over a five-year period. We are investing every day in everything from cutting-edge leak detection technology to new water mains and towers. We are able to make these investments while keeping the cost of their service to about one penny per gallon of water.
We recognize that more remains to be done. That’s why we are a member of Jersey Water Works — a collaborative effort of diverse organizations and individuals who embrace the goal of improving water infrastructure by investing in sustainable, cost-effective solutions that provide communities with clean water and waterways; healthier, safer neighborhoods; jobs; flood and climate resilience; and economic growth. While we are proud of our investment in New Jersey, National Infrastructure Week is an excellent opportunity to learn more about Jersey Water Works and how you can become more involved in advocating for smart, sustainable investment in the infrastructure that provide safe and clean water to you, your family, and your community.
Andrew Hendry is CEO and president of the New Jersey Utilities Association.