By Patrick Cairo, Senior Vice President, SUEZ Environnement North America
Humanity’s relationship with the environment has reached a turning point. Ecosystems and economies are in transition and in trouble. Growing populations are exhausting an increasingly degraded climate and environment. Overburdened and obsolete infrastructure is in desperate need of investment. Taken together, all of this amounts to a gathering resource crisis on a global scale.
At SUEZ Environnement we recognize this mounting resource crisis as an opportunity – to lead the way from a crisis to a resource revolution.
On a global scale, we are advocating for a transition to a circular economy. That transition from an economy that over-consumes natural resources to an economy that optimizes management and use of resources can make a strong contribution to carbon reduction goals and go a long way towards securing resources for the future.
On a local scale, we are implementing concrete and measurable resource management solutions in collaboration with citizens, governments and industries.
From my vantage point, we can’t talk about our natural resources without talking about infrastructure. Infrastructure is the conduit for all of our resources––for their capture, their transport and their delivery.
Our water infrastructure––which stretches more than 30 times the length of the interstate highway system––is aging and leaking. In some parts of the U.S. our water infrastructure wastes more water than it delivers. Shockingly every day, approximately 6 billion gallons of water are lost to avoidable leaks––enough water to supply the entire state of California.
Speaking of opportunities in challenges, over the next two decades, our nation needs to collectively dedicate some $4.8 trillion to our water infrastructure just to maintain a state of good repair––with nearly $400 billion needed just to maintain a safe supply of drinking water. SUEZ Environnement, in partnership with KKR, developed a framework to tap the billions in private capital that has been described as “waiting on the sidelines” to invest in infrastructure projects.
Specifically, in Middletown, PA, and Bayonne, NJ we have implemented a win-win solution that brings together city authorities and private equity funds to finance local infrastructure needs and improve water quality.
Combining our own operational expertise with private equity’s long-term investment power, we are rebuilding outdated water treatment and sanitation systems and installing state-of-the-art smart metering technology that reduces wasteful leaks.
We need to act now to make infrastructure the centerpiece of our resource revolution––the foundation upon which we secure a safer, more prosperous future for all.