The problem of New Jersey’s aging water infrastructure might have a new solution--a bill that would allow New Jersey municipalities to sell their public water utilities to private, for-profit corporations without putting the measure to voters is awaiting Governor Chris Christie’s signature.
The Environmental Protection Agency has projected that the state of New Jersey requires at least $41 billion over the next 20 years to fix water, stormwater and wastewater systems. This is in addition to the billions the state’s Department of Environmental Protection has already spent on upgrading.
Until now, any municipality in New Jersey that sought to sell off its water system to a private bidder had to hold a public vote. And while supporters of the bill say that privatizing water systems will save municipalities money, it allows companies to factor the purchase price of the systems into the rates they charge customers. This means that taxpayers could be on the hook for the sale of their water systems.
Currently, about 300 of New Jersey’s municipalities, accounting for about 45 percent of the state’s population, have privately-run water systems, although several cities have overwhelmingly rejected it.
Research has shown that customers in New Jersey municipalities using private water systems pay 64% more than others in the state. With the cost of utilizing a private water system above the price of public utilities, expect to see limitations placed on water used for irrigation. In addition, the increased expense of water usage could likely roll-over into landscaping costs.