Public–Private Partnerships and Their Application to US Drinking Water Systems

  • Robert M. Clark
  • Simon Hakim
Part of the Competitive Government: Public Private Partnerships book series (CGPPP)


It is estimated that there are more than 160,000 public drinking water systems in the United States (US), but most Americans receive their drinking water from one of the nation’s over 50,000 community water systems. Most large water systems are publically owned. Despite the US success in operating and managing water systems, many organizations have expressed concern over the state of the nation’s infrastructure in general and water supply in particular. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has graded US drinking water infrastructure at D. Other organizations including the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the USEPA have called for increased investment in drinking water infrastructure. Public–private partnerships (PPPs) have been suggested to improve drinking water infrastructure. A PPP is a long-term cooperative arrangement between two or more public and private sector organizations. An argument frequently expressed is that PPPs can provide superior access to capital for infrastructure investment. However, medium to large water utilities in the United States generally have access to the capital needed for investment in infrastructure. However, there are thousands of small water utilities that do have difficulty in acquiring capital for infrastructure investments. Therefore, exploring the use of public–private partnerships at the state and regional level and to use state level borrowing authority to assist in acquiring the capital needed to make these investments might be appropriate.



American Society of Civil Engineers


Community water systems


Drinking water state revolving fund


Non-transient non-community water supply


Public–private partnerships


Public water supply


Safe drinking water


State revolving loan fund


Transient non-community water supply


United States


United States Environmental Protection Agency


Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act


Water Infrastructure Network


  1. Allan, M. A., Clark, R. M., Cotruvo Joseph, A., & Grigg, N. (2018). Drinking water and public health in an era of aging distribution infrastructure. Public Works Management and Policy, 23(4), 301–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. ASCE. (2017). 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. Americas Infrastructure Scores a D+.Google Scholar
  3. Bel, G., Fageda, X., & Warner, M. E. (2009). Is private production of public services cheaper than public production? A meta-regression analysis of solid waste and water services (Working Papers 2009/23) (33 p). Research Institute of Applied Economics.Google Scholar
  4. Bel, G., & Warner, M. (2008). Does privatization of solid waste and water services reduce costs? A review of empirical studies. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 52(12), 1337–1348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Clark, R. M. (2011). US water and wastewater critical infrastructure. In R. M. Clark, S. Hakim, & A. Ostfeld (Eds.), Handbook for water and wastewater systems protection (pp. 135–159). New York, NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Corrigan, M. B., Hambene, J., Hudnut III, W., Levitt, R. L., Stainback, J., Ward, R., & Witensteinet, N. (2005). Ten principles for successful public/private partnerships. Washington, DC: ULI–the Urban Land Institute. Retrieved May 25, 2019, from
  7. Cutler, D., & Miller, G. (2005). Water, water everywhere: Municipal finance and water supply in American cities. NBER working paper series. Working paper 11096. National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA. Retrieved May 26, 2019, from
  8. Fujiwara, M., Manwaring, J. M., & Clark, R. M. (1994). Drinking water in Japan and the United States: Conference overview. In R. M. Clark & D. A. Clark (Eds.), Drinking water quality management (pp. 3–22). Lancaster, PA: Technomics.Google Scholar
  9. Hughes, J., & Herndon, L. K. (2018). Private sector financing: A review of service delivery models in eight communities. Journal‐American Water Works Association, 110(1), 48–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Panguluri, S., Grayman, W. M., & Clark, R. M. (2005, December). Water distribution system analysis: Field studies, modeling, and management. Washington, DC: U.S Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Water Supply and Water Resources Division. EPA/600/R-06/028.Google Scholar
  11. USEPA. (2018). Drinking water infrastructure needs survey and assessment: Sixth report to congress. Office of Water (4606M) EPA 816-K-17-002, March 2018. Accessed May 26, 2019, from
  12. Water In-frastructure Network. (n.d.). Clean and safe water for the 21st century – A renewed national commitment to water and wastewater. Retrieved May 26, 2019, from
  13. Water On Line. (2004). AWWA REPORT underscores value of water.Google Scholar
  14. Wikipedia-Water Privatization. (2019). Retrieved May 26, 2019, from

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert M. Clark
    • 1
  • Simon Hakim
    • 2
  1. 1.Environmental Engineering and Public Health ConsultantCincinnatiUSA
  2. 2.Center for Competitive Government, Professor of EconomicsTemple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

Personalised recommendations