1. What is Providence Water and who do they supply?
Providence Water supplies clean, reliable water from the Scituate Reservoir. The PWSB oversees the operation of water treatment plants, the Scituate Reservoir, and the infrastructure that delivers water to your home or business.
Providence Water directly supplies to all or some residents of Providence, North Providence, Cranston, Johnston, and Smithfield. Other municipal water suppliers, including Greenville Water, the City of East Providence, Town of Smithfield, Lincoln Water, Kent County Water, Bristol Water, City of Warwick and Town of Johnston, purchase their water from us and sell it to their own residents.
2. I heard that Providence Water is going to be sold?
No, Providence Water has and will continue to be owned by the City. The City is looking to partner with experts to manage and achieve financial sustainability for the water system for the long-term.
The City says they don’t want to “privatize” the system. What is the difference between privatization vs monetization?
Privatization would mean that a public institution, in this case the City of Providence, would no longer have ownership of the utility, in this case the Providence Water Supply Board and would sell that utility to a private entity.
Under the current proposal, the City would monetize the Providence Water Supply Board by entering into a long-term lease of the asset with a qualified, experienced partner while maintaining ownership of the system.
Currently, the Public Utilities Commission has regulatory oversight regarding rates and the Department of Health oversees the quality of the water. There would no change to the current public oversight of this utility.
3. But Flint, Michigan changed their water source and ended up having a crisis. Is that going to happen to us?
Absolutely not. Flint, Michigan, changed their water source to save money. Rather than using Lake Huron, they switched to the Flint River and did not treat the water properly. The pristine Scituate Reservoir will continue to be the source of our water and will have the same safeguards and monitoring in place as we do today. Following strict guidelines set by the R.I. Department of Health and applicable regulations, the Department monitors our water to ensure it is safe and healthy to use.
4. If Providence Water has done a good job supplying the state, why change that now?
Unfortunately, Providence cannot continue to operate the water supply for 60% of our state. If proactive steps are not taken now, the reliability and safety of Providence Water will be at risk. Our water supply depends on the financial strength of the City for its day-to-day operation and long-term sustainability. The Providence Water Supply system is also one of the most valuable City assets and therefore would likely be targeted for liquidation should the City fall into receivership.
As ARC payments grow year over year and become increasingly taxing on the city budget, the City will be required to make difficult decisions regarding funding for services such as police, fire, education, and public works to maintain its pension payments.
5. How will a partner help Providence and Providence Water?
A partner will provide significant stability to the water system and help protect this vital asset. Rates will not increase any higher in the next five years than they did in the prior five years and will favorably compare with other water systems while providing high quality, healthy and plentiful water. We have looked at many options, and it is clear that this is a necessary step.
6. What’s next?
Providence will continue to update our residents and customers throughout the process. We will be evaluating the proposals and options in front of us. Over the coming months, we will continue to discuss this with the legislature and leaders of the state.