Californians have become all too familiar with failing infrastructure, and aging water systems are part of the problem. Lack of properly maintained infrastructure poses a challenge for small businesses who need certainty that things will work.

Water storage is part of the issue, but properly maintaining our pipes affordably and effectively is also a crucial concern. 

When things go wrong, it’s often small business owners themselves who must absorb the costs, or if the costs are too great, struggling entrepreneurs can be left no choice but to lay off workers, move elsewhere, or even close down entirely.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gives California a C- rating, citing rising costs and local government’s failure to implement new technologies as the primary reason. 

While our perpetual water shortages worsen the challenges related to our water system, this is not a problem plaguing California alone — so if you’re considering a move this is a problem that may still haunt you elsewhere. Nationally, aging water systems result in an astounding 240,000 water main breaks every year.  

While these realities alone are alarming, what is just as worrisome is the fact that many cities, counties, and states have obstacles in place preventing them from efficiently repairing deteriorating infrastructure. The Bipartisan Policy Center estimates that 78% of water systems across the country have outdated regulations on the books mandating a closed competition bidding process, forcing local officials to use materials that might not be the best available for the job. These regulations often result in wasted time and unnecessary costs that fall heavily on the taxpayers through high water rates.

We need a solution that breaks through regulatory barriers to provide the best and most efficient repairs to our water systems.

In light of these problems, Rep. Harley Rouda (D-CA-48) has joined with Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX-36) to propose an innovative solution to our infrastructure crisis. Recently Rep. Rouda introduced the Sustainable Municipal Access to Resilient Technology in Infrastructure (SMART Infrastructure) Act, a bipartisan bill requiring an open, competitive bidding process for suppliers of construction materials on all future infrastructure projects that receive federal dollars.

A report on infrastructure investments from the Brookings Institute estimates that $371 billion could be saved on water infrastructure repairs nationally by switching to an open competition process. Further, the Progressive Policy Institute reports that a recent study found municipalities using an open competition system are spending 27-34% less than those limiting the materials used in infrastructure projects. 

Savings from the SMART Infrastructure Act would result in a reduction in the burden on taxpayers, more resources for other priorities, and more resources for small business owners to invest in creating jobs and growing our economy.

California’s small business owners employ seven million people, or just under half of our state’s workforce. Passing the SMART Infrastructure Act is a business-friendly, taxpayer-friendly decision that recognizes the importance of reliable infrastructure and wise stewardship of our hard earned tax dollars.

Jack Frost is Founder and President of Pro Small Biz California