Today, the American Society of Civil Engineers released its 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, which assigned grades of “D” to both water and wastewater infrastructure. David LaFrance, executive director of the American Water Works Association, issued the following statement.
The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure shines another spotlight on the now well-documented need to reinvest in U.S. water and wastewater infrastructure.
The American Water Works Association’s 2012 report, “Buried No Longer: Confronting America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge,” showed that more than $1 trillion dollars will be needed over the next 25 years to repair and expand existing U.S. drinking water infrastructure. Wastewater infrastructure needs are thought to be similar.
In most cases, the water systems that serve our communities were constructed by previous generations and have served us reliably for several decades. But many of the pipes below our streets are aging and approaching the end of their useful lives. The longer we wait to address this issue, the more expensive the fix will be.
Communities are best served by water utilities that are self-sustaining through local rates and charges. However, there is growing consensus that the federal government can play a helpful role without impacting the long-term national debt. The creation of a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority would make low-interest federal loans available to address large water infrastructure projects. The sooner WIFIA becomes reality, the closer we will be to meeting the pressing water issues identified in ASCE’s report.
Water professionals nationwide are working hard to tell their water infrastructure stories to their customers and key decision-makers. AWWA last week mailed each of its water utility members an innovative new tool to help them estimate their local water infrastructure investment needs and explain them to key decision-makers. The “Buried No Longer Pipe Replacement Modeling Tool” allows utilities to prepare their own water infrastructure reports using the same method employed in the national Buried No Longer infrastructure report.
On a federal level, to help provide for sound water infrastructure across the country for communities of all sizes, AWWA urges U.S. Congress to:
- preserve the current tax-exempt status for municipal bonds;
- remove water projects from the annual state volume cap on private activity bonds
- maintain funding for robust drinking water and wastewater state revolving loan fund
- enact WIFIA to offer meaningful assistance to American communities in a modern, cost-effective way, at the lowest-possible cost to federal taxpayers.
As ASCE’s report notes, “the quality of drinking water in the United States remains universally high.” But if we do not confront the infrastructure challenge before us, the reliability of our water systems, the health of our environment, the prosperity of our economy, and the safety of our water will be increasingly at risk.”
The American Water Works Association is the authoritative resource for knowledge, information, and advocacy to improve the quality and supply of water in North America and beyond. AWWA is the largest organization of water professionals in the world. www.awwa.org