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AWWA report shows impact on U.S. households
The cost of repairing and expanding U.S. drinking water infrastructure will top $1 trillion in the next 25 years, an expense that likely will be met primarily through higher water bills and local fees, a groundbreaking study by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) shows.
The report, titled “Buried No Longer: Confronting America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge,” analyzes many factors, including timing of water main installation and life expectancy, materials used, replacement costs and shifting demographics. Nationally, the infrastructure needs are almost evenly divided between replacement and expansion requirements.
Cities will be impacted in different ways depending on their sizes and geography. Many small communities will face the greatest challenges because they have smaller populations across whom to spread the expenses.
“Because pipe assets last a long time, water systems that were built in the latter part of the 19th century and throughout much of the 20th century have, for the most part, never experienced the need for pipe replacement on a large scale,” the report states. “The dawn of an era in which the assets will need to be replaced puts a growing stress on communities that will continue to increase for decades to come.”
Key findings from “Buried No Longer” are:
There is still time to act: Postponing infrastructure investment in the near-term raises the overall cost and increases the likelihood of water main breaks and other infrastructure failures. However, the $1 trillion investment necessary through 2035 does not have to be made all at once. There is time to implement asset management plans and set rates that more closely reflect the cost of water service.
“The needs uncovered in ‘Buried No Longer’ are large, but they are not insurmountable,” said AWWA Executive Director David LaFrance. “When you consider everything that tap water delivers -- public health protection, fire protection, support for the economy, the quality of life we enjoy – we owe it to future generations to confront the infrastructure challenge today.”
“Water is a basic necessity of life,” said AWWA President Jerry Stevens, who is also general manager of West Des Moines Water Works in Iowa. “Water utilities are committed to finding fair and equitable rate designs that address affordability issues as they face the increased cost of infrastructure replacement. The good news is that there is still time to act. ‘Buried No Longer’ helps us recognize the challenge ahead. Together, we can take the necessary steps to meet that challenge.”