Water Spending: Is This the New Norm?

Dawn Kristof Champney

It’s the question everyone is asking: Is this the new norm?

From 2006 to 2010, spending was up and business was good for the water industry, but the past two years have seen a drop in activity. Is this an aberration? A temporary blip? Or is it the new norm?

A review of U.S. Census data over the past decade reveals the following total spending figures for the annual value of construction put in place in the United States in the categories of “water supply” and “sewage and waste disposal”:

  • • 2002: $21 billion
  • • 2003: $24 billion
  • • 2004: $27.5 billion
  • • 2005: $28 billion
  • • 2006: $38 billion
  • • 2007: $40 billion
  • • 2008: $42 billion
  • • 2009: $40 billion
  • • 2010: $41 billion
  • • 2011: $37 billion
  • • 2012: $35 billion

That was quite a jump from 2005 to 2006! And spending remained fairly steady or ticked up a bit from there, until 2011, when it started to come back down.

My conclusion? I believe that what we are seeing today in the water and wastewater industry is, in fact, the new norm. It is a correction to a bubble that we experienced for several years, but that could not be sustained. We may even see that figure drop a bit more in 2013, but indications are that things are beginning to level off and the amount of business we are seeing today will become our new baseline.

Does our nation need to do more in the way of water infrastructure construction? Absolutely. But will it in the near term? Not likely. Not with budgets getting squeezed ever tighter.

WWEMA’s 40th Annual Washington Forum, April 23 to 25 in Washington, D.C., will further explore the question, “Is this the New Norm?” and will provide water and wastewater technology providers and their representatives with solutions for maximizing their businesses in this environment.

In addition to presentations on the latest regulations and funding mechanisms affecting the industry, it will offer panel discussions during which utility directors and consulting engineers of various sizes will share their experiences, outlooks and pain points.

Details and registration materials can be found at http://wwema.org/washingtonforum.php. I hope you will be able to join us for this premier event.

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Dawn Kristof Champney is president of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Assn., a Washington, D.C.-based trade organization that has represented the interests of manufacturers serving the water supply and wastewater treatment industry since 1908. Kristof Champney can be reached at info@wwema.org.

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