Aug 05, 2019

It Is Only Just Beginning

Water issues created a robust marketplace that will last decades

Mary Scott Nabers headshot
Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Stratigic Partnerships.

It seems that most people first began to realize there are serious water problems in the U.S. when news of Flint, Mich., broke. However, the country’s water problems were in critical condition long before that time. America’s water issues are so significant that the American Water Works Assn. estimates $1 trillion will be required to maintain and expand water services over the next 25 years.

Americans get their water delivered through approximately 1 million miles of water pipe. Most of those pipes far exceeded their estimated lifespan of 65 to 100 years. They are leaking and crumbling, and many are delivering water that is not safe. Concerns about water resources are not to be discounted either. Every year, the nation experiences approximately 240,000 water main breaks, and those occurrences result in the loss of more than 2 trillion gal of drinking water. 

There is no replacement or substitute for water. The marketplace for water-related contracting opportunities is huge and will remain strong for the next few decades. Government officials, usually with the assistance of private sector partners, must work to upgrade water systems, expand capacity, repair aging pipe and ensure water safety. 

While large water projects capture the attention of contractors and private sector investors, smaller water projects are just as critical. They are more abundant; contracts are awarded quicker; and the end results are just as significant. In a perfect world, more companies would take note and competition would be greater for these small to mid-size water projects.

Some states recently allocated large sums of money for water projects—both large and small—that present opportunities for contractors. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised to deal with the state’s contamination crisis—perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), especially—and allocated $350 million to address contamination problems. Funding is available for water quality projects and wastewater infrastructure. 

State leaders in Washington have approved $183 million for clean water projects to consolidate with funding from local sources to launch more than 100 clean water projects. Additionally, the California Senate sent a bill to the governor’s desk to authorize $130 million per year for the next decade for drinking water improvement projects. This will affect 1 million people in California who do not have access to clean drinking water.

Projects are not limited to those states, however. Vermont’s governor recently allocated funding to clean Lake Champlain (a U.S. EPA order requires phosphorus reduction) as well as some other state waters. The Owasso Public Works Authority in Oklahoma will launch a major overhaul of its water and wastewater infrastructure, including one with a cost estimate of approximately $29 million. The wastewater treatment plant cannot accommodate the city’s growth and more capacity is needed. Bidding will take place in 2019, and construction will start in 2020. 

In Oregon, the Medford Water Commission conducted a two-year study related to a water quality issues after revelations of lead in drinking water. New systems have been designed, and a testing station was installed to validate the process under consideration. The project likely will seek bids early next year with requirements for pumps, tanks and other equipment.

Sarasota County leaders in Florida announced a contract with a projected cost between $65 million and $100 million for a necessary wastewater treatment plant upgrade. Environmental groups sued the county for allowing more than 800 million gal of treated wastewater to pollute clean water sources. It is still unclear when the upgrade will begin, but county officials agree an upgrade is inevitable. 

Rochester, Minn., leaders approved a three-phase project to upgrade water infrastructure for approximately $87 million. Some funding already has been approved, and other funding sources are being sought. The timeline is uncertain, as approvals are required for the design phase, but the first phase of the project was projected at $62 million.

Waldorf, Minn., is prepared to launch a $14 million wastewater treatment project. Funding will be augmented by a $12 million grant to the city. A city-wide power outage in April caused a water shortage problem with no immediate backup solution, which this project will address. The bidding process will commence soon with a target to complete work by 2020.

In Texas, the Water Development Board recently provided $9.28 million for a groundwater improvement project to the city of Euless, Texas. Additionally, Lubbock received $20.63 million for an advanced metering project. Almost all funding of this type is leveraged with other revenue sources to cover water project costs.

There will be thousands of water-related projects over the next few years. Some water experts have expressed fear the demand may be so great it cannot easily be accommodated. Not only is the water marketplace robust, but it also is undergoing historic change. And digitization water projects are just around the corner. 

About the author

Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Stratigic Partnerships. Nabers can be reached
at [email protected].