ASCE Infrastructure Report Card: Drinking Water, Wastewater & Storm Water Grades

March 3, 2021
  • Drinking Water: C-
  • Wastewater: D+
  • Storm Water: D

The American Society of Civil Engineers 2021 Infrastructure Report Card graded U.S. infrastructure a C-, accounting for 17 categories.

Drinking water infrastructure received a C-, which is an increase for the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card when the category received a D. Wastewater received a D+, the same grade it received four years ago. And for the first time ever Storm Water was included in the report card. It received a D.

The overall grade of C- is the first time U.S. infrastructure has had an overall score in the C range in 20 years. ASCE noted in its press release that it considers this overall grade one of mediocrity that highlights deficient areas and verticals that need more attention. 

“This not a report card anyone would be proud to take home,” Said ASCE Executive Director Thomas Smith in the ASCE press release. “We have not made significant enough investments to maintain infrastructure that in some cases was built more than 50 years ago. As this study shows, we risk significant economic losses, higher costs to consumers, businesses and manufacturers – and our quality of life – if we don’t act urgently. When we fail to invest in infrastructure, we pay the price.”

According to the ASCE press release, there are some major funding gaps and predictions of note based on its studies and understanding of all infrastructure categories.

  1. The infrastructure gap in the U.S. continues to grow in relation to long-term investment. That gap was $2.1 trillion over the course of the past decade. ASCE notes that its most recent study indicates that gap is now $2.59 trillion or $259 billion per year over a 10-year period.
  2. The longer the U.S. waits to invest in infrastructure, the bleaker the future in the U.S. will look. ASCE notes that “by 2039 the U.S. economy will lose $10 trillion in growth and exports will decline by $2.4 trillion” without significant investment. The press release goes on to say that by 2039 greater than 3 million jobs will be lost and that “each American household will bear $3,300 in hidden costs per year.”

As such, ASCE has called on Congress to take bold action on a large scale to immediately address the shortcomings of U.S. infrastructure. Read the full report here:

Drinking Water Grade: C-

Drinking water infrastructure received a score of C-. This is an increase from the score of D during the last report card. 

The ASCE reports that 2.2 million miles of pipe deliver water to Americans across the country. And annually there is an estimated 6 million gallons of water is lost due to water main breaks. 

Water utilities have shown progress in addressing these issues, and according to ASCE, around one-third of all utilities now have a robust asset management plan, compared to 20% of utilities in the previous report.

Below is an excerpt from the Condition & Capacity portion of the Drinking Water report:

Panelists for this event were the newly appointed U.S. EPA Office Of Water Principal Deputy Administrator Radhika Fox. Fox was the former US Water Alliance CEO before being appointed by President Joe Bident to the EPA Office of Water. Also on the panel were Susan Moisio, global water director for Jacobs; Clarence Anthony, CEO and executive director for the National League of Cities; and Pam Elardo, deputy commissioner for the bureau of wastewater treatment for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.

Anthony noted that local leaders have shouldered the burden for water and wastewater issues for too long, and now is the time for federal investment.

“"We can't do it alone as local leaders. Local leaders have been at the forefront of this during the pandemic." he said. "We need the federal government to recommit to funding local government."


He said this investment will help to address the affordability issues leaders in the industry continue to see and hear about. On a similar note, Moisio hammered home on the term One Water, noting how framing water issues through that lens solves problems beyond infrastructure, notably access, affordability and equity. She stressed that using wastewater as a resource will become crucial for the future of U.S. infrastructure in the sector.

Elardo talked about how wastewater systems open the doors to new sustainability opportunities, specifically in terms of capturing and using biogas and in accepting food waste to be used for energy purposes.

“We create clean water,” she said. “We create a resource for our community.”

In the closing remarks for each panelist, Fox spoke about how this is a moment of convergence for the water industry.

"This is water's moment,” Fox said. “We are hitting a tipping point where we've got to make an investment in the next generation of infrastructure."

Read the full live tweet thread from WWD’s coverage here:

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