WATER’S FREE…BUT MANAGING IT ISN’T
In fact, it’s about to get really expensive.
Between treating drinking water, managing stormwater, and handling the sewage of millions of people, our water infrastructure has some heavy lifting to do. Unfortunately, however, it may not be up to the task. With an estimated 56 million more people anticipated to connect to centralized water treatment plants, and infrastructure that is well beyond its useful life, we have some work to do. According to American Water Works 2017 State of the Water Industry report, the number one issue facing the water industry is renewal and replacement of aging water and wastewater infrastructure. The second highest-ranked issue is financing for capital improvements.
The cost for managing our wastewater infrastructure over the next 25 to 30 years is estimated to be about $278 billion. Add to that $384 billion to maintain our nation’s drinking water infrastructure. And because these numbers don’t necessarily include pipe replacement and some stormwater infrastructure management, total costs could exceed $1 trillion and in some cases is estimated to reach $4.8 trillion.
That’s a bit of a doozy, to say the least! And it means that homeowners will be footing the bill through new stormwater and sewer utility fees, as well as higher taxes. Government provides some support through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund.
But that doesn’t hit our multi-trillion-dollar goal. What would help is implementing innovative solutions designed to monitor how our systems operate, identifying the biggest flaws & failures, and prioritizing accordingly. While it might not cut costs too much, new technology continues to come on the market. That, combined with lower overall costs for acquiring and analyzing data, means that we finally have the tools at our disposal to make informed decisions and mitigate risk in regard to infrastructure management.